It all began on the 17th of August, an epic journey to one of Asia’s popular travel destinations. I had only seen Thailand in movies, the thought of actually going there for the first time kept my imagination hype. I couldn’t help but visualise what Bangkok really was like, how the people dressed, the infrastructure, my mind was just working overdrive as I drove to Julius Nyerere International Airport (JNIA).
The adventurous journey to Thailand was made possible by USAID PROTECT together with USAID Wildlife Asia and was implemented by RTI International and Environment Association of Tanzania. I was not the only one who got the privilege to travel to Asia but four other journalists from other media houses made the trip under the second round of Journalist Exchange Program (JEP).
The JEP is a synergy between Thai and Tanzanian media houses. The journey borne new experiences for me, using my new electronic passport which was stamped with a Thailand Visa, boarding at the newly commissioned terminal 3 at JNIA and heading to a new destination, put me on cloud nine. Arrival at Thailand Suvarnabhumi airport in Bangkok was approximately the next day at 1300hrs. Upon arrival at the airport we got to practice a bit of Thai tradition. As a way of exchanging greetings the airport staff pressed palms together at the chest or level with the nose and slightly bowed the head, a gesture used to greet and welcome visitors. In response we also had to do the same.
Good road network
An escort team ushered us to cars already waiting outside, ready to take us to the hotel. Driving from the airport I couldn’t but help marvel at the good road network, well constructed flyover roads. The streets were decorated and lined with pictures that illustrate wildlife. Finally, we arrived at our hotel, the Grande Centre Point Ploenchit where everything was well set, and we were shown to our rooms.
Our delegation was scheduled for a very tight program, that only saw us enjoying breakfast at the hotel, unfortunately we had to forgo lunch and dinner provided for at the hotel, as most of the times we would be outside exploring.
Bangkok has a thriving night life, people freely walk and shop at night. Shopping at night was a great experience… There are plenty of shopping malls with an array of goods to buy. Shopping at night proved to be wonderful, we lost track of time and only finished shopping round midnight.
The restaurants and food outlets also open well late into the night. From budget food spots to five star restaurants, there is food to fit any pocket, small or big. Foodies are spoilt for choice in Bangkok’s restaurants exotic freshly-steamed rice, served with sweet spicy shrimp soup, creamy chicken green curry, I can still savor the taste. I was really spoilt for choice, deciding whether to order the colorful and spicy papaya salad garnished with vegetables or settle for a delicious dish of fried rice noodles.
After the main meal more mouth watering treats were provided, fresh smelling sticky rice topped with mouthwatering mango – was a dessert fit for the royals.
Our delegation of ten comprising five journalists from Tanzania and the reminder from the host country as well as USAID Protect and USAID Wildlife members, after a five day stay in the capital moved to Pracchuab Kikirihan province to visit the Kui Buri National Park.
Located in the western part of Thailand, Kui Buri National Park is home to a vast number of elephants. This was another great opportunity to see the Thai wildlife in their natural habitat and learn how the private sector collaborates with the government to protect wildlife. Such synergies between the government and private players has seen the installation of cameras in the park to monitor the elephants’ whereabouts.
Kui Buri National Park is known to be the best place in Thailand for elephant viewing and gaurs. Unfortunately we only saw elephants, the ones found in Thailand are smaller than their African cousins.
After visiting the park, I realised that Tanzania was blessed with a variety of wildlife because when you move around Kui Buri apart from seeing some elephant there are no other animals. When wildlife is still in abundance people tend to take it for granted.
Tanzania although still endowed with a variety of wildlife steps need to be taken now to preserve this heritage for the future generations.