One of the best things I love about travelling is getting the chance to learn more about a new culture. That’s how I felt when my partner and I visited Thailand for the second time. As a Eurasian (I’m half British and half Chinese), I was intrigued by the architecture and culture and knew we had to visit again. Having the opportunity to go back and really get under the skin of the country was a no-brainer and it was surprising the number hidden gems we discovered beyond the main visitor attractions.
One of the things we enjoyed was the traditional Thai massage. My partner thought this would be similar to the Swedish massage seen in Europe, but it was very different. For a start, we had to put on a robe and then lie down on a mattress. The masseur was a real expert in finding the pressure points and applying her hands to specific areas. Thai massage is used for many conditions, as well as relaxing the body and it was a fascinating experience. I felt so refreshed after my massage which came at the end of a day of sightseeing.
Thai cuisine is renowned throughout the world and has very distinctive flavourings. We decided we wanted to get to know this cuisine better and signed up for a cookery lesson. I never imagined I would be in the Floating market buying ingredients but it was an excellent way to interact with the local stall holders and learn more about the ingredients on offer. There were tips on how to choose the finest lemongrass and limes, as well as the fun of buying the spices. Above all, I was captivated by the number of boats sailing by; laden with vegetables, meats, flowers and much more. Back at the cookery school, it was down to work and the first task was learning how to finely chop the food. I couldn’t move as fast as the instructors, as they cut the vegetables so delicately. My partner was amazed. We learned how to make a Thai green curry which has beautiful flavours and a vegetable stir fry. I also learned the art of slicing pineapple and other tropical fruits in a delicate way. Now, I have a good repertoire of recipes for a dinner party back home.
Another place that we explored was the Thai Tattoo School which was an unexpected find. I had no idea you could learn to tattoo here and it is an aspect of the creative arts seen in the country. Luckily, there was a beginner course in Hua Hin which my fiancé really enjoyed. We also loved seeing all the creative designs from the students and teachers. Another unusual activity for us was to learn the art of Wing Tsun which is a form of martial art in Thailand. I found a really good school in Hua Hin and we soon got our moves perfected. I hadn’t realized that it is particularly good for the elderly but as a young girl, it was a whole lot of fun.
In Thailand, the creative arts are an important part of the culture. During our stay, we enjoyed visiting the night markets in Chiang Mai which were full of exquisite silk products, painted fans and lacquer ware. The colours were magnificent. My bargaining skills were not perfect, so I ended up giggling a lot when negotiating the prices. However, just interacting with the stall holders alone is as interesting as it gets, as you get to find out more about them, as well as their craft. We also went to a silk factory where the weaving and dyeing takes place. The rainbow colours and quality was superb.
When we went to Bangkok, the one place I wanted to visit was the Jim Thompson House. This was a beautiful museum that was once the home of Jim Thompson, an American who worked in Thailand and promoted the silk industry. Compared to the chaos of the city, this was quite a tranquil place with a lovely garden. Visiting the Jim Thompson shop in Bangkok was also an interesting experience with top-class silks on sale and some exquisite designs. There was one last thing to do in Bangkok and that was to jump on the ferry sailing up the Chao Praya River with all the locals. You have to be quick as it waits for no one- especially tourists. It was fun to scramble aboard and see life on the river. Guessing where we had to get off again was not so easy, but we managed to find our hotel and enjoy a drink as the sun went down.
The more you look at Thailand the more there is to see and learn. I’m now planning my third trip as there is still a lot that I haven’t experienced in this beautiful country.
About the Author: Monica Leslie is a graphic designer as well as a part-time blogger at www.myoverseasadventure.com. She enjoys travelling, as well as writing, art, cooking, fashion and learning about new cultures. You can find more of her work on her blog.