Inspiring Conversations

On a Thai High

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Penny K’s wanderlust takes her to Thailand. She shares vignettes of her trip, not anything like what you might have read on Lonely Planet.

By Penny K

Thailand is something like the dream girl of all travel destinations. It is affordable, has good beaches and resorts, good shopping (in certain areas), good food and great people. In short, it makes for quite the perfect getaway. And yet there’s something about Thailand that makes it more likeable than for just the reasons above.

Koh Samui, Thailand

From the perspective of an urbanite through and through, what makes Thailand so special to me is its third world charm; it’s ability to breathe happiness even into the lives of some of its poorest and the simplest people. Thailand is the place where people are happy and where people go to get happy.

Koh Phangan, Thiland

Bridging gaps

The streets of Koh Samui are peppered with bars and nightspots ranging from the sterile to the sleazy. I walked passed a rather dingy bar where perfect competition had rendered its only customers for the night a couple in their late 40s. The bar operator was chatting up a broken English storm with them, and they in turn were talking to her in some sort of a European-accented English. The beauty of Thailand is its ability to bridge the gap between worlds – first world and third, operator of a modest bar and European tourists. I strongly believe that it’s the kind of communication that transcends commercialism.

Traditional fruit carver

I also met countless “Lady Boys”. Thailand’s emerging members of the third sex are always pretty, some are pretty scary, but they’re all friendly. All it takes is getting used to their constant hair tossing and flicking and the incongruency of their low voices, delicately sculpted facial features and mountainous bosoms. Whereas transsexuals are less accepted here, they are more so in Thailand and I find that acceptance transferred onto me.

So carefree

The Thais are so carefree and go about life their own ways. From the way they dress to the way they carry out business and to the way motorcyclists take with them an average of two pillion riders.

In Koh Phangan, my friend and I settled ourselves into a small bar-restaurant for a late lunch and some drinks we so desperately needed thanks to the heat of the sun that had been beating down so unforgivably on us.

My friend ordered a lamb chop and I decided to have a pineapple juice. The waitress that took our order was quite the renegade; she was wearing a top that revealed her entire back and denim cutoffs that would put a pair of Daisy Dukes to shame. She also had platinum blonde hair with pink streaks. What Asian conservatism?


As soon as she took our orders, she rode off on her motorbike, conjuring up a storm of dust and sand as she disappeared into the sunset. In ten minutes flat, she was back with a bag of red meat in one hand and a pineapple in another. There was our lunch, freshly bargained and bought from the fly-infested, hygienically questionable wet market just behind the restaurant, where we were walking around armed with our Nikon and curiosity, just minutes before stopping by the restaurant for food and drink.

Tong Sala, Koh Phangan

But you know what, the lamb chop was good. It even came with chips made out of freshly cut potatoes. The pineapple juice shook the taste buds out of my tongue and like an oasis in the desert, quenched my thirst. It was the meal that taught us that just because meals are prepared the way it isn’t normally, doesn’t make it any less edible. It was a meal that taught us to step out of our comfort zone.


Can money buy happiness? I don’t know. Money sure bought me the chance to go to Thailand and experience happiness. But the Thais they don’t need to go anywhere to be happy. Home, for them, is truly where the heart is. Contentment can sometimes be such bliss.

Koh Phangan

As I sit here reminiscing my trip, and quelling the fires of my wanderlust, I am suffering from withdrawal symptoms of what I call the Thai High.

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