Chinese people do not really get to choose when to take their holidays… as they have fixed public holidays throughout the year. One of which is the Golden Week or National Day holiday where the inception of modern day China is celebrated.
Like during any public holiday in China, it is the opportunity for literally millions of people to travel. Either migrant workers go back to their hometown or , and it is a rapidly growing trend, middle class families travel to discover either their gigantic homeland or for the lucky ones, oversea countries.
When I say millions of people traveling I really mean it, have a look at a few examples of major chinese touristic destinations absolutely packed during this holiday:
So now you understand why I don’t want to stay in China during those holidays! There is NO WAY I will ever travel within China in those conditions. So this year I decided to go to Thailand… A country I had already visited many times for business (we open a Belgian Beer Café in Phuket in December) or as a tourist, with my buddies starting back in 2008 if I remember properly.
This time however, not much backpacking but rather a relaxing holiday with only 2 major destinations. In the end, I was only away for a bit more than a week!
It did not start pretty well this time. I had to run for my plane in Shanghai, which in the end was delayed (I was transiting in Hong Kong, not a smart choice). It meant then that I had to run like crazy through the airport in HK to make it to my connecting flight to Bangkok, and they closed the door behind my back… I made it, but my bag did not…. Not nice. Not nice at all. I was actually sleeping at the airport hotel to get to Krabi with the first flight the day after… so I couldn’t get my bag on time for this flight. So I had to travel to Koh Phi Phi, in jeans, smart shirt, jacket, and fancy shoes, while all the people around me were backpackers in flip flops and shorts… Not nice at all!!! My bag made it the day after. Still, 2 big thumbs up to Thai airways for their quality service… Well being a frequent traveller with Star Alliance surely helped, but still.
So, step 1: Koh Phi Phi: PARADISE on earth. A picture is worth a thousand words.
What did I do? Nothing! I just took naps, dips in the blue sea waters, and… oh yeah more naps. I also took the opportunity to dive. It had been a while since my last dive in Brazil in 2009, so I had to go through a refresh course… but the folks at Adventure Dive surely made it a lot of fun… Among others, I saw turtles and reef sharks… I loved the turtles! The most interesting was to do a night dive to prepare for my Advanced Padi certification. It’s not really “natural” to get in the water when you can’t see anything… and it can be quite scary at times… So I really had to work on my inner peace to stay calm J
But it was worth it… even though we were not very lucky to see much creatures (I was hoping for giant octopuses) it certainly is a different dive experience. The underwater world is completely different: you don’t see the same fishes, corals, etc.. the reefs are all fluffy for instance. I will surely do it again!
Step 2: Chang Mai! A very laid back city in the north of Thailand. I was in Northern Thailand only once 2 years ago to cross the border to Laos in the Chiang Rai area, but this time I could sample more of the local culture. And there is a lot of it in this city. But to be honest, I’m done with temples for the rest of my life…. I’ve seen so many over the years that I’m literally not interested at all in them anymore, and Chiang Mai has hundreds of them.
I decided to simply wander the streets and take it easy will I was there. And I surely don’t regret it. The atmosphere is just great. One thing I enjoyed a lot was a private bike tour with a local tour guide who took me in the countryside for a whole day (my ass still hurts because of the bad saddle J ). Another high of my stay was a cooking class at a local organic farm. I met interesting people from the UK and from Oregon (check their blog at www.twooregonians.com) and learnt to make my own curry (massaman, green or red).
I then stayed for a night in Bangkok for business, and stayed in a very nice hotel that I recommend: Muse, from the boutique series of Accord Group.
I love Thai people and Thai food! and i’m glad I will go back soon for the opening of the Belgian Beer Café in Phuket.
Stay curious people!
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