Sunday January 27 2013

Thailand: The traveller’s paradise

Thailand: The traveller’s paradise

You will compete for space with hundreds of tourists in Thailand. Photo by Nafha Maani Ebrahimi. 

By Nafha Maani Ebrahimi

When you are talking about billions of dollars generated from tourism industry alone, a country like Thailand has no trouble finding itself on top of the list. It’s the most open secret that many solo travellers find themselves there seeking companionship. However, there is also an increasing number of families choosing Thailand as their holiday destination.

For these families, everything under the Thai sun is turned into some kind of attraction. Ideas and projects are constantly discussed to give that final push to undecided tourists to choose Thailand.

I visited Thailand many times, and what I found interesting was the fact that there is some kind of consistency in the products offered. Maybe the smiles have become more plastic, prices higher and the air is more polluted. But the infrastructure is growing strong, attractions are multiplying and security remains one of Thailand’s most important assets.

A multitude of tours await sightseeing lovers, some are as simple as visiting Nakasero market, and people actually pay to be driven for long distances to visit such markets. And how many tour companies in Uganda take tourists to the local markets? If you are a bigger shopper, then a huge number of malls will suck you in like a whirlpool; you have to be able to breathe under water to come out of this!

Hungry? There are whole floors of not only fast food but international food franchises.

There are proper restaurants and budget ones side by side, yours to pick from. Even if you decide that on that day you want to spend one dollar for a plate of food, you can step outside and eat in one of the roadside food stalls, no guarantee of hygiene but tastes are great.

Tired of shopping? Just follow that herbal aroma and you are in a spa, for less than ten dollars you will be pampered and receiving a one hour foot and shoulder massage, and trust me, there are no people who can massage like the Thai can.

Customer care
Done with city life and you want to think life is a beach? Get on a plane and you are in one of Thailand’s famous islands.

Even before you reach the departure gate, there is someone standing somewhere in the airport asking you if you need help. You wonder what help is offered here, then you realize they want to sell you a tour package of any sort in the resort you are travelling to, even before you step a foot in that place.

Once there, you are faced with more tour companies, promising heaven and earth, virgin islands, secret hideaways that no one knows about. You accept and travel on a boat already crammed with other tourists, you reach islands that are named after famous Hollywood movies just because parts of the movies were shot there. And how many places in Kampala are named after the Oscar winning movie ‘The last King of Scotland’, that was made in Uganda, I wonder?

You reach these islands only to compete for space with hundreds of other tourists pretending that they discovered part of heaven. I remember that a prominent feature of the tour was watching the monkeys on a beach. And I was amused to see so many cameras flashing at the sight of a few skinny monkeys on the beach. I smiled while remembering the neglected monkeys jumping on the trees of my Kampala home.

One of Thailand’s greatest achievements is what they call repeated tourism. This is why they have hit 21 million tourists in December 2012. I read a statement by their Tourism board on how they plan to increase the number of their niche tourism that includes honeymoons, golfing, weddings and medical market.

Yes, even Medical care has a market here, but that is another story for another day.