“Krap krun kra…” I started the phrase loudly and proudly but trailed off when I realized—I can’t pronounce the damn words. I was going for “khop kun krap” which translates to a simple but very polite “thank you” in Thai, but alas—my tongue had other plans.
The merchant handed me my purchase with a big smile—something I noticed the Thai never fail to wear—and I smiled back in apology for my foreign tongue. “Thank you,” I concededly said, putting my palms together in front of my chest, as if uttering a prayer, like the locals do.
Thailand has always been on the top of my travel list, and that night, thanks to a generous invitation from Air Asia, I was happily wandering the cluttered sidewalks of Bangkok amongst the bustle of the night life of this vibrant city. Colorful tuk tuks lined at the side of the road, shopping items sprawled out left and right, a hundred bright business signs hanging above my head, and people—people walking in all directions. Just like I always imagined everything to be.
My travel buddies for my Bangkok escapade? Two representatives from Air Asia and five other Manila-based bloggers, all of us completing Team PH for the Air Asia Bloggers’ Conference 2015. Other participating countries were ASEAN countries plus Japan, China, Korea, India, and Australia. The conference was held at Eastin Grand Hotel Sathorn, a beautiful five-star hotel which also served as our home for our three-day stay in bustling Bangkok.
The day of the conference arrived, and all the participants were gathered for the commencement of the day’s socials. The excitement in the room was undeniable. The air was buzzing. A long registration table was set up at the end of the room, with table names of the participants’ countries waiting for our approach. Upon registration, we got our goodie bag with a couple of Air Asia items inside, including a t-shirt for the activity, and an ID with our names, countries, and group assignments for the day’s big game—an epic photo hunt.
Thirteen. My lucky number for the day was 13. My group assignment. I put on my Air Asia shirt, and looked for my team mates. I ended up with some cool Japanese, Thai, and Malaysian guys, and one super sweet Chinese girl.
The activity was exhilarating, to say the least. Armed with a map, a mission, and 1,500 Thai baht, the 13 groups were sent out to complete five tasks that involved taking group selfies in different locations following a specific set of guidelines. The photo hunt sent us, participants, running all around Bangkok. It was an interesting way to get to know the famous city and, above all, each other.
Something I learned from this race? I could get pretty competitive.
While I kept rushing my team mates reminding them of the race, they simply took their time. We even had lunch. And after we completed our last task, one guy said “do you guys want ice cream?” So we stopped for ice cream. In the middle of the race.
Eventually, I realized that they were in the right and I was in the wrong. There was absolutely no point in rushing. More time spent out meant more time exploring, and more time getting acquainted with my new friends.We had a great time completing the tasks, not to mention monkeying around while at it. And the ice cream was ridiculously good. I had a grand time with them, really.
And that was all the win I realized I needed.
Getting back to the hotel (with my group officially finishing the race 2nd to the last—not bad!), I had all the time in the world. And I chose to spend that time at the gorgeous 14th floor infinity pool of Eastin, so pretty, it was so easy to get lost in thought. I felt at peace, humming to myself, despite watching the busy albeit mute roads far below.
All that was until dinner time, of course. Which I wasn’t going to miss.
Dinner and cocktails were held at the top most floor of Eastin, 33 floors high up, giving us a fantastic sight of the city. But the view inside was just as remarkable, too. The participants arrived one by one, donned in their countries’ national costumes.
Throughout the night, traditional Thai dances were performed, winners of the photo hunt were announced, special raffle prizes were given away, and people drank, ate, and celebrated such a good-hearted gathering of individuals with a common love for travel.
People converged, as did cultures, and for a moment it was quite difficult to believe that sometimes our countries just don’t get along. For in that room, intercultural friendships flourished, which was the purpose of Air Asia’s Bloggers’ Conference all along. To create ties that cross borders and oceans through the love of flight, travel, and understanding of cultures outside our own.
It was a convergence of people so different from each other in countless ways, only to find out that fun, friendship, and wanderlust bind us, for these are universal languages we all lovingly speak.
Congratulations to Air Asia for being named Asia & World’s Best Low Cost Airline for 7th Consecutive Year in a recent conference in Paris, France! Read about it here.