“Let’s go to Thailand!” my sister said to me one evening. “Err why Thailand of all places?” was the question that ran through my head when she made that statement.
The thing is, I’m really not the adventurous type and I also hadn’t travelled to Asia before so I was a bit apprehensive and skeptical of travelling to Thailand in my black skin.
After surfing the web via google and spending hours on YouTube and Trip Advisor, I eventually agreed to go on the trip with my sister. Why wouldn’t I! The internet held promises of clear blue-green beaches, amazing food and most especially, nature related adventures so Thailand it was. Little did I know that that was the beginning of many headaches and an adventure of a lifetime.
Armed with our discounted Etihad tickets, my sister and I researched on how to get a Thai visa a Nigerian. I paid a visit to their embassy in Abuja to make inquiries and the list looked something like this:
- Provide the claw of a 10 year old female saber-tooth tiger.
- Provide 3 professional references all signed off by an albino elephant.
- Obtain two pints of blood from a great white shark….
Ok I’m kidding there. Here is what the list actually looks like: http://thaiembassynigeria.com/eng/pdf/Visa-regualation-2014.pdf
Honestly, I wanted to give up the whole trip seeing the requirements, because I was on a project with tight deadlines and didn’t have the time to process all the requirements. However, with my sister’s persuasion, and encouragement, I got with the program and started the process. The most challenging aspect of obtaining the visa is the NDLEA clearance. See the requirements here: http://www.nairaland.com/259436/n.d.l.e.a-drug-clearance . If you are planning to travel to Thailand on a Nigerian passport, you need to give ample time for the NDLEA clearance which take up to three weeks to process (well, except you know someone that knows someone *wink).
Once that was done, the rest of the visa process was a breeze. My sister and I planned our itinerary, we were going to stay in Bangkok for 5 days, travel to Chang Mai and Phuket and then return to Bangkok. My sister was traveling a week ahead of me as she got more time off work.
There are no direct flights from Nigeria to Thailand so we had to stop over at Abu Dhabi and get on a connecting flight to Bangkok. The trip lasted approximately 17 hours including the transit period. I arrived at the Suvarnabhumi Airport in the morning and had a breeze through the immigration. There were only three black people on the flight but it didn’t feel weird at all. My sister didn’t have it this easy though, she was asked to step aside for interrogation by the immigration officers where she was asked how much she had on her and how long she intended to stay. (I jokingly attributed this to the big afro wig she had on her lol).
Bangkok is busy! It bustles with life and commercial activities. There are food vendors on almost all the streets offering varieties from iced coffee (which I drank loads of), to pig ear salad and skewered squids and octopus!
The weather was also moderate; a lot like Lagos in January without the humidity. The locals dressed comfortably to suit the weather, and by comfortably, I mean short shorts, tank tops and flip flops.
The country was mourning the late monarch King Bhumibol Adulyadej who ruled for over 70 years. As a result we saw a lot of locals dressing in black garments. The markets were also awash with black items of clothing for sale.
Traversing Through Thailand
We spent about 5 days in Bangkok visiting several tourist attractions and hotspots like the Grand Palace, Kao San road, Pratunam market, and the Grand mount temple. Honestly I lost count of all the temples in Thailand. There is practically a temple around every corner.
Next stop was Chiang Mai. Chiang Mai is located in Northern Thailand and is more of a mountainous terrain. If I had known how lovely and serene Chiang Mai was, I would have left Bangkok much earlier. We visited the Mae Wang Elephant Sanctuary and Waterfall and we got to feed and bathe the elephants and also play water fight with other tourists from around the world. Note to other tourists, please don’t patronize those who provide elephant rides. This is unethical. We also visited the Art in Paradise: a 3D art gallery that offers over a hundred interactive 3D pictures for picture taking. On our last day in Chiang Mai, I got two nice henna tattoos in a popular tattoo palour in Chiang Wat.
I said a weary good bye to Chiang Mai and boarded a 2 hour flight to Phuket. Phuket was hands down my best experience in Thailand. The province is located in Southern Thailand and consists of one 33 islands in total. It is also the most popular tourist spot in the country. Case in point is Patong, where we saw more Caucasians (mostly Europeans) than the local Thai people.
We went island hopping in Phuket where we took a whole day boat cruise round PhiPhi islands and visited other smaller islands Phi Phi Leh, Monkey Island, Maya Bay and the Pileh Cove. I tried snorkeling for the first time which I found easy surprisingly for an amateur swimmer. I also tried my hands on parasailing too and screamed like a girl.
Our last activity in Phuket was a combined package of white water rafting, flying fox (forest zip lining) and an ATV ride through the forest.
By the time we were done I was tired and well spent!
Thailand In Summary
Food: Thai food is very cheap! You could get a full meal with a 100 baht which is approximately NGN1500 using the prevailing exchange rate. The meals are also healthy. Lots of shoots, noodles, seafood and chicken.
The people: Thais are very accommodating, they are quick to help and they smile a lot. Only few locals can speak English so we got around by gesticulating a lot. There were no awkward stares or racial incidences (as opposed to my initial paranoia). You also get asked this question all the time “where are you from?”.
Transportation: The best and most popular means of getting around in Thailand is by tuktuk (Keke napep as we call it in Nigeria). We also tried the boat canal rides which were fast and dirt cheap. We had been warned about the tricks played by the taxi drivers in Thailand so if you must take a taxi, make sure it’s a metered one or better still use an Uber.
Accommodation: You can never go wrong with Airbnb in my opinion. We planned to use Airbnb accommodations for the most part of the trip and our first accommodation was a beautiful apartment in a block of condominiums in central Bangkok. The apartment was a walking distance from the CentralWorld Mall which was a big plus for us. We got a lovely serviced apartment at the Patong Bay Hill in Phuket which had an infinity pool and overlooked the city. I honestly didn’t want to leave.
Last words: One lesson I learnt from The Thai people is their spirit of enterprise. I partly expected the place to be awash with Chinese products, but to my surprise, everything I bought was made in Thailand. Local businesses thrived on the influx of tourist into the country. The people also seemed content. From the old lady who ran the fish spa, to the elderly man that sold chilled coconut water to the young lady that sold handmade note books, they all did their business meticulously with a sense of pride and diligence. I sure did take a lesson from there.
About The Author
Sade Owoeye is a Risk Consultant based in Lagos. She enjoys travelling whenever she gets time off work. She’s also an avid reader of African literature and a certified foodie.