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Thailand is probably Southeast Asia’s most popular tourist destination, I saw why when I visited myself.
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I flew from Chengdu to Bangkok with some of my English teaching buddies. It was Chinese New Year and after settling into our hostel we got to witness a lion dance procession in the street, something I’ve ironically never seen in China itself. Thailand is home to the largest overseas Chinese community in the world and Bangkok was buzzing with festivities for Chinese civilization’s most important holiday.
That night we wandered around one of Bangkok’s seedy night markets and watched a Muay Thai boxing match in a strip club (we felt it was something necessary to witness). The next day we soaked in a decidedly different atmosphere at the Wat Pho temple or the Temple of the Leaning Buddha.
The day we were scheduled to fly south to Phuket we killed some time before the flight at the Lumpini Park. We strolled around and rode paddle boats in the lake and were shocked to see that the park was infested with immense monitor lizards, seemingly large enough to devour a human infant or napping tourist. I can only assume the authorities have deemed the lizards safe enough to make the public park their home.
We flew south to Phuket Island, probably the most popular tourist destination in Thailand itself, for good reason. The island is lined with stunning beaches. There’s also a good mixture of both budget and more expensive/luxurious hotels and restaurants. The holiday season meant that accommodation was often filled so we found ourselves hopping from hotel to hotel and beach to beach.
We went on a speedboat tour of the Phi Phi Islands, bobbing alongside the limestone cliffs to get a closer glimpse at some wild monkeys, ate lunch on Ko Phi Phi Don and waded at the beach at Maya Bay. Our guide was a cool and hilarious transgender woman named Spicy.
The next day we went on another tour to Khao Phing Kan Island – popularly known in English as James Bond island, the setting of two Bond films. After checking out the iconic island we ate lunch at a floating Muslim village, chowing down on halal food to the sounds of the call to prayer from the local mosque.
On our last day in Phuket we went on a really quick excursion to one of the scenic areas and did a quick hike to a waterfall.
All in all, this trip to Thailand was probably the best vacation I’ve had during my time living in China. People in Thailand are incredibly friendly, devout and hospitable.