We’re Going to Thailand!

In just two weeks. This is how it happened.

During the Xmas Holidays we were sitting in the living room watching a television show called, River Monsters, which is essentially a fishing show but so much more. I’m really into fish and have kept freshwater aquariums on and off since childhood. Is there any geek hobby I haven’t tried? The answer is, no. But I digress. The host, Jeremy Wade, is a biologist and angler who travels around the world catching fascinating and fearsome freshwater fish (say that 10 times fast!). Each episode is an attempt to prove or debunk the myth of a supposedly man-eating freshwater fish. It’s a great show.

Fish ON! [Said with British accent].

While watching an episode that was filmed in Thailand, I turned to Davin and said, “Oh yeah, this reminds me that I got an email today asking me if I want to go on a garden writers press tour to Thailand. I kind of ignored it because it’s the Holidays and I’m trying to avoid thinking about work right now — I should take a second look.

At which point I did take a second look, started to think about the possibilities, got excited about them, and sent in my pitch. Jump ahead a few months to just two weeks ago when we were given the go-ahead to purchase our air tickets to Thailand. And in another two weeks we are off!

A press tour isn’t a vacation. It’s a working trip and a professional arrangement. Attendees are expected to write stories or sell photographs to the media outlets that employ them upon return. I will be doing just that, but I will also post here as I always do when I go on a trip. This won’t be any different, although I am hoping that we will have better internet access than I did in the Caribbean so I can post while we are there.

There are lots of ways a press tour can work financially, but in this case I paid my own airfare (not cheap from Canada) and Thai Tourism is covering my accommodations and travel within the country. They also make all the decisions regarding where I go, what I see, and when I see it. I don’t expect that there will be much free time and I imagine that we will be taken to a few destinations that won’t interest me personally. Such is the tradeoff and I am happy to make that concession since I love to travel. I love it even when I hate it and can’t wait to get back home. You can pretty much dump me anywhere and I will walk away feeling like I experienced something interesting and worth seeing. Like most people, I have compiled a mental list of places in the world that I most want to visit (Vietnam is my current #1 and it’s just next door to Thailand. Gah!), but turn my attention to a place that isn’t on my list and within five minutes I’ll have convinced myself that I must go there, too. Immediately, if possible.

I want to go everywhere.

As for Thailand, I have a few ideas about what I hope to see, experience, and write about, but we do not yet have an itinerary, so making plans or pitches is pretty much impossible at this time.

Fortunately, we do know which cities we will be visiting: Bangkok, Pattaya, Rayong and Chiang Mai. I am most excited about Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Of the cities on the list, they are the ones I would be most likely to visit if I were going on my own and choosing my own destinations. I love markets — many of my fondest travel memories are of markets. I love the hustle and bustle, the piles of colourful items, and the smells. Whether I’m shopping for takeaway food, produce, or household items, I prefer the loose and messy market experience to “proper” stores and malls. Oddly enough, they are the places I rarely photograph on trips. Looking back on all of the places I have been, I recently realized that in many cases I don’t have a single photo of the markets. I need to change that.

In Thailand, I hope to visit as many markets as possible and taste as many fruits as I can stand to eat. Here in Toronto we have an excellent Chinatown where you can find any tropical Asian fruit you can think of. I’ve tried them all, still, I know there are many out there that never make it here for one reason or another. I hope to find some of those more elusive fruits. I also plan to revisit many that I have not tasted in a tropical country as I know they will be much sweeter and more delicious ripe off of the tree. Mangosteens are coming into season in April and they are number one on my list. I love mangosteens but imagine they will be that much better in Thailand.

If you have been to Thailand or more specifically, any of the cities mentioned, I would love to hear about your experiences. What did you eat? Where did you eat? Which plants, gardens, and temples did you see? What blew your mind?

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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18 thoughts on “We’re Going to Thailand!

  1. GAYLA! I’m so excited for you!! I’m a vegetarian and had a bit of difficulty eating there, but overall, I was fine. My husband ate just about everything in sight. We stuck to the food carts (see where the locals line up; we avoided empty carts) and felt safe eating the soups/noodles since the water was boiled.

    The markets are amazing, but we didn’t get to see a lot of the floating markets since the water levels were low in some areas.

    The tropical plants, trees and flowers are gorgeous. Just gorgeous.

    So, so happy for the both of you! I’ll send you a link to my photos.

  2. I’M SO EXCITED FOR YOU!!! I was born in Thailand, left when I was 2 and haven’t had the chance to go back. I was in Vietnam in 2007 and took a zillion plant pictures.
    I plan to post a few on wetmyplants.blogspot.com very soon.
    I think what impressed me a lot was the sheer abundance of all kinds of “prized” plants – and the emergence of many organic farms.
    You’ll be a non stop shutter bug!

  3. Here are some terribly old photos from when I was there. I loved Bangkok. There’s a park near Khao San street (though I strongly suggest not staying there) where tons of people fly kites leaving the sky littered with bits of color. Also, they play some Thai games there that I never actually understood, but was always invited to join. In Pattaya I volunteered at an orphanage which was heartbreaking and inspiring, so depending on how long you’re there, I’d recommend. Chiang Mai is full of retired Americans, but they have the most beautiful flower festival I’ve known.

    As far as food goes, I am an avid street food eater, tap water drinker, and general culinary risk taker. While I’ve only had salmonella once, I’ve had a multitude of exceptional (but potentially pathogen-ridden) meals.

    Good luck! Have fun!

  4. Oh, hooray! You will have such an excellent time! Thailand is wonderful – we went at the end of 2009, after visiting Malaysia and Singapore, and again just last month before Cambodia, Vietnam, and Hong Kong.
    I have a soft spot for Bangkok, but Chiang Mai was my absolute favourite. We spent five sublime days there, just chilling, walking lots, visiting temples and markets, taking a cookery class and treating ourselves to a massages. The people were lovely, the food was incredible, the whole atmosphere was busy and laid-back at the same time.
    We were in BKK on a weekend, so headed by boat + bus to Taling Chan floating market. A fellow bus passenger pointed us in the direction of a “local” floating market tour leaving from there – we were the only western people of the twenty on our longtail boat, and we spent three fabulous hours cruising through the khlongs (amazing vegetation!), and visiting three more – and totally authentic – floating markets in the boonies.(The tour guide spoke no English, but did a lot of loud singing in Thai en route!) The sights, sounds, smells: it was one of the most memorable afternoons of that trip.
    Lucky you!

  5. No advice on Thailand, as I’ve never been there, but it sounds like a wonderful opportunity. I frequently go on press trips for work (not garden related, sadly) and know what a grind they can be but I’ve also learned that there are ways to sneak away from the program, at least for a little while, when it holds no interest for you or your readers. I do all my traveling for work … I’ve never taken a trip that I didn’t write about since I graduated from college. Hey … you do what you have to to get there, right?

  6. Hi
    My husband and I celebrated our 10 year wedding anniversary two years ago and were determined to have a big vacation to celebrate to rival our honeymoon in Bali. We wanted to go to Mauritius but simply couldn’t afford it, so we ‘settled’ on Thailand. Always having regarded it as the cheaper, more drunken alternative to other exotic places, we were completely wrong and were blown away! The country is exquisite in every way and the food is just incredible! You will have an amazing time there, but be warned, it is hot, hot,HOT!

  7. You are going to have a fabulous time in “The Land of Smiles”. I have a friend who is currently living in Pattaya and raves about all of the fresh fruits, veggies of every sort and the seafood, of course. The street markets are what it is all about and since you already have a fondness for them you will not be disappointed!!! ENJOY – I can’t wait to see your posts from your experience!

  8. You are all helping to build my excitement. Especially since snow is following from the sky as I write this. Nooooo……

    Delyth: I’m not worried about the climate being hot…. that I can take. My bigger concern is about the spicy food. I can no longer handle too much spice, but the general impression I am getting is that everything in Thailand has hot peppers in it!

    Erin: I am very good at turning all of my travel into work of some kind… vacations are never really vacations so this won’t be that different, really.

    Lynn: Visiting a floating market is on my wishlist but I always assumed I would have to do that in Vietnam. I recently found out about the markets in Thailand and like you I want to see one that is more “authentic” and not just a quaint setup for tourists. Will depend on whether or not they have that on our schedule or if I can get away to visit one myself.

    Nix: All photos are welcome, terribly old or brand new. I will have to stay somewhere between risk taking and caution as I don’t want to get sick on a tour like this, but also want to try some interesting things.

    EllieT: I’m imagining that a lot of pictures will be taken, indeed. I look forward to all sorts of plant life.

  9. That’s awesome!!! I myself am going on November on an Ancient Kingdom Tour by Overseas Adventure Travel will be also hitting Bangkok and Chiang Mai. I’ll also be going to Vietnam but the big pull for me is the Angkor Wat and other ancient ruins of that time frame. So excited for you and me!

    Have you ever eaten a young coconut? They eat a lot of them over in Thailand and they are delish and very good for you. The coconut meat is almost like a firm jelly. Now I’m drooling, will have to chase up some in a Thai market in Sydney today! I look forward to reading your adventures as always.

  10. How very exciting! Thailand is SO on my “bucket list”. Can’t wait to see tons of fabulous pictures! Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy!!!!!

  11. Jennifer: Angkor Wat is THE PINNACLE for me. My #1. What a place to see! Just incredible.

    Oh yes, I’m very familiar with young coconut and coconut water! I don’t bother with it here because it’s never very good, but when I go to a tropical country I make sure to eat and drink as much as humanly possible.

  12. Thi is quite exciting and I am very happy for you. Gayla, you are becoming ‘très internationale’ as we say in French.

  13. That is great news. I just LOVED Thailand. Though my trip got cut short when I got dengue fever. My advise – lots of Aeroguard.

  14. I just went to Thailand for the New Year and I am so excited that you get to go as well! I went to Bangkok, Hua Hin, Khon Kaen, Chiang Mai and Pai. Let me tell you, absolutely go to the Chiang Mai walking street. It’s only a huge affair on Sunday, but it is so amazing that day! We stayed at the Purple Pastel Place in Chiang Mai and it’s actually right on Walking Street. http://www.purplepastelplace.com/ They’re really sweet there. What I ate- absolutely everything. Let me just tell you – most of the food looks completely disgusting. Presentation is not high on the Thai radar. About 90% of the things my Thai friends ordered for me, when it was sat in front of me I did not want to eat it because it just looked so unfamiliar to me. I ate it anyway and once I did, let me tell you, the food is all so amazing. The only thing I didn’t like are these eggs that they sometimes give you – I was told that they soak eggs in salt water for a few weeks and then peel them and deep fry them. That was gross. Other than that, I loved everything, and I ate a LOT of food. I was there for 2 weeks and ate Thai food for every meal! :) I don’t know if you are vegetarian or not, but it is almost impossible to be vegetarian there. I was a vegetarian for about 3 years (a few years ago) so I still am inclined more towards vegetables, but it is nearly impossible to be vegetarian there. Basically all Thai food is made with fish sauce, which is something I wouldn’t have touched as a vegetarian, but if you take it away it just does not taste like Thai food. If you are vegetarian and want the full Thai food experience, I would strongly recommend taking a hiatus from that lifestyle while you are there. If not, you have nothing to worry about! Bangkok was really great, but very busy and took a while to get anywhere there. If you get a chance, go to JJ Market. Also- back to Chiang Mai- if you get a chance, go to a place called “Love at First Bite” for some yummy desserts. My favorite place in Thailand was Pai – it is about a 2-3 hour bus ride from Chiang Mai. The road to Pai is very dangerous, up and down a mountain with 800+ curves. It’s a short distance but you have to drive slow because of the road, and people would probably puke on the way. I never get motion sickness but I nearly lost it on the way there. Definitely take Dramamine even if you don’t think you need it. Pai was absolutely amazing and if there’s any way you can squeeze it into your schedule, it was my favorite place of all. I stayed in these bungalows: http://www.thecountrysidepai.com/ and the people there have a truck they will shuttle you to the market or wherever you want to go. We went kayaking there and it was wonderful. I am going on an on, if you have any questions get in touch with me or add me on Facebook and you can check out some of my pictures! :) Definitely try to go to Pai, that’s all I can say! :)

  15. I haven’t made it to Thailand yet, but it is one of the world’s orchid capitals. Phals, Vandas, Paphs, Dendrobiums & Cymbidiums are native, and there are countless hybrids too. From what I hear from friends who been, you won’t have any trouble finding them. Have a blast!

  16. Marc: Orchids are one of the many things I am excited about. I expect to see more (and more variety) than I’ve ever seen in my life.

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