Sunday 27 July 2014

It begins with the people...

This is Suree, who is quite simply the best tour guide I've ever had. She works for Absolutely Fantastic Holidays Ltd here in Thailand, and over the last week has been professional, efficient, knowledgeable, patient, interesting, friendly and funny. She's been an absolute delight, and has added immeasurably to our enjoyment of this trip, which in other hands could have been something of an ordeal, given the programme put together for our media group.

Here she is, embarrassed and grateful at being given our group tip, saluting us and saying "Kop kun kaa" - thank you. After this she went on to say how glad she was to have been able to show us her Thailand, and when she tried to say how much her country needed us, she choked up and couldn't finish. She is so passionate about Thailand, yet realistic too. She didn't try to fudge the issue of the coups and the curfew, and was honest about the car bombing down way down south yesterday that led to an unfortunate juxtaposition on the front page of the newspaper. (Nothing to do with the coup, by the way: it's an unrelated, ongoing independence movement in the border country, instigated by Muslim separatists.)
Suree sees the leaders of the Yellowshirts and Redshirts as ill-disciplined boys, each wanting their own way, who have been held apart by an adult, the military, who is making them talk to each other nicely. She is totally optimistic about the future, and completely confident that tourists are safe here. It's something that's of utmost importance to the country: over the last five years, 50% of the people employed by tourism, one way or another, have lost their jobs; and if the visitors continue to go elsewhere, there could soon be only 10% left in the industry.

From what I've seen this week, she's right. Thailand is safe, it's fascinating, it's beautiful and it's fun. The food and the scenery are spectacular - but what really makes this country is its people, who are always so ready to smile. You should treat yourself, and come here.

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