Assignment ThailandBy Susan Wood, Susan Wood Photography
One week after receiving an incredible opportunity, I was boarding an airplane to travel half way around the world with my cameras. The global news media had reported on the unprecedented flooding in Thailand, vividly documenting the devastation that had displaced millions and taken over four hundred lives. Fear was soaring and countries around the world were warning their citizens not to travel to Thailand.
Enter the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) with a plan to ensure the rapid recovery of its crucial tourist trade. Their plan included inviting the media and travel agents from around the world to see directly what was happening in Thailand. Our assignment? To observe Thailand’s tourist industry first-hand during its recovery from the floods and share those observations back in our own countries.
The TAT welcomed us with an unforgettable event that included magnificent floral arrangements, incredible cultural performances, and a huge array of beautifully presented foods to amaze the palate. The artistry and impeccable attention to detail were awe-inspiring. Guided by the genuine warmth and hospitality of the Thai people, we were immediately transported to a whole new world.
Cosmopolitan Bangkok was bustling with activity, and contrasts of ancient vs. modern and rich vs. poor were everywhere. River boats and scooters are popular modes of transportation, and street food vendors are on virtually every corner of the city, twenty-four hours a day. Modern shopping malls quench the thirst of the fashion conscious as well as the budget minded. Clothing, jewelry, scarves, crafts and more can be purchased at busy street markets day and night.
Traveling into Northern Thailand, we explored the country’s ancient heritage with visits to temples, handicraft villages and a hill tribe village. We rode elephants and wandered through open markets purchasing authentic wares from the locals who made them. We were pampered with restorative traditional Thai massages, explored the Golden Triangle (the intersection of Thailand, Myanmar and Laos), and learned about the history of Thailand’s opium trade.
Floating down the Mekong River as it carved its way through rice fields and riverside towns, we saw waterfront properties lined with dilapidated shacks that people call home, often sitting next to modern high-rise buildings.
Throughout our trip, we were treated like royalty, staying in world-class resorts where friendly local staff went out of their way to make us feel welcome and comfortable. From upscale restaurants to street vendors, we were taken on a delicious and spicy culinary journey to sample some of the best food I’ve ever tasted.
Buddhism is an important influence on the way Thai people think and behave. Giving alms to a monk and leaving lotus blossoms and incense for Buddha -- daily practices of Thai people -- were highlights of my trip.
With the floods over and the tourist industry wide open for business, Thailand offers something for everyone: beautiful beaches, treks through jungles, mountain biking, kayaking, rafting, zip-lining, Thai boxing (Muay Thai), golfing, snorkeling, scuba diving and more. All with friendly local Thais who want to make sure your experience in their country is unforgettable.
This exotic escape to Thailand was mysterious and confounding, but approachable and inviting. Thai hospitality is a genuine art, crafted by a culture that takes pride in putting people at ease! Thailand’s tropical climate, unique culture, natural wonders, and incomparable value paired with the warmth of its people made a lasting impression. I returned to the United States with a real appreciation and love for this amazing country and its people!
Thank you to V’Explore Tours, the TAT and the people of Thailand for this truly inspirational experience!Photos above: TAT Welcome Event
Buddahs in Northern Thailand
Night View of River through Bangkok.
All photos by susanwoodphotography.com
V Explore Tours - Bangkok, Thailand