Monday, May 07, 2007

Article - Thailand - Travelogue - Pattaya

Eight to Tango!

We always look forward to vacations, as they are special times in life – a vacation is a big bundle of free time with no cares or worries, deadlines or alarm clocks. There are no rules as to how a holiday is to be spent…or with whom…or indeed, without whom! I used the word “without” because my “galpals” and I went on a holiday without husbands, without kids and without any other family-member. Sounds offbeat? It sure was. It was also a terrific idea for a vacation with just eight women – all friends (in the wide age-range of 25 to 45!). A holiday in Thailand -- two days each in Pattaya and Bangkok …chilling out in the first and shopping in the second. Our priorities were clear and set – relaxation and shopping. It would not allow time for anything else, including sightseeing.

Even the planning was fun – no routines, cooking-cleaning, kid-care, husband-care, parents-care, or inlaws-care. How did we manage it? Admittedly, with a lot of support from our families, especially husbands! If husbands don’t volunteer to baby-sit, there would be no real holiday for the wife/mom/daughter-in-law and we know it!

Baby-sitting taken care of and holiday in progress: - It was fun to travel on an international flight with friends! It brought back nostalgic memories from schooldays of “jostle-filled” rides on tourist buses and second-class train compartments. However, with age comes a certain “degree of fuss” so this holiday to a nearby, foreign destination was the perfect option.

We landed in Bangkok and immediately travelled for two hours by road to Pattaya, a beach town with a variety of hotels and resorts. We checked in to our hotel and then casually explored the sleepy town. Pattaya is not a “morning-town”. We then got down to the business of relaxation…a very soothing and rejuvenating Thai massage. For those not enamoured with the idea of a body massage, the option of a foot massage is available and a “not-to-be-missed” experience! A leisurely lunch followed. Vegetarians, beware of the food – you have to be very clear and succinct if you want to eat pure vegetarian food in Thailand! It was good to be in like-minded-adult-company. No extra bags, no worries about the rest of the family’s needs – just your individual needs and wants for four days…

The early evening saw us spending quality time in the hotel’s swimming pool. Our priorities were indeed different. Nevertheless, for those who would like to have an agenda, there are of course, wonderful options available even in this simple town.

At Pattaya you get to spend a lot of time down at the beach -- “watery-fun”, I call it. At the Boat Service, amongst various options, we settled on the adventurous, banana boat ride. The banana boat is a big, inflatable banana-shaped raft designed for 5 people to sit one behind the other and has a rope tying it to the tug/motor boat. The boat would then head out to sea pulling the banana boat behind it so that the riders of the banana boat would have a fun roller coaster ride in the sea with absolutely no control over direction or speed! Lifejackets are necessary, of course. Who would have thought that in our thirties and forties, we could get away with such fun?!

The next spot of beach activity we engaged ourselves in was parasailing, a very popular adventure-sport in Pattaya. We reached the para-sailing platform out at sea by means of a hired speedboat. For the uninitiated, Para sailing involves the process of donning a life jacket, clasped to a Parachute complete with canopy. A long rope connects you to a Speed Boat on the water. You then take a running jump off a platform and parasail…flying high above the water and are pulled along / navigated by the boat! It is truly a wonderful, exhilarating experience to be flying so. However, all too soon they bring you down to land. I would not recommend this adventure sport to delicate darlings or the weak-hearted, but the “ground crew” we encountered, was impressive in their co-ordination and timing and hence, safety was not a major concern.

Seaside fun aside, Pattaya’s mornings might be lazy, but the evenings are what we nowadays call “rocking”! Pattaya’s nightlife makes it a great holiday destination.

While we were short on time (four days are too few) that we could spend in Thailand, I would recommend at least four days in Pattaya alone, to ensure complete relaxation! Moreover, for us Indians especially, Thailand is a great place for relaxation, sightseeing and shopping, as it is very affordable and logistics-friendly.

We also carefully chose quality hotels to stay in, as the idea behind this whole experience was to enjoy life -- scrimping and saving were simply not part of the plan! Having said that, we got great package deals for both airfare as well as hotel accommodation since we were travelling in a group. You see, more is indeed merrier!

I am not saying, “Take a vacation without family”. What I am saying is …this sort of an “off-beat” holiday might be just the kind of refreshment you need to get that spring back in your step!

Sujata Tarakesan.

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