For the past several years, Thailand had been on my heart and mind. Seeing photos in travel magazines and hearing stories about the incredible country, I had been dying to see and experience the ‘land of smiles’ for myself. Finally, the opportunity presented itself this month during summer vacation. A whopping seven day break from work (a far cry from the two month break in the States, but you take what you can get, right?) saw me flying to what has been called the heart of Asia for an adventure of a lifetime.
As the plane touched down after a seven hour journey, I was tired, but excited to be in Thailand. As promised, the airport taxi driver was waiting patiently at the arrival gate to take me the final 90 minute drive to Pattaya. While I tried to stay awake in the backseat and take photo after photo of the glitz and glamour of Bangkok from the freeway, jet lag began to get the best of me. And as a soft rain came down, before I knew it, I was dozing off in the back seat of the taxi. Before long, we had arrived at what would be my home for the next few days a lived-in, but tidy looking condo called Ruamchok. I paid the taxi driver, thanked the doorman, and made my way inside. My accommodations were humble, yet pleasing, complete with a balcony-side hot tub, kitchenette, bathroom, living room and bedroom—plenty of space for one. I messaged my family and some friends to let them know I’d made it safely, took a warm shower, then ventured out to find some dinner. Right around the corner from Ruamchok I found a great local eatery. Of course my first meal in Thailand was Pad Thai, a well known favorite across the globe. It was greasy and delicious, and I found myself well satisfied and ready for bed.
The next day I opened the balcony curtains to the most stunning view in the world. Ice-cream colored condos overlooking the bluest sea became by backyard. Already, early in the morning, people were making their way to the beach or to the market to take in the sounds of summer. Although tired from the trip, I had a second wind and immediately showered and dressed to explore Pattaya.
Someone had told me about an incredible breakfast buffet I had to check out at Jomtien Beach. A scooter taxi took me the 10 minute ride down to the wonderful outdoor hotel restaurant. Just as I had been advised, there was delicious western food galore. Coffee, juice, milk, tea, fried eggs, and bacon was available to my heart’s content. Patrons had their choice of five different breads, beet-colored mayonnaise, and Thai dishes as well. There were pastry desserts, sliced meats, soft melting cheeses, and everything in between. The atmosphere was cool and inviting, with Thais and foreigners alike enjoying the outdoor eatery. If the flavors and abundance of food wasn’t enough, the price was less than anyone could ask for—a whopping $5.
For the rest of the day, I wandered aimlessly around Jomtien Beach, sightseeing, people watching and enjoying the laid back lifestyle the local people have enjoyed all their lives. There were at least a dozen massage houses to choose from. I settled on a full body traditional Thai massage parlor across from the ocean. At the door, I was greeted by kind Thai women who led me to a room where foreigners and Thais alike enjoyed the art of Thai massage. Having my joints stretched in ways I didn’t know were possible reminded me of how out of shape I actually am. After two hours of massage, I felt great, but it was also a good reminder of how I need to get back to practicing yoga.
For dinner that night, I enjoyed another local favorite of chicken soaked in coconut milk and an array of spices and vegetables. All this was topped off by a pure mango smoothie. I wanted to try the coconut dessert, but simply didn’t have enough space in my stomach.
That night, I rested easy as I drifted off to sleep, thinking about the exciting adventures the next day would bring.
Friday was a cool and casual day as I spent most of my time on the beach. I was amazed as the vacant beach saw few other foreigners besides myself. Locals rested with their infants and played with their children under the sprawling palm trees. I met some friendly locals and a Canadian who some interesting stories to tell. I lost count of the time as I swam in the ocean for what seemed like hours listening to the gentle waves and feeling the warm sun on my skin.
On my final day in Pattaya, I headed back to the buffet breakfast for one more round of delicious Western-style eating. Afterwards, I walked the beach strip a bit, got my nails done, bought some souvenirs for friends and family, and got some great photos of the ocean. That night, as I packed my bag, I had a really hard time saying goodbye to Thailand. It reminded me of Ghana in some many ways: the laid back attitude of the people, their friendly demeanor, the hot and humid climate, and the sweet, natural, fruit of the tropical land. Thailand has captured my heart, and I know that I will return to the land of smiles, many, many times!