Leslie’s Top 10 Thailand Highlights

As I was packing my bags to bid Thailand farewell (at least for this time), Kelly May mentioned a North Andaman Tsunami Relief (NATR) tradition in which all departing team members shared a Top 10 list of their experience. Why not carry on the tradition with Andaman Discoveries?

There are far more than 10 things I’d like to rave about, but in the Twitter age, I think this will do the trick. In no particular order, here is my Top 10 list from this February to July that I spent with AD.

Thank you to the AD team, the town of Kuraburi, and all the many other wonderful people who made me feel at home in Thailand.


1. Jai Yen + Sanuk + Mai Pen Rai = Awesome
Three phrases I wish I could have brought home to the U.S. from the Thai culture include jai yen (cool heart), sanuk (having fun) and mai pen rai (it’s not important). The phrases are a large part of the core that is the Thai way of life.

Note: Hot heads need not apply for a Thai visa.

2. Andaman Discoveries
The AD team is one of the hardest-working groups of people I’ve met. They believe in what they’re working for and it’s like a small family. If you come to Thailand to work with AD, you might not want to go home. There has been a trend with the team where people plan to come for short periods but extend their commitment. For example, Karen Spackman originally came for three months. However, she fell in love with life in Kuraburi and has just renewed her visa for a second year.

3. Diversity
There are 76 provinces, 148 national parks, and an estimated population of 64 million people spanning a country that is 514,000 square kilometers. About 10 million Thailand residents call Bangkok and its surrounding area home.

Being bored in Thailand may be the least of anyone’s worries. The country is separated into four distinct natural regions. Each offers a diverse landscape to explore. Just Thailand’s national parks alone could keep someone entertained for years.

Statistics are from the United Nations Thailand, Tourism Authority of Thailand, and Thailand’s Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation.

4. The Markets
Every town I visited in Thailand had a market worth visiting. There is a morning and night market in Kuraburi with friendly vendors dishing up rice soup, barbecued meats, fish, waffles, roti, pad Thai and fresh produce. Wandering the markets in search a snack or meal is a great way to try new foods and practice language skills.

5. Kuraburi Restaurants
The best food I had in Thailand was in Kuraburi. Cucina Andaburi was an AD team favorite. The food was exceptional, but it was made better by the personable chef, Tu, who often doubles as an AD guide on village tours.

6. Warm Sea Water
Swimming in Lake Washington near my home city of Seattle, even with a wetsuit, can be a grimace-filled experience at times. Playing in the Andaman Sea felt more like a trip to a spa.

7. Dance Aerobics
Dance aerobics seemed to be wildly popular in Thailand. I heard energetic music while wandering Lumpini Park in Bangkok. The source of the fast beats was a nightly aerobics class with about 100 people jumping, dancing and working up a sweat to imitate the movements of a lively instructor. There are week-night community aerobics in Kuraburi too. It’s worth going just for the fun music and contagious energy.

8. Saying Goodbye to Skin Cream
Some people acclimate to new climates. I was not one of them. I sweated as much on my last day in Thailand as I did on the first. The good news was that I got to say farewell to a routine of lathering up in skin lotion to avoid looking like a lizard. The only change in my body happened in my brain, as I grew to love the heat and humidity.

9. Koh Ra Ecolodge
A 20-minute boat ride from Kuraburi Pier takes people to a seemingly-secluded island called Koh Ra. The ecolodge is a fun vacation spot in itself. However, the dedication and kindness of the staff is the reason I put the ecolodge in my top 10. Kim, Awe and Joom are three smiling people who helped make my Thailand experience. Read about my visit to the ecolodge here.

10. Fruit Galore
The fresh fruit readily available in Thailand makes me think of the scene in the movie, Forest Gump, when Bubba lists all the types of shrimp. Bubba says, “Anyway, like I was sayin’, shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, sauté it. Dey’s uh, shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried. There’s pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich. That- that’s about it.”

It was rare to go a restaurant in Thailand and not have the beverage option of fruit shakes with a selection of watermelon, mango, pineapple, papaya, banana and many more to choose from.

What was my favorite fruit in Thailand? The Queen of Fruit, of course, also called the mangosteen and mankut. Read about mangosteen here.