Tuesday, 29 January 2013

View from the Inside

Over the next few weeks, I'll be running a series of what I call 'insider tips', from either Thais living in Australia or ex-pats who now call Thailand home. First up, Eurblarp Sriphirom, Deputy Director of TAT in Sydney, shares some of her favourite places in Thailand... 

Eurblarp Sriphirom in her new home of Sydney
I'm originally from Bangkok but love all the countryside around Thailand, as each area is different in character. During my childhood, my parents took me and my sisters around Thailand on driving holidays. We did not go abroad and loved travelling in Thailand.

I like the northern part of Thailand because of its serenity and nice people, love the traditional northern food and culture and beauty of nature there. I like to see our history through the architecture and way of life in each town. I like the view of the golden rice fields and the Thai floating houses as well as the typical Thai houses, especially the gingerbread-style houses in Prae and Nan.

I also like to support all Thai products made by local people such as hand-woven clothes, handmade silver and gold accessories from the original places. They are my favourite collections, as I do not like the brand name products much.

Chiang Mai, Nan, Prae and Sukhothai are lovely towns and always in my mind for escaping from busy life in Bangkok. Now it’s very convenient to fly to these destinations and easy to get around in safety. Ayuthaya is also one of my favourite places - our family goes there on weekends for a day trip for making merit and praying in the temples. In my opinion, Wat Chai Wattanaram, located in Ayuthaya, is the second most beautiful place to see the sunset, apart from the Temple of Dawn in Bangkok.

I love Ampawa Floating Market because it recalls the olden Thai period. Old Town Bangkok is also full of my childhood memories and I still go to the temple almost every weekend with my mother to make a merit.

Giving alms to monks on Hua Hin Beach
My favourite beach is Hua Hin because of the atmosphere there. My family goes there every year for a summer break. I do not like the touristic places and try to avoid them. In conclusion I can say that I love slow travel for my slow life, just to enjoy the places and atmosphere that make me calm down.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Chiang Mai on Top

Chiang Mai has been voted the favourite place to visit in Thailand in the 2012 TripAdvisor Travellers' Choice Awards, coming in above Koh Phi Phi Don and Koh Tao in the Top 10 Destinations. The city is praised for its historic sites, street food and elephant experiences, as well as activities such as cooking classes.

For the full list of award winners, click here:

Monday, 21 January 2013

Festival time in Thailand

If any nation knows how to throw a party, it's the Thais. If there's something to celebrate, it's done with a bang (quite literally - the Thais love an explosive or two!), as well as plenty of colour and a great deal of style. And there's no better time to visit Thailand than during festival time, with annual celebrations such as Songkran and Loi Krathong attracting tourists from all over the world.

If you're stuck for inspiration, the Tourism Authority of Thailand has just released its calendar of festivals and events for 2013, featuring a total of 28 colourful cultural events ranging from annual marathons to music festivals and sporting tournaments. Here are a couple of highlights - might see you there!
Trang Underwater Wedding Ceremony, Feb 13-15.

Koh Kradan, Trang Province.

Join 15 couples swearing their undying love in this mass traditional Thai wedding ceremony, held underwater in scuba gear! Now in its 16th year, the event is as crazy as it sounds, but also is a great tool for promoting the beautiful marine environment of the Trang Province. And what could be more romantic than tying the knot on Valentine's Day? Participants must be qualified divers.


Wedding Ceremony on Elephant Back, Feb 14.

Elephant Study Centre, Tah Toom District, Surin Province

Speaking of romance - and Valentine's Day - why not get married on the back of an elephant? The Sud Tai Ceremony is the traditional wedding of the Guay elephant mahouts, with the highlight of the ceremony the marriage registration on the back of an elephant. It is believed that tying the knot on an elephant brings good fortune and prosperity to couples. Not to mention an unforgettable start to a life together!

Songran Festival, 12-21 April.


Songkran is the Thai New Year's Day, which falls on April 13-15 every year. Prepare to get wet during this fun and wild water festival, with a thorough soaking considered a blessing.

Yasothon Bun Bang Fai Rocket Festival, 11-12 May.

Phaya Thaen Park, Yasothon Province

Did I mention the Thais like explosives? In this ancient local festival, the letting off of rockets of Bang Fai is an entreaty to the gods to bless the community with plentiful rain for rice cultivation. Beautiful rockets are paraded to the launch site by local people dressed in traditional costumes, with noisy folk music and cheers accompanying the release of each rocket.

Phuket Vegetarian Festival, October

Muang District, Phuket Province

Held during the ninth lunar month of the Chinese calendar, this annual event is said to bestow good fortune upon those who observe the sacred rituals accompanying the festival. During this time, local people of Chinese ancestry strictly observe a 10-day vegetarian or vegan diet for the purposes of spiritual cleansing and merit-making. Sacred rituals include walking barefoot over hot coals or ascending ladders with bladed rungs.


Loi Kratong, 18 November


The most beautiful and moving of all Thai ceremony's, Loi Krathong is held on the full moon night of the twelfth lunar month. To celebrate, Thai people release handmade kratongs made from banana leaves, flowers and incense into waterways, creating flotillas of sparkling lights. In Chiang Mai, the celebration coincides with Yi Peng, when thousands of lanterns are released into the sky, a double dose of illumination. Oh, and more fireworks, of course!

For a full list of Thai festivals and ceremonies, download the calendar at http://www.tatnews.org/images/images/images/News%20Release/Thai_event_2013_BOOK.pdf

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Places I Should Have Been

It’s revealing looking back at my 2012 Thailand Wish List and realising I only made it to one of these destinations during the year - Koh Phangan. But at least my one Thailand trip was everything and more I had hoped - I had possibly my best holiday yet with my daughter, relaxing on the beach and even indulging in the controversial Full Moon Party.

Rather than go over old ground, this year’s Wish List is more about places in Thailand I haven’t been, but should have. As a regular visitor, many people expect I have been everywhere in Thailand, but the truth is, there are some extremely popular destinations that I’ve never stepped foot in, and probably should!

Here are just a few:

Pattaya: I’ve always avoided this beachside mecca, placing it into the ‘too crowded’ or ‘too sleazy’ category. But like Las Vegas, some places are meant to be taken - and enjoyed - at face value. I’ve finally decided “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” and actually can’t wait till I get there now!

Koh Samet: The closest holiday island to Bangkok, Koh Samet is a popular weekend destination for city folk. Someone it has managed to skip my radar, despite the fact that it ticks all my holiday destination boxes: pure white sand, rustic accommodation, a relaxed lifestyle and warm, clear water.

Beautiful Koh Samet
Koh Phi Phi: Considering I’ve been to Phuket numerous times and Krabi also, it’s odd that I’ve never made it to the infamous ‘The Beach’ island in the Andaman Sea. I guess I’ve always assumed it would be too crowded, loved to death; but it’s one of best friend’s favourite islands, particularly after the daytrippers have left and you have the idyllic beaches practically to yourself.

Still the most stunning scenery imaginable - Koh Phi Phi

Sukhothai: Although I have been to Ayutthaya and the northern Lanna Kingdoms, I’ve never visited the ancient city of Sukothai, the first capital of Siam. I feel it’s important to make a pilgrimage here and learn more about Thai history.

River Kwai: One of my friends has named the River Kwai Jungle Rafts as her ‘happy place’, and I’m desperate to get there myself to see what she’s raving about! This hotel bobs on the famous river, where elephants bathe and the sounds of the jungle greet you each morning. Total relaxation, and just 2.5 hours from Bangkok.

River Kwai tranquility

Monday, 7 January 2013

New Year, New Beginnings

Nakhon Sawan (TAT photo)

Happy New Year from Kao Jai and all our contributors! During 2012, I was lucky enough to have a great team of ‘guest bloggers’ who very kindly filled in for me while I was on an extended overseas sabbatical (sadly, not to Thailand!) And while I regret that I couldn’t be writing about my favourite place in the world personally, I could at least relax in the knowledge that Kao Jai Thailand was regularly updated with fascinating and entertaining articles from Thailand insiders and experts sharing their knowledge and passion for the Land of Smiles.

Special thanks to John Borthwick, Roderick Eime, Kerry Van der Jagt, Cynthia Barnes and Belinda Jackson for stepping up to the plate when I screamed for assistance!

It’s been almost a year since I last visited Thailand, and it hasn’t been easy being away from its beautiful people and scenery, great food, blissful beaches and of course my beloved elephants! But hopefully 2013 will bring me more time in Thailand, and more time to write about my second home.

In the next few weeks, I plan on overhauling the design of the blog, so look out for that; and I’ll also be starting a series of ‘insider tips’ from both Thai nationals and ex-pats living in various parts of Thailand.

Thanks to all my readers for sticking by me and sharing my love of the wonderful, crazy and beautiful country of Thailand!