If there is one place that I truly love in the world, it has to be Thailand. The place known as the land of smiles is like an idyllic paradise with white sandy beaches, the warmth of the Andaman Sea and an extraordinary culture that incorporates beautiful temples, wonderful dance and costume and a love of one of my favourite animals, the elephant.
I have visited Thailand on numerous occasions, managing to combine relaxation on those beaches and Thai massage, with tourism, enjoying the sites and sounds and smells of an exhilarating land. Phuket is by far my favourite place. I love to eat the street food that you find off the beaten track in Patong, and then enjoy the Thai boxing bouts whilst avoiding the snake charming that often takes place in between bouts. The street markets and shopping are full of weird and wonderful items, from fake labels that are often difficult to tell apart from the real thing, to wood carvings, pewter and silver and incredible Batak fabrics made into dresses, sarongs and throws for the home. I always come home with a suitcase full, and now have many in my wardrobe that I have been wearing for years. Thailand is a place where you can have a bespoke suit designed and made within a couple of days for less than the price you would buy one from Matalan. It is a shopper’s paradise, even a trip to the incredible Wat Chalong temple, one of the biggest in Thailand, also saw a street market set up along the paths that lead to the temple.
I was recently asked by Destination2.co.uk to name the one place in Thailand that I would recommend as a must visit destination for anyone who was planning a visit. This was a tough choice to make as there are so many wonderful things to see and do, from the elephant orphanage in Chiang Mai, to Phuket Fantasea, which has one of the biggest floorshows in the world, along with the world’s biggest buffet restaurants. But in the end I opted for Koh Panyee, the Muslim village on stilts because it is, quite frankly, like no where else on Earth I have ever visited.
Koh Panyee (also sometimes spelt Ko Panyi) is a fishing village in the Phang Nga province of Thailand. It is easily reached from Phuket, and you can do day trips that are combined with a trip to the James Bond island that featured in ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’ (we did lots of silly Bond poses when we visited, which led to our guide saying ‘it is time to come back to the boat now Mr Bond’). Koh Panyee was built by Indonesian fisherman and is entirely on stilts, making it a strange and rather wonderful place to visit, and in particular, to enjoy a lunch in one of the many restaurants that look over Phang Nga Bay.
For me, the idea of a village built on the sea, rising above it on stilts, is a mystical, magical one that is a must visit. Thailand has many wonderful experiences to offer the tourist, but this must rank amongst the best of them.
Have you ever visited Thailand?