By MELISSA WELLHAM
Visiting Thailand recently was something of a revelation for me. I’d never been to South East Asia before, and after only seven days I had already decided that I needed to pack up my house and move there. The culture is chilled out, the people are so friendly, and the weather was blissful. (During the wet season, no less.)
I travelled to Thailand with Intrepid, and these are my recommended must-see, must-do, and must-eats.
1. Visit the Maeklong Railway Market.
I’ll be honest, I was a bit of a market-whore in Thailand. But there were two that really stood out.
First was the Maeklong Railway Market, Talaad Rom Hoob. The market was originally situated within a large, open warehouse, but as the market grew and grew, stalls started to spill outside – onto the train tracks. Now, vendors sells fresh fish, fruit and vegetables with their baskets placed on the train line.
When the train approaches the station, an alarm is sounded and the vendors spring into action. Moving their produce, pulling back racks of clothes, and finally leaping out of the way – just as the train careers by. It’s an amazing thing to watch.
2. … And the Tha Kha Floating Markets.
The other amazing market I visited was the Tha Kha Floating Markets. There are a few riverside markets outside the Bangkok area – but this is apparently one of the least touristy. The locals row their boats up the river, stacked with produce and products, and sell directly out of their boats to people walking by the side of the river.
The set ups inside the boats are amazing – the locals utilise every centimetre of space, turning each little boat into a self-contained food factory, whether they are making coconut ice-cream or sticky rice.
3. Go on a cycling tour.
While in Chiang Mai, I went on a cycling tour of the area. It only took about 20 minutes to cycle out of the bustling city, and after that I was cruising through fields of rice, past farmers working in their front yards, and detouring to take a look at the ruins of Old Chiang Mai.
It might have just been the endorphins, but it was definitely one of the highlights of trip. Cycling gives you an opportunity to observe your surroundings, in a way that being stuck inside a car or train just doesn’t; and you get more of a feel for what a place is really like.
4. Try a traditional homestay.
While in Chiang Mai, I travelled out to a local homestay run by an amazing woman named Aoi. Myself and the rest of the group on the tour slept under big, sweeping colourful mosquito nets, and had traditional Thai-style showers (not going to lie – they were cold). But the best part about the homestay was undoubtedly the cooking course.
Aoi taught us all how to make a variety of dishes – for both dinner and breakfast – including mushroom tempura (which we picked ourselves), traditional Northern Thai currys, and sweet sticky rice dyed with blue flowers.