27 Apr 2015
Visit to Paris, Thailand and Dubai
The March 2015 journey (coordinated by Laborex Cameroun) that took us to Paris for the French Pharmaceutical Trade Fair (Pharmagora) had an excursion extension to Thailand and Dubai. In all it was a distance of over 15,000 kms that we had to cover from Douala via Paris and Dubai to Thailand. As usual there were some hitches with visas for some of our members getting through France and two of them had to be re-routed through Lagos to Dubai.
It is worth mentioning that despite the refusal by the French to issue visas to the two, the visa processing section of the French embassy has made admirable progress in its treatment of visa applicants. Ten years ago, the worst place to apply for a foreign visa in Cameroon was the French embassy or at least its Consulate here in Douala. Then, people had to line up under the rain and sun for hours just to get interviewed for a visa. Some of us denounced the then system and wrote against it. Today, the French Embassy seems to me to be the most 'civilized' in processing visas. You take an appointment by phone and on the day of interview, you spend between fifteen to thirty minutes there. Just like comparing day and night for those who have had the previous experience.
We got to Paris on March 20th in the morning and faced the usual cold (around 5 degrees C).We attended the trade fair for two days and utilized the spare time to visit some places interest. France being the most solicited destination of foreign tourists (84 million annually) meant that you have to line up for hours just to visit certain sites. We spent more than an hour on the line with biting cold just to purchase tickets to go up the Eiffel tower.
On the 23rd March, we left Paris for Bangkok (Thailand) via Dubai. The A380 double deck airbus airline with capacity of 500 people was full from Dubai to Bangkok. Thailand is a major tourist destination with over 26 million annual visitors.
Thailand (pop. 65 million) comprises of over 80% Thais. The remaining 20% are made up of Chinese, Indian, Malay, Mon, Khmer, Burmese, and people from Laos. The official language here is Thai and 94% of the people practice the Buddhist religion. Muslims make up approximately 4% and Christians less than 1%.
60% of its $200 billion GDP is generated by exports while tourism accounts for over 10%. Thailand is the number one exporter of rice in the world and as such the name of this country is a household name here in Cameroon due to rice imported from there. Climate is tropical and Thailand is six time zone away from Cameroon (GMT+7).
The people here are tolerant and sociable and appear to be genuinely committed to doing their work. There is a unit of the Thai police force called Tourist Police whose duty is to resolve problems between tourists and the public.
Like any tourist coming to this Buddhist country, we had a couple of Buddhist temples to visit on our tour package. On the first day, we visited Wat Arun Temple. Situated on the banks of River Chao Phraya in Bangkok, our tour guide opted to bring us there by boat. Like many other temples we were to visit in Thailand, Wat Arun is architecturally attractive. Each of the Temples had their Characteristic Buddha.
You will hear appellations like The Smiling Buddha, The Sitting Buddha, The Sleeping Buddha, The White Buddha etc.
The most venerated of all the Buddha is the Emerald Buddha that is housed in a temple situated within the Grand Palace Complex. The Grand Palace is also the official residence of the king of Thailand who is also the custodian of the Buddhist religion in this country.
We had the opportunity to visit this sprawling Palace Compound where we mingled with a sea of tourists from four corners of the world. The number of Chinese tourists was overwhelming reflecting their position as the world's top ranking tourists and possibly due to their geographic proximity to Thailand.
Another interesting site on our program was the floating market at Damneon Saduak. It was interesting to see how people buy and sell from mostly mobile canoes and water bank stalls.
We had the opportunity to visit the historic city of Ayutthaya ( 80km from Bangkok). This used to be the former capital of Thailand that was burnt down by invading Burmese in the 18th Century. The gigantic relics of its past in the form of towers and monasteries has made the UNESCO to classify it as a world heritage site.
We concluded our trip to Thailand in the exotic city of Hua Hin where we spent close to four days. This seaside resort has varied attractions for many a tourist. It is in and around Hua Hin that we rode elephants, visited a giant cave, did shopping at the night market and got some massaging done on our feet.
On our way back to Cameroon, we had a two day stopover in Dubai. During the two days we had a Dubai city tour, visited the Dubai mall and Emirates Mall. A smaller group of us went up the Burj Khalifa (the wold's tallest building). This small group also visited the Miracle garden and the newly added butterfly pavilions. The beauty of the flowers in this place is breathtaking.
Voyage related videos
Singing in the bus http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gD6DNz2YTYY
Elephant ride http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rlGAiPe17dA
Miracle garden http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hm9LgrFHI4I
View over 300 more photos on travel & nature at this link
Related Article: Lessons from UAE http://www.njeitimah-outlook.com/articles/article/2076041/177715.htm