Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Thailand Wrap – things that stand out:

• Met some friends who were on the end of their holiday in Bangkok for lunch - $11 for the four of us.
• Many signs about the King around the city. He is clearly well loved. At the airport all the walkways out to the planes have “Long live the king” on them.
• Elevated walkways, looking somewhat over-engineered, large concrete structures that look as if they came from some Star Wars wrecking yard. But so user friendly for getting around the city centre.
• The noise and chaos of the traffic, at times crossing the road can be classed as an extreme sport. At others, it is extremely civilized, the lights have a digital display informing drivers of how long before they will change. In Australia this would result in a Formula One grid start at every light change, but not here.
• Streets pretty clean even though it is sometimes difficult to find a rubbish bin.
• Very few flies.
• The Tuk-Tuks – little covered vehicles built around a motorbike and carry two passengers. Tall passengers have to adopt a position somewhat like a limbo dancer (but without the pole, of course) to see anything above the gutters.
• Every Tuk-Tuk driver wants to drop you at a tailor or a gem store – they get a commission.
• Our tour guide refers to toilets as the ‘happy house’. Also, if you ask him how long something will be he reduces it to nearest 59 seconds. Half an hour becomes twenty nine minutes and fifty nine seconds. Doesn’t seem quite so bad.
• Tour of the canals of Bangkok, I didn’t even realize that they had canals. The houses of the poor nestled with those of the rich. Letter boxes on the houses! So the mail must come by boat.
• An orchid farm – all the orchids growing soil-less, hanging in the air.
• My first taste of the traditional noodle dish, Pad Thai, in Thailand. It was not the first and not the best. But it was the first in Thailand.
• Feel guilty not eating the salads when the dishes are often so nicely presented but them’s the doctor’s order for a happy trip. Especially if you want a happy trekking experience!
• Get Tuk-Tuk who takes around some lovely temples. Then takes us to tailor’s shop. Refuse to let him take us to gem shop. Not happy.
• Train to Chaing Mai, in the north – seats turn into upper and lower bed.
• Carriage attendant appeared with tray of orange juice, thinking it was a bit like they do on planes everyone took one. He then asked for 40 baht payment.
• Same guy wandered the aisles most of the evening saying “Beer? Beer?”.
• Next morning his call changed to “Coffee? Tea?” Ordered a tea and a coffee, got two coffees.
• Silk Factory, Paper factory, Silver factory. Taken to see various crafts in action. Quite interesting but each stop came with us running the gauntlet of the sales staff at the shop on the way out. Resisted valiantly.
• Elephant training camp was fun but left doubts about the kindness of the whole thing.
• Temple at Doi Suthep. Very impressive. High up a hill. Blessed by the monk.
• Ate some crickets (3) at the lunch stop on the way to the hill trek. Tasted like pumpkin seeds – a bland nuttiness. Crunchy, though.
• Also ate some deep fried bamboo worms. Tasted like unsalted potato crisps.
• The bush in the hills changes dramatically as you go around (or over) the hills – different plants in different spots. Lots of bamboo in places – Sammy, one of the guides, cut us all bamboo walking sticks. A little teak about but not a lot where we were.
• Spent first night at Lisu tribe.
• Men were permitted to visit a sacred compound where a pig had recently been slaughtered and offered to the gods (They believe in a form of animalism). Once the Gods had eaten their fill the rest was distributed to the tribe. Had a small piece of boiled pork. Fatty.
• Everyone pitched in to help fill and roll spring-rolls for dinner.
• Dinner included frog curry. Too hot to taste much.
• Slept in a bamboo hut under mosquito nets.
• Scrambled eggs, toast and strawberry jam for breakfast.
• Four hour trek, lunch, then onto the elephants.
• Fed our bamboo walking sticks to our elephant.
• Glorious colours of sunrise as the train approached Bangkok – so much smoke in the air. Still not sure why – some stories are that they are burning rice stubble in preparation for the next crop but I would have thought it was good buffalo food. Maybe someone, somewhere (Indonesia?) is burning forests again.
• Visited Jim Thompson’s House in Bangkok – ten of us in three taxies – fabulous building (Traditional Thai but he bought a number of teak houses and relocated them side by side on a canal and then joined them into one house.) and lovely art work. Teak & antique. He was an American who developed the silk industry after the war, collecting antiques along the way. Disappeared on a holiday to Malaysia and no-one knows what happened to him. Shades of Ambrose Bierce.
• Visited Wat Po. The guide, Tong, kept referring to Thailand as Siam.
• Amanda, 25, went to Wat Po with us. Tong took us to be a family unit and kept wanting to use my camera to photograph us in front of various temples and buddhas.
• Visited the Grand Palace next door, seems to double as army base. Lots of armed personnel about. Saw the emerald Buddha (really jade), found a mango juice vendor and, hot and sweaty, headed home.
• Caught a water taxi – it started raining on the way home. No drizzle in the tropics. Poured down. Instantly the streets filled with umbrella vendors. Pretty wet by the time we found a tuk-tuk to complete the journey. Passport soggy - mildew seems to have improved my appearance.
• Overnight train to the south. Slept in top bunk. Didn’t fall out. Train 2hr late. Very narrow gauge. Numerous vendors within the train – beers, drinks, food, coffee.
• Song tau, a two bench covered utility, the most common form of transport in rural Thailand, to the rainforest resort. Showered, changed and off to a river for ‘tubing’ – drifting down a river on inner tubes. Managed to fall off backwards trying to do a half lotus on the inner tube. Happily my sunglasses stayed on. Stopped at temple on the way home to feed the monkeys.
• Learnt how to write my name in Thai. Blessed my parents for a simple, one syllable name.
• Travelled to some islands off the east coast of Thailand – Koh Samui was nice but very touristy. A one night stop en route to Koh Tao.
• Wireless internet was available in Koh Samui. Used Skype to talk to various folk.
• We have two Russian girls in the group – Niceta & Luba (spelling is uncertain). They don’t speak much English but are slowly warming to the group. It must be hard coming in from outside into an established group in the first place, doubly so if you are not good at the language.
• Waiting to catch the Koh Tao ferry Margaret spotted a lady nursing her baby and crying. She went and talked to her for a while. Seemed to help.
• Days in the south very hot and humid. Tend to start hazy and warm up from there. Not much in the way of sunrises but lovely sunsets.
• Kayaked a bit around the lagoon where the resort sits.
• Lovely snorkeling spots around Koh Tao.
• Pizza and Italian Chianti on last night at resort.
• Last Pad Thai (for Thailand) at the unlikely named town, Chumporn, en-route to the train.
• Melbourne Grand Prix on the TV in the resort restaurant. Is there no escaping it?
• The Thais have toothpicks on every table.
• The big four condiments are always present – fish sauce, chillies in vinegar, powdered chilli and sugar.


  1. ....about the face,...oops.

    and....Men were permitted to visit a sacred compound where a pig had recently been slaughtered and offered to the gods (They believe in a form of animalism). Once the Gods had eaten their fill the rest was distributed to the tribe.

    Kind'a reminds me when Uncle Fred was getting ready to die.
    He had my Aunts come and take his money and split it amongst themselves.
    Each got about thirty thousand dollars each, wow! But, he had one string. What he wanted was for each to pay him back after he died by putting the money in his casket. He said he wanted to be able to afford to gat a GOOD place in Heaven.

    Well, he did pass on, finally, even though it was five or six years later.
    The three aunts went to his casket and Aunt Millie put fiftennr thousand dollars, all neatly bundled and wrapped, in the casket and whispered an apology for not having it all, then she quickly slipped away.
    Aunt Gert, she put a little bit less than five thousand dollars in, and apologized for having a really hard time the past two years...and she slipped away.
    Then Aunt Rena stepped up to the casket and pronounced judgement on her two sisters.
    "Well, " she huffed, "can you imagine! Those cheapskates! Well, I want you to know I'm writing you a chweck for the full thirty thousand dollars and INTEREST, too!" and with that, she tossed in her check and slipped away into the crowd.

  2. just caught up on your posts - looks like a wonderful trip so far! Stay healthy, keep avoiding those salads, LOL!

  3. gosh, it must've been wonderful travelling and visiting distant lands. i hate it though, me a homebody :)

  4. Avoiding the salads? Do tell?

    The one of the mother nursing and crying touched my heart, I wonder if it was hormones or sadness?

    Great info, thanks again.

  5. I should think scrambled eggs and strawberry jam were quite welcome at that point...

    Sounds wonderful.

  6. Just catching up on your travels! Sounds great so far ... the green eye is niggling a little ...


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