Simmering Thailand

Trip Start Sep 30, 2006
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58
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Trip End Jan 16, 2010


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Thursday, May 3, 2007

Lots to write about....everything you've heard, and more! No Ladyboys or Thai Boxing show I'm afraid. Have to do that on a return trip. But made it to Kanchanaburi and the River Kwai and the infamous bridge, temples galore, Chiang Mai and the fantastic elephant camp in the jungles near the Burmese border. Awesome. Not my favorite climate - muggy hot and bugggggggy!! But Thai people, Thai food and Thai elephants stole my heart.

This was a fun stop in Asia. Thai people are wonderful, this year dressed in bright yellow polo shirts, the lucky color of the year, picked out by their beloved king. He is everywhere. Huge billboard size photos of the once young king hover over Bangkok's busy streets, small photos in tiny shops, and in people's homes. He is like the Pope in a Catholic country, worshiped and beloved. He is now 82. For the sake of Thai people, I hope he lives for a long time. Bangkok is a mixture of feelings, smells and colors. Thais are bright and cheerful people, and they love bright colors. Gorgeous combinations of pinks with orange and peach, purples and reds are all over the place, brightening up Bangkok's otherwise dirt filled streets. Rainbow colored tuk tuks,- small motorized scooters with back seats big enough for three - bring people to their destinations relatively safely, while crowds of pedestrians skillfully wade through the beeping traffic. It is a chorus of color, smiles and movement. Nighttime turns to Bangkok's seedy side. Being a female, walking down Bangkok's main drag in the evening is fairly tame. Just when I said to my friend "I bet this would be a whole lot different if we were males," I turned around to see how Hugh from London was faring on the amble down Bangkok lane. A man had approached him, making a certain familiar hand signal and a smile, not needing language to advertise the services a Western man could procure in the lively city. Hugh played innocent, saying "that's what he wanted!?" This happened every time we left Hugh alone. But they wouldn't approach Western women, so we had an entirely different experience. Apart from it's nighttime reputation, which is absolutely true, Bangkok is a lively commercial center for the entire Pacific region. There is a large English speaking constituency there for business, and unfortunately also fugitives and weirdos. That's why all the arrests of weird white men are in Bangkok. However, the food is incredible. I cool myself off with an amazingly simple drink called a coconut shake. It was mainly coconut juice and crushed ice, and it was the best way to combat the muggy Thai days. I ate at a delicious, very modern restaurant and decided my stomach would be very happy in Thailand. I can't get into eating noodles for breakfast, but the green curry and many vegetable dishes were incredible. Time for an excursion outside the city, I went with a hired driver and tour guide to Kanchanaburi, where the Bridge over the River Kwai still stands. I was dumbfounded by the amount of soldiers who lost their lives here when the Japanese occupied Thailand and forced prisoners to build a bridge and railway to Burma. It was so horribly hot and humid, I couldn't imagine having to work in those conditions on barely any food. It was a very difficult visit, and my ultra happy tour guide trying to take pictures of me every five seconds was a little bit of a challenge! A crude but informative museum gave a sense of how the prisoners lived and what they endured. Another reminder on my travels of just how far flung WWII was and its impact on people and places. Before the war Thailand was known as Siam, which I'd forgotten. I didn't see any Siamese cats but lots of very fat dogs in Thailand. At the restaurant where I ate after the River Kwai visit, there was the fattest dog I've ever seen sitting in a director's chair fast asleep with a huge piece of fried chicken laying in front of him. He had a collar on so I'm pretty sure he was a pet. Just in case, I had just the rice for lunch!!
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