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Magical Thailand

Indagare's Sasha Feldman first visited Thailand in 2014. Here, she recounts her journey to the fascinating country.Contact Indagare to plan your trip to Asia.

At the center of Southeast Asia, between the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand, sits an enchanted stretch of land just shy of 200,000 square miles. Here, the cities’ night markets bustle with brisk trade, Asian elephants and water buffalo roam the jungle terrain of the north and in the south, the warm, salty sea shimmers with phosphorescence.

I touched down in Bangkok, the sprawling capital city of the Kingdom of Thailand, and felt my senses come to life. Winding roads connected by back alleyways form an intricately woven, maze-like metropolis. After a few hours of wandering through the pulsating spectacle, I stopped to ask a local for directions. He answered me with a kind and comforting smile. It was a smile that I would see hundreds of times throughout my journey. He proceeded to show me the way rather than simply instruct me. Indeed Thailand beckons travelers seeking to uncover its vast terrain and alluring culture. This is a unique feature of the country and its people: outsiders are met so genuinely with open arms, hearts and minds, it seems the very concept of the "outsider" is unfamiliar. Therein lies the gift of the Land of Smiles to any visitor: authentic inclusion into a simpler, more appreciative way of living, where every moment is colorful and inspired.

Later that day, I sat on the back of a rusty moped with my arms tightly wrapped around the waist of the driver in front of me as we weaved in and out of downtown traffic. Gold-clad chedis, traditional Thai spires, stretched skyward. The crimson sun began to fall as my eyes flickered from tuk-tuks on the busy overpass above to food stalls wafting scents of spicy basil chicken all around.

Bangkok presents a beautiful clash of old and new. Holy golden temples are preserved amongst luxury skyscrapers; monks receiving almsgivings harmonize effortlessly with well-clad businessmen; the alluring scent of savory street food matches the excitement around high fashion boutiques on the nearby soi. Bangkok is a whirlwind; the trick is to surrender to the energy and rhythms of the city instead of attempting to manage them. A few days are happily consumed exploring temples, touring canal neighborhoods in traditional long tail boats, indulging in local cuisine and experiencing the buzz and banter of market life. Whether wandering the alleys of the flower market in awe of the abundance and variety of tropical flora found there, or visiting Wat Pho after closing hours, both inspiring and intimidating as it glows in the dead silence of night, Bangkok gives the impression of a city that can never be wholly known.

With a short domestic flight to the northern provinces of Chiang Maand Chiang Rai, time is instantly slowed. Vivid hues of rice paddy fields fade into the foggy foothills of the verdant north. Intermittently the mist dissipates, unveiling the mountains that linger on the horizon. Northern Thailand is best experienced on the outskirts of the city of Chiang Mai, where hot air ballooning over rice fields and temples, zip-lining through dense jungle, riding elephants and visiting with hill tribesmen and silk factory workers are among the countryside highlights.

No trip to Thailand is complete though, without time spent in the islands of the south. The most desirable of these (though admittedly far-too-well-known) are Phuket and Koh Samui, with their flawless resort properties and uninterrupted views of pristine island scenery. There is no better way to soak up what has been learned on your journey than by basking on the sun-drenched beaches or dipping in the infinity pool of your glass-walled villa. While the art of pampering is certainly at its zenith here, the islands have much to offer in the way of natural adventure. The surreal seems to come to life with activities like sunset sea canoeing through island caves and boat trips to Mu Ko Ang Thong and Koh Phi Phi Le. A lotus flower offering to the God of the Sea by candlelight, a swim in the crystal clear turquoise water, feeding bananas to the island monkeys —these are everyday scenes in the southern Thai landscape.

Throughout the country you will be greeted by hands gesturing in prayer, heads bowed respectfully, voices murmuring the soft Thai greeting phrase, sawadee kah. The custom is contagious: I now catch myself slightly bowing my head to those who make my acquaintance, likely a reflection of a heightened sense of gratitude and humility. I have developed an appreciation for these daily subtleties, which evoke memories of my experience in an extraordinary land, where a kind people and embracing culture welcome the inquisitive traveler.

Contact Indagare to plan your trip to Asia.

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