Me and my group of friends were travel freaks since high school days. We had already discovered half of our country(India) by the final year of our graduation. Rafting & rock climbing in Uttarakhand, trekking in the Himalayas, Rajasthan, Southern India( Kerala, Karnatak) and many other places had been covered. We used to avail the concessional student railway pass and travel. Staying was mostly happening at charitable Inns and hostels to save money. Then we started to earn. We decided that now that we were all earning, we will travel international. Again the earning during the initial career phase was low so only option from India was Thailand( Bangkok & Pattaya). All of a sudden, we came across an advertisement that said 4 nights Thailand package, with lowest airfare, in just INR 25000( approx. au$ 540 ) per person. This was within our budget. We went to the travel company and paid an initial deposit of INR 5000 per person as the booking amount. We were highly excited to take international trip with our own earning. We had confirmed a departure date after 2 months. Since I was already a Visa officer, I used my contacts to get the Thai visa with only the visa fees ( it wasn’t on arrival then for Indian passport holders). We saved some on the service charges of the travel company.
Then came the D day when we would be starting our cheap holiday package. The tour company had asked us to meet at the lobby with the tour manager and other passengers. They were around 38-40 passenger travelling in the group. The tour manager met us in his formal attire-blazer(with the company logo). The flight was awesome. The stewards were very helpful and polite. That day I got my first lesson of the service industry-service with a smile. We saw one of the passenger going crazy, and trying to “be smart” with one of the stewardess. He was handled very smartly by one of the male steward of the airlines. The flight was via Kolkata and he was threatened that he would be deboarded. The flight landed at the Bangkok Suvarnabhumi airport. While landing I saw, the after the oceans, it was mostly green outside Bangkok. While landing Bangkok seemed to be a little crowded and congested. We were met by a female tour escort(local) at the airport. She escorted us to the coach. After 15-20 minutes the coach started and drove us to Pattaya. On the way to Pattaya, I noticed that Bangkok was more like an Indian city. The scyscapers were much higher than in India. However, the crowd, pubic transports and the ‘Tuk tuk” was like India. Bangkok had ‘tuk-Tuk” and Delhi had “Phat-Phat sewa”. Once outside Bangkok, the ride was scenic. After around 2.5 hrs drive, we reached Pattaya. Central Pattaya was a little congested. The coach stopped outside the hotel. We and few passengers did not get down there. The tour manager got down there and while the local female tour escort continued from there. After 10 minutes, the coach stopped outside a four star apart-hotel. At the hotel lobby, the local tour escort told us that today we would be on our own. She suggested us to for the popular cabarets, discotheques and “ entertainment zones”. Pattaya had an amazing nightlife. We were a group of non-vegetarians. We had chicken wings, roasted shrimps & prawns and snake meat. My family would have out casted me for the this. Snakes are worshipped by most people in India, but our young blood incited rebellion. We went to one of local rooftop discotheque. It was mostly trance, reggae and western pop. My friend who was a part time DJ in Mumbai, challenged war of the DJ(friendly challenge between DJs ) Our friend, had got his mobile filled with popular party numbers from Indian albums and Africa. It was fun. We went back to the hotel.
Next day it was hard for us to get up after heavy drinking inside our hotel room. But the tour escort had asked us to meet at the lobby at 08 am. We were going to the coral Islands. Our eyes were still heavy. She jokingly said that once we reach the coral island our sleep will be gone. The drive to the beach side was amazing. We were ferried by a motor boat to the coral Island. It was beautiful. We did some snorkelling and para gliding and diving. It was fun. The honeymoon couples were engrossed in their romance. Then it was time for lunch-seafood based. It was difficult for the escort to get us out of the water. We were again driven back to the hotel. In the evening, we went for a Thai boxing show and then to another discotheque.
Next day we departed for Bangkok. On the way, we were taken for the city tour. We visited the Wat Jetuphon and the grand palace. It was amazing. Buddha and the surrounding associated with it, incites a strong sense of spiritualism and peace. We were taken to a gems gallery. A few couples purchased gems when they were told that some of them) based on their birthday and time), would be beneficial. I got a bracelet of gems which told me that it would keep my blood pressure in control and hence would help me control my temper. We were taken back to the hotel. Evening was free from any activity. We hired a tuk tuk that would take us around the city. Finding us all bachelors he prompted us to take us to the ‘entertainment zones (red light areas)’ and checked with us if we would be interested in weeding. Definitely we did not want either of this. However, probably his commission was associated with it, he told us he would take us to a very popular disco. After entering we realised it was a strip club and one lobby for” entertainment zone”. We were out quickly after finishing a show (it is a taboo in India). Next day we went to the safari world. That was something which we definitely liked. It was more like a wildlife safari park. The stunt show was equally amazing. There were many marine & non marine animals that I had only seen in the channels like Discovery, Nat Geo and animal Planet. In the evening we tried octopus and squids. Octopus was good but not the squids. Then we had grilled lobster, crab and snake meat (one last time).
Next morning, we were transferred back to the airport. We reached back to our home. In those days we did not have Facebook. Some of our photos were put on Orkut and was greatly liked and envied by many. One of my friends had almost broken up with his girlfriend for myths associated with Bangkok & Pattaya. We had a hard time in getting them together again. It was fund. Within a few years I had become a qualified travel agent and had travelled to Bangkok, Singapore, Tashkent, Srilanka but never had fund as much as we had in our first international trip. In fact, I had kept the contact number of the local tour escort and till date she supplies me with Thailand packages in very good rates.