I’m wrapped up in layers amid cold winds from the Arctic and dancing snowflakes, on the streets of New York. A faint sun curiously peeks out from a gloomy sky, transporting me back to winter last year – a foggy Delhi I found myself stuck in when a sponsored international trip bailed on me days before the new year.
I remember sitting on a terrace under the hazy Delhi sky, desperately looking online for flights that could take me far, far away.
As luck would have it, I found a flight to Thailand for only INR 8000 ($120) – when most domestic flights were upwards of INR 30,000 – and impulsively decided to book it. One hour before New Year midnight, I arrived at Bangkok airport and hurriedly got a visa-on-arrival stamped on my passport, checked into a nice yet inexpensive hotel, and went out to a local restaurant to fire up my taste buds with a vegetarian yellow curry. Just as I was finishing, a group of young Thai boys and girls invited me to join them for a new year street dance! That is Thailand – a country that can make your life more fun in an instant.
Truth is, Thailand and I go all the way back to when I was still a cubicle dweller in Singapore, and long weekends were a balm for my work-weary soul:
The east meets the west in Bangkok.
Bangkok is an immersion into the bustling night markets, cultural oddities and chaos of the east, as much as in the indulgences of a developed country – yet only 4 hours flying time from India. (Read: Going Back to the Places We Love). If you’re a city person, let it whisk you away into a world of branded shopping and glittering skyscrapers. Or take a colorful open tuk-tuk, pray at an extravagant Thai temple, grab a Thai beer, go bargain hunting at a floating market and bask in the warmth of the shy but joyful Thai people.
Monday blues are better on a beach.
What’s better than a weekend of flip flops, sunny weather, balmy beach cafes, and snorkeling in the clear blue seas of the South China Sea? Doing it on a budget, without months of planning, over an impulsive long weekend getaway. There’s a different kind of charm to island living in the east, spicing your life up with curries by the day and shaking a leg under the starry night sky – and despite its popularity, Thailand can still surprise and rejuvenate you with a pristine beach all to yourself (Read: Of Hidden Beaches, Broken Boats and Beer).
Keep calm and cycle on.
I discovered my love for mountain biking in northern Thailand, where sleepy villages, rice paddies, gentle hills and winding rivers dot the countryside – a short plane ride away from Bangkok (See: In Photos: The Countryside of Northern Thailand). On my rides with a friend, we met tattooed women of Chiang Rai’s hill tribes, soaked our tired feet in natural hot springs and discovered the marvelous White Temple, which portrays heaven and hell in a (freaky) contemporary context.
There was a time when ‘going abroad’ from India was only for business travelers, honeymooners and those with deep pockets. Cheap flights, visa on arrival and Google have changed that – so maybe it’s time to re-think the way you spend your long weekends.
Where are the long weekends of 2015 taking you?
Featured photo by Mark Fischer.