Training, thoughts and a tour in Bangkok

A row of Buddhas in one of the cloisters in Wat Pho.
A row of Buddhas in one of the cloisters in Wat Pho. Bob, a veteran Thai tour leader, shared a saying from his days as a monk, “Hear more, see more and speak less.”

I was in Bangkok last year (November 23rd to the 30th) for a tour leader training by PEAK Adventure Travel Group (one of their known brands is Intrepid Travel). We were two trainees from the Philippines and we met the other tour leaders from Thailand, Cambodia and Sabah.

Our group went around Bangkok on our free day (25th) with Amy, one of the participants in the program, as our tour guide. She took us to the Chao Phraya River, the Grand Palace and Wat Pho.

I can’t help but admire how tourism is big in this place. The river’s clean, there are walkways for pedestrians and tourists. If we’re going to draw comparisons, I felt a bit safer here. Khaosan road, their version of Malate, was well-lit!

One of the rides to see the houses on the river.
One of the rides to see the houses on the river. The river’s clean and I just wished that the Pasig was like that.
The temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew)
The temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew). Visitors must remove their footwear before entering. There’s also a prescribed attire.
Phra Thinang Chakri Maha Prasat
The Korean tourist shot in front of the Phra Thinang Chakri Maha Prasat in the Grand Palace. Sorry, I just had to do it.

We had a quick lunch at a turo-turo stand and then we visited Wat Pho to see the Reclining Buddha.

Wat Phra Chettuphon Wimon Mangkhlaram Ratchaworamahawihan
Massage only Reclining Buddha’s watching. Heard the sound of dropping coins. If you look at the base of the feet of this statue, there’s in-laid mother of pearl decorating them.

We finished the tour at around mid-afternoon. It was a hot day so we took cabs back to Viengtai Hotel. One thing that reminded me of home were the cab drivers. They’re too picky.

* * *

Our training covered topics such as responsible travel, customer service, cross-cultural considerations, group dynamics, conflict management, safety, the different brands under PEAK Adventure Travel group, first-aid and role-playing games to answer case studies.

It was really fun hanging out with different tour leaders.

I cannot forget Richard Lingki, a tour leader from Sabah, who’s very familiar with Filipino culture especially Robin Padilla and cuss words in Tagalog. Boreth (aka Captain Tom), Samnang, Buntheon and Youk of the big Cambodian contingent were all friendly and have a really good sense of humor. In between sessions, we clowned around.

I somehow felt in solidarity with these guys. It’s like finding your long-lost kin in teleseryes.

The Cambodian Contingent.
The tour leaders of Cambodia. (L-R) Samnang, Buntheon, Boreth (aka Captain Tom) and their head Savath.

* * *

We’re quite lucky to be in Bangkok when they celebrated Loi Krathong, an annual festival in Thailand to thank the goddess of water. Locals let go of decorative floats to the rivers, canals, etc. It was a way of letting bad vibes drift away and wishing for good things to happen.

I had a chance to do it and made my wish.

Loi Krathong 2012.
Loi Krathong 2012. These decorative floats were made of bread. Our tour guide Amy and I share a light moment before letting them go to the river.
Coconut ice cream with peanuts on top.
Coconut ice cream with peanuts on top before going to bed. Richard, Arnold and I just had to look for mamang sorbetero.

I love Thai food we had in this trip. On our first night, we had noodles for dinner and chicken pad Thai too after a bit of walking. But our greatest discovery was the coconut ice cream with peanuts on top. It was heaven.

Our two Thai colleagues (Amy and Bob) took us to stalls for breakfast and lunch on the succeeding days. Street food was our dinner on some nights. I love Thai food because it’s just delicious and pretty cheap.

* * *

We got to meet the big bosses of PEAK Adventure Travel Group such as Andy Teague, Mike Stewart and their general manager, Carl Needham.

A photo with Peak Adventure Travel's Carl Needham.
A photo with Peak Adventure Travel’s Carl Needham. I met Carl last year on his quick visit to Manila.
Farewell dinner.
Farewell dinner. (Left side from bottom to top): Wan, Andy, Bob, Jo, Arnold and Chris. (Right side from bottom to top): Youk, Savath, Boreth, Buntheon, Mike and Richard.

One of my worst nightmares happened during the training. I had an eye infection for days, which I thought might develop into sore eyes and what made it terrifying was that my first tour would start a day after my arrival in the Philippines. My immediate boss Mike told me to just buy eye drops from a nearby pharmacy and good thing, it worked!

* * *

It was a fun eight days but I started getting homesick on the third day. I couldn’t wait to go home because it’s still home.

I admit that there are things we can learn from Bangkok. They recognise the importance of tourism but if we’re going to have more visitors in the Philippines, I wanted our people to be responsible and know how to handle it should that time come because the effects are irreversible not only to communities but also to the environment.

Thailand has the advantage when it comes to infrastructure and bang for buck on food and shopping. It’s in mainland Southeast Asia and it’s surrounded by other countries too making it more convenient to move around. I look forward to the day when an archipelago like ours becomes a selling point for people to come.

10 million foreigners by the end of 2016? That’s the goal but monumental changes must be done soon because time may be running out.

Good trains and boats and planes, we’re waiting for you.

 

Tilaok

Though you know that it won’t be easy
It’s a promise you make for love
For the people that keep believing
And the one that you’re thinking of