The Land of Smiles, Temples, Elephants, and a Shopping Mecca


On a recent work trip, a man in his mid-20s said, “Can you show me my seat, please? It's my first time traveling.” As a flight attendant, it's normal to hear these words, so naturally, I smiled and showed him where to sit.

That moment reminded me of my first international trip to Bangkok, Thailand 26 years ago. I was fortunate to travel to Bangkok as part of my job with the U.S. Trade and Development Agency. Since then, my aspirations to travel have grown to become my passion.

Thailand is special to me, not just because it was my first travel, but because I will never forget my wonderful experiences. There, I also developed my taste for Pad Thai and started to collect miniature elephants with their trunks up which in the Thai culture is a symbol of good fortune, money and good will.

Known as the “Land of Smiles,” Thailand is one of the world's most remarkable and welcoming countries. Thailand's nickname is true to its reputation. Thai people are renowned for their genuine hospitality and friendly nature. They welcome visitors with radiant smiles and make you feel at home.

Thailand offers a diverse experience for every visitor. It is an enchanting land where culture and nature unite, creating fascinating experiences. The country's cultural heritage is evident on every corner, whether you explore ancient temples, engage in local customs and traditions, or savor delicious street foods.

Bangkok's temples are sacred places, architectural marvels, sources of spiritual comfort, and cultural riches. Each temple, from the majestic Grand Palace to the peaceful Wat Arun, has a unique story and a tranquil ambiance. Wandering through temples and observing monks chanting their mantras will give you a deeper understanding of Thai culture and history.

The beautiful Wat Hua Lamphong in Sam Yan, Bangkok.

Thai cuisine is a treat for your appetite and a feast for your eyes. Street food is a famous part of Thai culture that travelers should experience. Wander through the bustling streets of the Chatuchak Weekend Market and savor Thai flavors and dishes. Many tourists travel to Thailand for a culinary adventure.

A tuk-tuk ride is a must-do experience in Bangkok. It's not just a mode of transportation but a cultural experience that will exhilarate you. Hop on an adventure riding a tuk-tuk through the bustling streets, taking in this vibrant city's sights, sounds, and smells. Feel the wind in your face as you zip through the chaotic traffic. Embrace the thrill and soak in the energy.

A ride in a tuk-tuk is an unforgettable cultural experience that brings you close to the sights, sounds and aromas of Bangkok’s streets.

Bangkok is a shopper's paradise. From the weekend markets to the upscale shopping malls, Bangkok offers a diverse shopping scene for every budget and style. Alleys lined with stalls sell everything from traditional handicrafts to designer labels. Indulge yourself in unique finds and trendy fashion with unbeatable prices. Don't forget to haggle with local vendors. Whether you're a fashionista or a casual shopper, Bangkok's shopping scene promises fulfilling retail therapy. Get ready to shop 'til you drop. That’s me! I splurged and brought home two boxes of clothes!

Thailand is also known for its elephants which captivate tourists. Elephants are a symbol of grace and strength. Tourists can witness these magnificent creatures up close and personal in conservation parks and sanctuaries. Interacting with elephants is sure to be an unforgettable experience.

An intimate encounter with these gentle giants delivers a treasured experience.

Set sail to explore Bangkok's waterways and the serenity of the Chao Phraya River. While dining, be mesmerized by the charm of iconic landmarks. A daytime cruise will allow you to witness the beautiful skyline, while an evening cruise will allow you to adore the city's shimmering lights. If you have ample time, do both. 

April is an ideal time to visit Bangkok. Thai New Year (Songkran Festival) takes place from April 13 to 15 and is one of the most anticipated events in Bangkok. Locals and tourists come together to celebrate with water fights and traditional rituals. Joyfully splashing each other with water is a way of cleansing and purifying the spirit. It symbolizes washing away the past year and welcoming the new one.

We each have countries or places to which we keep coming back. A decade after that memorable first trip, I returned to Bangkok on a personal trip, and I fully expect to return. Because Thailand also boasts a diverse range of beach destinations, my next trip to Thailand will be to experience its pristine beaches and waters. Flying to Asia from the U.S. may be a long flight, but for me, the journey and the destination both matter.

All photos by Lia Ocampo


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