Thailand delivers a most incredible sensory extravaganza.
From the moment you step off the plane you’re instantly overwhelmed by the heat, smells, sights and sounds. The traffic, warmth, colours and beauty – and that’s before you venture to the hundreds of islands, lush forests and ancient temples, or indulge in the culinary spoils that will add to your memories for a lifetime.
– Island views, the colour of the sea, monks and festivals.
As you explore, your eye will shift from the street food stalls to the smiling lined faces of the street sellers and passers-by, to the constant traffic jams of multicoloured cars, the bright colours of the tuk-tuks and of the impressive temples. Thai monks can be seen just about everywhere in Thailand with their bright orange robes giving them away instantly. You’ll pass from the typical chaos of the big city to the inner peace of those gathered to pray inside the spiritual buildings, the amazing contrast often found only meters apart. The Royal Palace is one of the must-see places in Bangkok, a multitude of temples, a jubilation of colours, an explosion of the senses. Natural beauty abounds with vivid blue waters, verdant green forests, impressive rock formations and an abundance of brightly decorated long-tail boats ferrying up and down. A feast in every way, are the visually spectacular festivals – be it lanterns on the water, kites in the sky, puppets, masks, floats or the sensationalist participants at the Vegetarian Festival. Wherever you look, you will find.
– Language, chimes, chants, bikes.
At the market place you’ll hear the chit-chat of Thai vendors, sellers calling out their best deals – louder than the merchant next to them, and the many languages of enthused tourists. Fans whir to keep the heat at bay while children laugh and play. Bikes, cars and tuk-tuks add to the ambience with horns beeping in the streets. Above it all, once you pause and listen, Is the unmistakable and elegant sound of the Thai bells. Widespread in the country and according to local culture said to protect and evoke the gods, keeping evil forces at bay and protective spirits near. The sound of monks chanting, traditional Thai musical instruments, birds chirping in the trees, all bring you to the quiet that can always be found.
– Spicy, sweet, bitter, sour and salty.
The philosophy behind Thai food looks to a balance of flavours: spicy, sour, sweet, bitter and salty. With dishes known to be flavoured with lemon grass, mint, garlic, ginger and a lot of chilli. Other common flavours in Thai food spectrum include galangal, coriander, shallots, pepper, kaffir lime leaves, shrimp paste, fish sauce, and chilies. Popular Thai favourites are green curry paste and the Thai spices used to prepare a choice of chicken, beef or prawn that’s slowly simmered with coconut milk for a distinct flavour. Talking things to taste – Mango Sticky Rice is a must, and the best is found at kiosks and food stalls around all cities and markets. Thai cuisine delights not only your sense of taste, but your sense of smell, sight and even touch are stimulated. A wander among the street food stalls is an unmissable experience that will complete your immersive Thai journey.
– Sweet heady incense, jasmine flowers and durian fruit.
The most memorable aromas of Thailand may be born of their festivals and celebration, with the culture of weddings, house warmings and traditional ceremonies passed down from generation to generation. As you walk, wafts of incense linger in the warm air, blending with the delicious aromas of the food, fruits and drinks that constantly pervade the senses. The durian fruit – a matter of personal choice in a love it or hate it kind of thing, has a reputation for being the world’s ‘stinkiest’ fruit, and is certain to be encountered too.
The closer you get to a Buddhist temple or monastery the more you’ll be drawn to the sweet heady smell of scented candles and wilting lotus flowers, both used as offerings to Buddha. Spirit houses throughout carry gifts of coconuts, fried rice, fruits and colourful drinks fermenting in the sun. Flower garlands, traditionally hung in windows to allow the aromatic jasmine to waft through the house, is often gifted by hotels on arrival as part of their sensory Thai welcome. At Spas, sandalwood, eucalyptus, lotus flower, white bamboo and ylang-ylang are used, among others. While once you step outside of the city to the rural areas and islands, its fresh air tinged with cut grass, damp soil under forests of trees and wafts of salty ocean as you lie soaking up the sun on the beach.
– Massage, silky fabrics, wooden carvings.
At any of Bangkok’s markets you’ll be able to see and feel the lustre of Thai silk between your fingers. It’s produced mainly in the north east in Khorat Pleateau where the precious silkworms feed on mulberry leaves. Believed to be the finest in the world, you can buy it in any colour imaginable. As precious as Thai silk, are the hand-carved wooden items for sale, which feel so good to the touch, and make incredible gifts and mementos.
Thailand has long mastered the art of combining luxury with wellness, turning it into an art form. An ancient practice with many benefits supported by modern science, Thai massage is known to reduce the severity of headaches, decrease lower back and joint pain, increase flexibility, calm anxieties and energise the mind and body. No visit to Thailand would be complete without a foot, hand or body massage.
When it comes to things not to do in Thai culture, important not to touch anybody’s head. In Thailand the head is considered the most holy and cleanest part of the body and touching someone’s head is considered most disrespecful.
– Introspection, meditation, intuition, belonging.
With incense heavy air, spiritual temples and smiling people everywhere, you will find peace and happiness here. Breath in the local atmosphere and immerse yourself in the moment. The East is known to hold a special essence that enables introspection, meditation and focus, with the entire Thai culture imbued with a sense of wonder that will relax your soul and allow you to surrender to intuition and a new found sense of belonging.