Golf in a Kingdom. Thailand delivers royal treatment on and off the fairways. People are humble, humorous and forever welcoming. Happy uniformed caddies, with large brimmed hats, greet golfers at every course, a mandatory program that sets Thailand apart from other destinations. It is you who are the most important aspect of their service which is unmatched in courtesy and course knowledge.
Connecting through Tokyo right after their earthquake and tsunami caused a little travel angst but it was fortunately unwarranted. Japan’s coast looked eerily vacant from the air, like the Planet of Apes’ shores, lapping serenely. The airport was calm and efficient. We passed through unharmed and unalarmed to arrive in Bangkok, capital of Thailand. It was a step over the rainbow, into a National Geographic magazine. We never felt so tall or blond, but we had studied a few Thai words to blend in. The spoken greeting is “savadeekah” for females or “savadeekup” for males, accompanied by a slight bow, hands formed in the prayer sign – an act of peace, respect and harmony- a custom we loved.
A midnight stroll by the Westin Grande Sukhumvit set the cultural stage with sidewalk stands of authentic cooking and wares for sale. Across the street is the Kings Massage where we enlisted the first morning for the famous traditional Thai massage. In a joint room with mattresses on the floor, we were handed silk pajamas. Basically, they perform yoga stretches on you. It eliminated the long flight aches and at times made us giggle. Massage parlors are everywhere, including at the golf clubs to work the kinks out from the links. While there is more than massage offered in places, you are in control of where you go and what you want, so don’t let stories dissuade you. There is too much culture, history and environmental beauty to miss beholding in Thailand.
That beauty belies all the golf courses we played, starting with Burapha Golf Club in Pattaya where perhaps the only token male caddy in Thailand rendered service along with the lovely gals, all in purple and black. En route, The Nong Nooch Tropical Gardens is a must stop, to marvel at the horticultural artistry and sculpting. Many Asian themed movies are filmed there. The same tropical vegetation proliferate the courses, none more prominently than at Laem Chabang International Golf where we played nine holes of night golf after a beautiful sunset and a day at Siam Country Club playing with Porn, a common female name among the caddies.
Back in Bangkok, the Siam Kempinski Hotel is a place you would want to call home for any length of time and for a couple coinciding days, the Miss Thailand contestants blessed us with their processions. Nothing starts the day like a Thai breakfast buffet with western choices as well as delectable Asian fare and a bounty of fresh fruits and veggies. By day, the Chao Phraya River is filled with colorful boats delivering passengers and products. By night, a Marriott dinner cruise was the most impressive in the world – attested by international writers aboard. It’s like a Disney electric light parade of decorated boats and gilded palaces on shore.
A short flight away, Chiang Mai, “The Rose of the North”, is fortified with cultural attractions, from temples and shrines to the elephant farms where Barnum and Bailey would be shocked by the performances as they play sports, paint master pieces and give rides through jungle and streams. The Long Neck Hill Tribe Village is a step back in time, where women’s beauty is defined by gold bands elongating their neck, stretching upward. Chiang Mai is home to many top rated golf clubs in the country. The Alpine and Highlands courses are located at the base of the mountain range that borders Burma with thick, colorful jungle topography outlining fairways and greens.
Thai Country Club, famed with Tiger’s win in ’97 counts among the many panoramic plays in Bangkok. Bangkok Sports Club has one hole equipped with a swimming caddy to retrieve water balls. The biggest names in golf design developed an incredible variety of courses throughout Thailand. Some stay and play for months. We’ll return to check out Phuket, the best beaches and more. Kingdoms come and kingdoms go but with a cultural heritage that is strictly Thai, this one will prevail. If you want to golf in a kingdom, head to Thailand. Golfasian.com has all the expertise to plan a customized package.