Monday, February 06, 2006

The 4 noble truths of Thailand: Part 1

Thai Buddhist MonkThe Four Noble Truths of Buddhism have been well documented - in short, that life is suffering, that the origin of suffering is attachment, that it is possible to cease suffering and that there is a path to the end of suffering.

What is not quite as well known is that these concepts can also be applied when traveling through Thailand, the Land of the Buddha. Here are the Four Noble Truths of Travel, some of which I learned the hard way.

Noble Truth No. 1: You will suffer if you are not prepared

Thailand is the epicenter of three major modern worries - tsunamis, terrorism and bird flu - yet Thai natives seldom seem to worry about such things. Don't be lulled into a false sense of security. For starters, it's not a bad idea to travel with a prescription of Tamiflu, which you can easily obtain from your family doctor but may not be covered by your insurance provider.

Also, be ready for potential credit card hassles. Case in (ball)point: Upon arriving in Asia I bought a 5 dollar pen with my debit card. Next thing I knew, Key Bank canceled my card. (They assumed, I assume, it had been stolen by an Asian pen-smuggling cartel.) Just try getting that little mix-up corrected from 8,400 miles away. It took me 80 dollars of phone calls and about an hour of my vacation. OK, it took me a bit longer because I couldn't answer the bank's standard security question - "What's your mother's birthday?" Hey, we weren't that close! So before you leave, let your bank know you're headed to the other side of the world and that there might be some strange transactions cropping up.

You'll need that credit card for Chiang Mai, a 700-year-old city so lovely that nothing can truly prepare you for that first glimpse. Situated about 400 miles north of Bangkok, this is the place to begin a visit to Thailand. Abounding with temples of breathtaking beauty, Chiang Mai is also very modern and somewhat sophisticated, filled with coffeehouses and English-language bookstores. One temple, called Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, sits high above the city, and even though it's filled with tourists, you'll find it worth every elbow in the ribs to experience such an architectural marvel. Still, if you would rather find a less-overrun temple, don't worry - Chiang Mai has more temples than Seattle has Starbucks. And it has a few Starbucks too.

If you get lost, it helps to know about the tuk tuk, a three-wheeled scooter with two seats in the back. A ride back to your hotel is always cheap. Another option is the songtao, a small pickup truck with two wooden benches in back. They circle Thai cities and neighborhoods looking for locals, strays and lost tourists. Cabs are plentiful too, as are motorcycle taxis. Just jump on the back and hold on for dear life.

No matter how you get around, be prepared to barter with the driver.

source: The Denver Post

delicious furl Yahoo My Web Google Bookmark Blinklist Blogmark Simpy Shadow Netvouz Reddit