Published: December 7th 2012December 7th 2012
Bangkok - what a shock.
We arrived in Bangkok and met with the other 30 people on our tour. We are on another Contiki tour, so we've got plenty of new friends. The opening meeting was very interesting, our guide talked through our itinerary and seemed to end every subject with '...or you will die'.
That evening we went to a restaurant and got to know the other people on our tour. After the polite niceties were out of the way, we were offered the opportunity to catch a ping pong show - we politely declined as we had watched a lot of ping pong during the olympics.
The following morning we visited the grand palace and a temple. 95% of the population are Buddhist. It was once the permanent residence of the King and was very impressive.
Men who are practising Buddhists must spend time as a Buddhist monk at some stage in their lives. The length of time they spend as a monk is up to them, it can be a single day or for the rest of their lives...this helps them get closer to Nirvana...someone should really tell them the sad news about Kurt
We left Bangkok in the afternoon by sleeper train. It was certainly the longest train ride we have experienced - 18 hours! Our 2 seats folded down into beds and with a curtain they were fairly private and comfortable. Mr Dang was the man who served us beer and food and I very much enjoyed shouting his name - Mr Daaaaaaaaaaaang and incorporating it into songs.
Our long ride brought us to Chang Mai...most of our group went to Tiger Kingdom, where you can get up close and have photos taken with them, but with question marks over whether or not the tigers are drugged, we gave it a miss and caught up on sleep!
In the evening, we had a Thai cookery class which was fantastic, at last Emma can start cooking me some decent grub.
We prepared a soup which was hotter than the sun, pad tai, panang chicken curry and a chicken and cashew nut dish ...it tasted as good as Emma looks....beautiful! I can't make fun of her all the time!
We rounded off the evening with some Muay Thai boxing, it was a brilliant experience and we had front
row (patio furniture) seats. The fighters wear funny headdress and perform a silly dance before they start punching and kicking each other...quite clever really, getting your opponent in fits of laughter before smacking their lights out.
The following day we visited another temple, which had great views over Chang Mai, Thailand's second city. Emma and I were blessed by a monk and he tied a good luck piece of string around my wrist. The monk has a helper to tie the good luck 'bracelet' to women, not because he's lazy - monks are celibate and they need to stay away from temptation. You must not point at a monk or touch his head, especially not with your feet, so don't do it.
We then traveled to Chang Rai, stopping to see the White Temple - Wat Rong Khun. It is a contemporary, unconventional Buddhist and Hindu temple designed by Chalermchai Kositpipat. Construction began in 1997 and is expected to be completed by 2070
Kositpipat was commissioned in 1988 to paint murals for Wat Buddhapadipa in London (where the streets are paved with gold) and subsequently went on to sell lots of his artwork. He wanted to give
something back to his home city, so funded the building of the white Temple.
Wall murals feature the likes of the terminator, Neo from the matrix, wacko jacko, Osama Bin Laden, George Bush and even Ben 10....no spongebob, so I believe that's 1-0 to CN.
Once in Chang Rai we were swiftly whisked to see the hilltop tribes...these are refugees who have settled in Northern Thailand. The most notable tribe was the longneck tribe, the ones that wear brass metal rings around their necks and you're likely to see images of in National Geographic magazine (We'll have such a pile of copies behind our front door, we'll struggle to get back in). It was fascinating to see the camp they had built, the craftwork they were selling and their long necks. They reminded me of E.T
The brass ring coil is very heavy and this actually pushes their collar bone downwards, creating the elongated neck.
In the evening we ate fried grasshoppers and burritos in the market square, had a walk around the stalls, then rode on tuk tuks with the rest of our group to The Sperm Bar...the glasses seemed clean, but we were concerned
with the sticky floor...we had a couple of drinks then left.
The bus ride to the border was eventful, I think The Sperm Bar had impregnated some, as they clearly had morning sickness.
We boarded the boat on the Thai side of the river and made our way across to Laos.
So, that was Thailand! Bonsoir.