By The Nation
Singles, couples and whole families can all enjoy travelling, whether near or far
VALENTINE’S DAY doesn’t have to mean just a romantic dinner with your special one. Travelling during the month of love is an even more exciting idea. Even if you’re on your own, it’s fun to take up the challenge and explore the unfamiliar. And weekend trips with your beloved or the family can be highly rewarding.
Kanokkorn Premwichein, 27, a professional geologist, is one singleton who’s overcome her discomfort about travelling solo. She was at university in Moscow when she decided to take a journey aboard the famous Trans-Siberian Express, the world’s longest railway.
A photo of a dragon blood tree, with its unusual dome of foliage, inspired Kanokkorn Premwichein to visit Yemen’s Socotra Island, where they’re indigenous.
Kanokkorn soon learned to get chummy with the locals and ask for help finding accommodations. She raves about the wonderful places she saw along the route, but the generosity bestowed on her was far more precious, she says.
“I’d seen pictures of several places and they inspired me to explore the world,” says Kanokkorn, whose Facebook page, “Journey of My Life by Por Wince”, has almost 60,000 followers.
“I’d worked as a translator and private tour guide for the Thai Embassy in Moscow, but I’ll never forget the excitement I felt on that first solo trip. I like staying in hostels – they’re great places to share experiences with other travellers. I always find my travel companions there. It’s fun meeting new friends.
“Another good point of travelling alone is that it’s easier making decisions and managing your schedule. And you don’t feel lonely because you become more focused on yourself.”
Kanokkorn has fun riding a camel to view the ancient city of Petra in Jordan.
Kanokkorn has since sought out beautiful nature and interesting culture in more than 60 countries. Iran in particular stole her heart with its spectacular architecture, cheap living and friendly people. She found Jordan a romantic place with gorgeous scenery, and Yemen fascinating with its dome-top dragon blood trees, seen nowhere else on the planet.
Anyone who’s new to travelling solo should first study up about the destination and accommodations, she says.
“You have to give priority to safety, which you can find out about from other people’s reviews online. I usually stay away from nightlife areas and dark streets.”
Darunee Khamsook, 48, and her French husband have not only lived in Paris but also travelled with their son around Italy, Bulgaria, Greece and Macedonia. They usually rent apartments with kitchens.
For them, travel is both relaxing and a way to strengthen the family bonds. Everyone has to learn how to compromise and solve problems together.
Darunee Khamsook and her family travelled to Valletta in Malta.
“Every summer we come back to Thailand so our son can practise speaking Thai and learn more about the culture,” Darunee says. “We hop into neighbouring countries like Myanmar and Indonesia for visits.
“We really love travelling. Our son learns about history, geography and the different ways of life around the world and it’s making him more open-minded. You can’t learn these things from a book. I’ve taught him how to navigate using a paper map and GPS readings from a phone.
“And married life is smoother. My husband loves trekking, so we do it together. I also share my experiences at Tookdarunee.blogspot.fr.”
The family’s most recent excursion was a three-week stay on Maluku, one of the “spice islands” in Sulawesi,
Indonesia. Life was gloriously slow, with electricity only available from dusk to 10pm and no running water. They found the food delightful and aromatic with spices and the surroundings of mountains and sea were perfect.
Darunee Khamsook and her family have spent their holidays in Athen, Greece.
“We try to avoid tourist chaos,” Darunee says. “We prefer small cities where the way of life has stayed simple. People ask me what my favourite place is and I never know what to answer – I love every place I’ve visited. They all have their own way and charm.”
Chiang Mai-based entrepreneur Sittiwitch Charoenratphinyo shares his family trips on the “Tiew Tung Baan” Facebook page, which has 300,000 followers.
Since last year they’ve been to 10 countries, including Italy, Norway, Iceland, Qatar, Japan and New Zealand.
“My kids attend an international school and get four school breaks a year, so we can spend anywhere from 10 to 20 days on trips,” Sittiwitch says. “The long flights teach the kids patience, and they also give us plenty of time to chat and play games.
“When we get where we’re going, I like to drive, because we can appreciate the views better and see the local way of life. We discover attractions that are popular among the natives but no one else has ever heard of.”
Sittiwitch Charoenratphinyo and his family have enjoyed wonderful trips to Iceland and New Zealand.
His favourite outing was to Iceland to play in the snow – including on horseback – and to watch the magnificent Northern Lights. “We see what our children are interested in on these trips, and it’s a parent’s duty to support their interests.”
Freelance writer Saranyu Nokkaew and her boyfriend spend weekends exploring Bangkok’s newest cafes and bars.
“We work hard all week, so this is a way to soothe our brains and our mood together,” says Saranyu, whose “Pic on the Way” Facebook page has 6,000 followers.
“Sometimes we just roam around the old parts of the city, like Thonburi, for example, to try the street food and visit the history museums, galleries and temples.”
They’ve been overseas, too, first to Japan, where they adored the decorated coffeehouses and bakeries and shopped for Gundam merchandise. “We got to know each other much better,” says Saranyu. “If our interests diverged, we learned to compromise. We realised we didn’t need to be together all the time. Everyone wants their own space.”
Writer Saranyu Nokkaew and her boyfriend enjoy a food festival amid blooming cherry trees in Yokohama.
A keen writer, Saranyu penned “The Tokyo Cafe Guide” and “Singapore City Guide”, both selling well.
Another well-travelled couple is Chusri Ngamprasert and Phoowadon Duangmee, who used to be in charge of The Nation’s Explore section. Planning a trip is like second nature to them.
“Travel is like breathing,” says Chusri. “There’s no fixed style for me. I love mountains, the sea, trees, historic buildings, different cultures and traditions and foods and people, so anywhere far or near can be my destination.
“Being travel journalists, the destination is usually assigned to us. And we rarely get to travel together, so when we can, once in a while, it’s like a whole new world.”
Phoowadon is usually responsible for the itinerary, and luckily they like the same kinds of things. They always spare time for temples, museums and walks in gardens.
Phoowadon Duangmee and Chusri Ngarmprasert spent two weeks driving around New Zealand.
They believe having a travelling companion is always better than going alone. Chusri notes that you then have someone else to share the memories, both good and bad.
Phoowadon, who’s been to more than 40 countries, says the main drawback of being a travel writer is that you usually travel alone.
New Zealand was a favourite destination they shared.
“In fact, a road trip in New Zealand is ideal for romance,” he says. “Once you’re in the countryside, it’s like you have all of New Zealand to yourselves. You hardly see any Kiwis on the road, let alone tourists.
“And the landscape is breathtaking. From Lake Tekapo to Mount Cook it’s really exotic, for example. The road hugs the edge of Lake Pukaki before twisting its way to this majestic range of New Zealand’s highest mountains.”
Chusri and Phoowadon now run the Thai-language travel website BangkokBigEars.com, full of recommendations and helpful advice about destinations, activities, hotels and tourism-industry news.