Well hi! I’m Thichakorn Plengpanich or Thicha for short. I’m originally from Bangkok, but studied in New Zealand for 6 years before moving back home to Thailand. Having to live alone overseas since being 15 years old somehow made being in one place for too long a little difficult for me. I always have the urge to just go somewhere, feel the different air and meet new people. I sometimes feel very childish because all I think about is traveling. My friends would save up for a new bag or a car but all I wanted was plane tickets.
How does photography influence the way you travel and see the world around you?
I think photography has always been there. My mum wanted to be a photographer so we always had a camera pointing in our faces and I grew up taking film cameras everywhere I go. To be honest what has changed about photography is the technology and social media. Instead of carefully shooting the best 36 frames now you can take bad 35 photos and 1 good one. And when I take that 1 good photo, I want to share it with my friends right away and technology/social media allows me to do that.
How did your trip to the Oman come about? How did you plan for it?
Oman was a random one. I’ve always wanted to go to Yemen but the civil war going on right now doesn’t allow me to do so. So when a friend of mine recently shared a photo of Wadi Shab, I looked it up on a map and found out it’s near Yemen. Oman it is. That was it. I did a little research and I started with just an email address an air hostess friend gave me of her driver while she was in Oman. I researched Pinterest photos of Oman – but there weren’t many. I googled and googled and read every blog, tracked down every Instagram account that had anything to do with Oman and came up with a road trip through the northern part of the country and what rough guide called Oman’s ring road. Then towards the end of the trip we would fly to the top peninsula of Oman called Musandam Governorate and spend a few days in “Norway of Arabia”.
Did you have any expectations or preconceived notions about the culture(s) and environments you would be exposed to? How did they differ from the way they actually were?
There are always expectations and preconceived notions about a country because no matter how many guide books and blogs you read to prepare, that’s all their point of view. When planning the trip, my friends and I were most worried about the driving, whether the road would be bad, the signs being hard to read or people are crazy on the road. But then we figured, if we can drive in Bangkok we could drive anywhere. It turned out Oman roads are the best in the world (even the 4wd backcountry area which was still nicely rocky. I felt it was even better than the autobahn and women are allowed to drive! Our assumption was that Muslim countries would be quite closed-minded, but the people in Oman were very open to foreigners. Though no one seemed to know where Thailand is and thought we were from the Philippines.
What were some of your favorite experiences during the trip?
We stayed in a village called Misfat Al-Albriyeen for a night and I honestly wish we could have stayed longer. Misfah guesthouse is a family run business and everything about it was authentic. To me there was no pretention; everyone was friendly and the food was home-cooked. We spent the day with an English teacher/tour guide who showed us around and explained every rock and date palm tree we were curious about. I also drank the whole jug of their Thyme tea and a plate full of honeyed dates and it was pretty much the happiest I’ve ever been. To me food is as important as the place or the people itself. It says a lot about the way they live and the traditions they have.
On the last day when we flew from Khasab to Muscat, and had the amazing opportunity to attend the Muscat Festival (during the 6 hours we had before catching our final flight back home). The festival was divided into 3 parts: food, entertainment, and culture. The culture part was amazing because every part of Oman was there. From the desert to the sea, they teach us how to make a fish net and showed us traditional dancing from all the regions. What was beautiful about it is that their target was not tourists. They were simply proud of their culture and willing to put a lot of money into the festival. The sultan makes sure every child has an education and all the roads are paved. And it reflected through the people’s happiness at the festival.
What recommendations can you share for future travelers also interested in exploring the region?
-Definitely spend the night in Misfat (misfah guesthouse) and the desert (Normadic Desert Camp).
-Spend some time up north cruising in traditional dhows and swim with dolphins in the Fjords.
-Pay a visit to Lulu supermarkets. It is amazing. You can understand a lot about a country by their supermarkets.
-If there’s mutton on the menu? Order it. Always.
Travel has a tendency to look very glamourous, though that is not always the case. What types of challenges did you face during your trip and how did you overcome them?
Hmm that’s totally true. I was on a very tight budget and Oman is not a cheap country. The cheapest hotels are still way out of my price range. But we managed to cut down some cost with the car. Eating with locals helped too. Always.
Another problem was that although I did as much research as I could, when we arrived to Wadi Shab I forgot that walking shoes were needed. There were no signs and the guide that took us on a dingy across didn’t remind us. I wore sandals which broke apart after 5 minutes. The walk was about an hour in a rocky slippery path. It is quite an easy one but not when you had to do with barefoot. But when we arrived in the centre of the mountain it was all worth it. We climbed more rocks and took turns to take photos of ourselves in the Wadi. It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to. Hands down.
What is your favorite memory from your trip? Is there a particular moment you would relive given the opportunity?
When we arrived at Wahiba Desert meeting point, we were greeted by Ahmed, whose uncle owns the camp we stayed in called Nomadic Desert Camp. He took us to play with a baby camel and we watched the sun go down while sipping Arabic coffee. All that was swell but guess what? Half way through dinner it started to rain. In the desert. We were only there for one night and I was so gutted because I was so keen for a night under the stars. We ended up talking to Ahmed under the tents instead. He sang us songs and we sang him songs. He told us folktales, his dream of being a teacher and about the woman he eventually has to marry while we smoked Arabic tobacco and sipped ginger milk tea. Ahmed eventually excused himself for bed and we sat in front of our room for a while. The rain eventually stopped and all the stars appeared -we even saw a few shooting stars! Turned out to be magical after all.
What’s next for you? Do you have any final words of advice?
I’ll be going to India for the 5th time in April then USA + Cuba and maybe Ethiopia afterwards. As for the advice? Just DO IT! If there’s a place you want to go, just book the ticket and go. Oh and always wear appropriate shoes.
To keep up with Thicha and her travels, be sure follow her @ms_plengpanich on Instagram.
Images Courtesy of Thicha Plengpanich
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