When I think of Pattaya, I am reminded of three things
  • Parasailing
  • Undersea walking
  • Kay, though strictly speaking you can’t call Kay, a thing.


        We set off in the morning for the most famous Pattaya beach,  we were to enjoy two activities, parasailing and undersea walking. Immediately, I decided I was going to try both. We got into the speed boat and shot ahead. It was a very windy day, in fact it was blowing so hard that I thought the wind was going to rip my hair, off my head!
        Some, half an hour later, we could see something in the sky, as we moved closer we were able to make out colourful parachutes soaring in the sky. Will I be able to do that? a teeny voice asked me, I squashed it immediately. We anchored our boat close to a floating dock and almost immediately we were made to wear the gear, I wore mine, the fastest, Yeepee.....Seeing that I was ready a lady asked  me ‘you go?’ I said ‘oh! No, no. First somebody else go, I watch’. So she replied ’you ready, you go’ Well, I thought I might be physically ready what about mentally. I said ‘I afraid, I watch first, then I go’ for which she said ‘No, No, No afraid, run.. run and go, no problame…half dip? Full dip? I said ‘half dip’. Okay , now run…run.. run ..’she said and I ran and before I knew I was lifted off the dock and was dangling in mid air. The rope slackened a bit and my feet dipped into the water and I dragged my legs (not that they were in my control..!) under water. It was the strangest feeling, cold water, gushing wind ..asking me to abandon everything and leave everything to its mercy. Oh, My god what have I got into! That thought made me hold on to the rod with all my might, so tight that I felt my hand hurting but nothing would loosen my hold at that time.
        I soared up again, I dreaded to look down, but I did, I could see the dock faintly, far down below and could see people as small specks. I looked straight again and gathered courage to look around, it was an exhilarating feeling. On the horizon I saw Pattaya written and my fear vanished from my heart and soul. I allowed myself to glide, fly and soar . I kept looking right, left, up and down trying to capture the view in my mind. I tried to capture the feeling too. Feeling of being powerless, yet powerful. Fear gripping feeling and the feeling of abandonment. Is this me? Am I doing this? 

That's me  !!

         Mid air,, I was turning around...... the view changed, I could see that I was moving closer to the dock, but I was way up still .  Is it over? I didn’t want it to end. I started coming down, down and down..and so skillfully it was done that I landed very smoothly. Face flushed and a smile so wide that it almost touched my ears! I stood transfixed unable to shake off the blood rushing feeling. Expert hands removed my gear and I could hear another one being commanded to  run.....just run..

Undersea walking:

      Undersea walking! Let me give you a background about my swimming skills here. I learnt to swim, 25 meters! Non stop! which I consider one of the biggest achievements of my life, on 12.aug.07 i.e. at old age. A month from that day I learnt how to drown just as quickly! Seriously, it is an art to learn to drown once you know how to swim. I have mastered it. One moment you will see me swimming happily, with gay abandon and with the blink of an eye you will see me splashing, gurgling,swallowing water.. and hands beating the water and disappearing under water and re emerging, gasping for oxygen, all that’s associated with drowning. It completely alarms an onlooker.
        So you might wonder, what on earth made me say ‘yes’ to undersea walking. Well, I wanted to  maybe prove a point to myself or get over this panicky feeling while in water. Before entering the water we were given some instructions. The divers also taught us some signs, hand signals. They were something like this, as soon as we  touched the sea bed, we were supposed to show them an ‘all ok’ sign, a tight fist. If we did not feel comfortable, we were to show open hand, palm down, tilting it up and down (like as if we wanted to say  so so’) If we felt totally uncomfortable and wanted to go up immediately, we were to show ‘thumbs up sign’ indicating that we wanted to go up for sure.
        We formed a queue, around ten of us and one by one the people in front of me disappeared under water. Soon it was my turn. They asked me to step down a few rungs of the ladder, then they put this huge full face oxygen mask kind of thing, on my head it rested on my shoulders, quite heavy, as soon as I went one step further down, the water was over my head. At this point, I would like to mention since the time I got stuck in a bathroom, whose walls were made of steel, with no windows, and a door that got completely jammed, I have developed this fear of closed spaces, claustrophobia. So with this thing over my head, and water everywhere, I felt panic .Sheer Panic. Unknowing the diver took my hand and went deeper and deeper,  finally, my feet were touching the seabed, he stopped and turned around and asked ‘all ok?’ in the recently learned sign language. I kept looking at him for some time. My mind telling me to show him a ‘not ok sign’, take me up, this is a mistake, Panic. The diver glared at me and angrily asked again ‘all ok?’ Say something, finally my hand curled into a fist and I showed him the sign. My mind screamed, what are you showing? Wrong sign! You have gone mad! Suddenly the diver vanished from sight and my hand was guided to hold on to someones hand.I couldn’t turn and see who it was as the vision around me was restricted, I could see only in front, water..water. I could feel the panic rise, I forcefully calmed myself, repeatedly told myself relax, relax, be calm, be calm. I reasoned, I am holding somebody’s hand, it is not as if I am all alone.... soon I felt my other hand being guided to hold another person.
        We all started moving ahead. I don’t know for how long we walked, it seemed like forever. Suddenly I felt the person holding my hand trying to let go of me, I grabbed harder, is my hand slipping? I held tighter. The person kept jerking and I wouldn't let go, a moment later, I felt somebody yank my hand off and break the hold; the person whose hand I was holding was not able to take it and was led back (I came to know later). Here I was, my hand  just waving free trying to hold on to something. After what seemed like eternity my hand was linked to another hand and I felt a little peace, how quickly we get accustomed  to little comforts.
         We moved ahead again and soon saw a huge mass of corals. We were made to stand facing the corals, right in front beyond the corals I saw a camera, oh ! I was being photographed, ‘Smile’ I said to myself. After this I thought, now we will go back, but that was not to be. We were taken a little away from the corals and given something in our hands.(Yes, we were made to let go holding each other!) A diver came in my view he held out his hand and a swarm of fishes came to eat the stuff in his hand. I did the same thing and several fishes of different sizes started plucking and eating. What a sight, it was beautiful, different coloured fishes swam back and forth, swimming effortlessly, twitching their tails, swaying their fins, staring with those beautiful big eyes,  It was fantastic; here I was surrounded by fishes with no human in sight. Me, water and fishes! Unbelievable.

  Hello World !!   
       Again the diver came in my view and asked me to sit down, more fish food was given .I could now turn slowly and take in the view surrounding me. I could see the faces of people whose hands I had been holding. We could show our excitement and wonder at each other, we now pointed out different fishes to each other. Bigger fishes started arriving now. They broke of bigger chunks of food, tugging it so that we could feel the force. I watched them finish off the food, darting about looking for more.. My god! the wonder of  life.
        Slowly we were made to get up and we started to go back .I surfaced up, just before coming out of the water the mask was taken off and I climbed up the steps, shakily. Once above water, I was glad to breathe but I felt weak and tired, I was given a bottle of water, I was asked to finish at least a litre of water. After drinking water, I felt better, the dizziness vanished and I was ready to narrate the experience to anyone willing to listen.


        Kay was our guide; She enlightened us about the culture of Thailand, its people and life. I couldn't make out how old she was, a petite built, she looked as if she wouldn't be able to organize a thing. She proved us all wrong and she skillfully guided us, satisfying our curiosity, putting up with our idiosyncrasies, and all this with an ease that only a mature individual can muster. We were at the right place, at the right time,  every time. Later, she told me that she was an orphan, and before I could say oh!... she continued, 'but I am happy, I live with aunts and uncles and whole lot of cousins.' She had caught the flu and in spite of having a raging fever she was guiding us through and managing the schedule so well that we didn’t even feel we were in a new place. She kept us entertained, the best part was the constant smile on her face. Thank You Kay !



The plane swayed a little, before making a smooth landing. I tried to get a glimpse and peered out craning my neck left and right, only managing to fog the window with my breath. Here I am, in Thailand, Bangkok….   Suvarnabhumi Airport pronounced “sùwannápʰūm” by Thai people. I walked a long distance looking for the 'Visa on Arrival' counter. I couldn't find for quite a long way, there was a board and I stopped to ponder upon the script of Thai trying hard to guess what was written. I gave up and went ahead soon, saw the Visa counter. Filled up the form and got it stamped ‘no problem’.

I reached the hotel and settled down. The best part of travelling is when you arrive and it’s still dark and later you open the windows and curtains to check the view;’s an amazing feeling each time. I did that and the view was stunning, tall buildings all around and the sun shining bright and clear. One of the Sun’s rays hit the glass of the opposite building and got reflected back brighter than before. I squinted my eyes and surveyed the roads and the traffic. I saw a number of cars lined up one behind the other maintaining a distance of at least two feet , no honking, no trying to close the gap and no urging to move ahead. Self disciplined.
After a sumptuous breakfast, I hit the road. I panned my eyes all around - girls, women and elderly ladies everywhere going about their business. I was surprised! where were the men and children? Soon I saw some men here and there. On the whole there were more females than males, which means that ‘it’s not unlucky’ to be born a Thai woman in this century.
Bangkok! yes,  That’s the name familiar to the tourist; the real name of Bangkok is some 15 words /43 syllables long. I am not even going to try and write it!
As always I wanted to get the feel of the place and the people, so I decided to head for the Chatuchak market. Its a weekend market. You can get anything and everything you are looking for and by that I mean tangible and intangible! The market has a typical Bangkok smell that you need to get used to. So I shopped a little and mostly tried not to get into anyone’s way. As the day progressed, it got crowded and brisk business followed. Surprisingly no flared tempers, no rude talking, no jostling… so either the Thais are basically non aggressive people or today was a good day.
I decided to go back by what looked like an efficient means of transport the túk-túk, a three wheeled vehicle. The driver weaved and zipped here and there and I reached my destination well before time! Interestingly there are many ways one can move around in the city. The Sky train is pretty cool, it moves on tracks slightly above the city. The subway, underground train is also there. There are metered taxis of different colors pink, purple, and blue! Oh! I almost forgot, there is also this Motorcycle Taxi for all those who are travelling alone.
After covering some major tourist spots like The Grand Palace, the abode of Emerald Buddha, National Museum and Royal Barges National Museum, I saw the largest reclining Buddha and several glittering Buddha images at Wat PHO. It is an excellent place for taking some great pictures. Later I went for the Siam Niramit show, a novel way to get to know about the history and culture of Bangkok. Don’t miss it!
A trip to Thailand is incomplete without a traditional Thai massage. The roads and lanes are filled with parlors claiming to give different types of massages ranging from foot massage, oil massage, and half body massage to full body massage. I enquired for a place to get a traditional massage and my guide took me there. I changed into a comfortable outfit and got ready for the massage. A petite lady got on to the task, firm hands pressed all the bones one by one kneading out the knots and relaxing the muscles. It was unique; in the end I knew where all my bones were, precisely.

I decided to go on one of the dinner cruises organized along the Mae Nam Chao Phraya, the Chao Phraya River. It’s a must do. As the boat cruised softly far beyond the shore we could see the heart of Thailand, glittering golden lights. We drifted smoothly and  peacefully. There was a singer on board who kept us entertained with songs in many different languages, singing in soft tones. Away from the din of the city this was very soothing. The buffet had some good choices but nothing to brag about, I would still say it was worth it. After dinner the singer sang some peppy numbers, which forced us to get up and dance.
The nights in Bangkok are brighter than that reflected light off the pane; I walked along the path taking in the sight. It was tantalizing, I did not feel or see anything distasteful. I believe it can be dangerous for single foreigners to walk alone. For me it was uneventful. Young, old, men and women moved about freely, giving meaningful looks, smiling and laughing. I was just witnessing the night life of Bangkok and let me tell you, the night life here is active, alright!

I also learnt some Thai English “You no give me for 50 baht, I no take”. “Hothail Milleneum, how I go?” It’s a pot simmering with tradition, culture, flamboyance, lights and sights. With a heavy heart I reached the airport all prepared to say “sa-wat-dee-khâ” to the hostess and “sa-wat-dee-khráp” to the attendant, hello and goodbye.