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Published: December 13th 2009
Episode 2, written by Craig.
December 13, 2009
Hello everyone. We have just completed the first leg of our trip, having just spent an excellent 2 weeks in the Bangkok region. It has been blue and sunny the whole time.
After a great day and a half with Ivan seeing little known temples and touring canals, we said goodbye and promised to see him when he was next in Melbourne. I had not met him previously and we got on really well. He is a very bright guy. He explained that Thai is a hard language to learn as it is tonal. One word can mean many things depending on its tone. Hence, you can say Khao Khao Khao Khao Khao, which means We took the rice to mountain !
Last Monday, Ross and I checked out of our hotel by the Chao Phraya river and took river express down to a different joint, the Lebua at State Tower, also overlooking the river . We lashed out and got a luxury pad on 55th floor . Stunning views across Bangkok. That night, we drank cocktails at their famous Skybar on a dizzy 62nd floor. Most amazing bar I've ever had a cocktail in. Then went to the gay area- Silom soi 4. That was fun, as Jacky predicted.
We spent much of the next day at MBK , the shopping mecca. But I soon got bored of that , and left Ross to it. I made my way across to Lumpini Park, a green oasis amid the concrete jungle (like Central Park in NYC). In parks back home, we have nice little ducks in the ponds. But here, massive water monitors roam . These are VERY large lizards. I watched two large specimens fighting over a dead cat fish, which itself was no small fry.
That night, we took ourselves to the Calypso LadyBoy show. It was excellent (Mark, Ross, Davey, chris, you would love it). Ross noted that we had front row seats. Little did I realise that this was destined to place me right in the firing line of Audience participation. One drag queen sang a song while constantly picking me out for attention. Later in the show, she re-emerged on stage looking like the love child of Shirley Bassey and Krusty the Clown. She ended up with me on stage, and I found myself on the floor, in the spotlight, with a flurry of chiffon and curly hair on top of me. I returned to my seat with a big red lipstick kiss on my cheek, much to the amusement of a Chinese tour group in the audience.
By the way, Lady boys live integrated in society here - serving in shops, walking down the street, riding the skytrain just like everyone else. While Thailand in admittedly politically unstable at present, it is generally socially harmonious and Australia could learn a bit in this regard. Hooray for Buddhism.
Next day we went to Ayuttahaya (pronounced I-you-tee-ah), the World Heritage listed Ancient capital of Siam (Thailand), 80 km North of Bangkok. This place was once a mighty, glistening city, but was sacked by the Burmese in the 1700's. Now, there are beautiful palaces and temples strewn throughout the town - a la Rome. It was hot but we had a good time, including a touristy but fun elephant ride about the place. After returning to Bangkok, we went to the Las Vegas-style spectacular show called Siam Niramit. This was a show that told the story of Thailand, involving signing, dancing, lavish sets, acrobatics. It was the best show we have ever seen. I cannot put into words how amazing it was. The sets ranged from fields to atmospheric temples, to towns in a flash, and at one point, the lights went down ,then went they came back up, a RIVER was flowing across the stage, with boats sailing down it, and a guy juped intoit and swam while singing. Then it rained . It literally rained all across the front of the stage. The show also involved elephants walking down the aisles, and other amazing stuff. Ross and I left the theatre with our jaws on the ground. Don't ever come to Bangkok and miss Siam Niramit.
Next day, I was feeling a little woosy in the gut- forgot to take Travelan before the previous nights street food. I hung around hotel while Ross felt the need for more retail therapy. However, by midday I was well enough to take myself to the Bangkok Snake Facility - where they milk them for antivenom. The snake
handling display there was excellent. They had a really pissed off King cobra that must have been 10 feet long when it was unceremoniously poured from its large box onto the stage.. It hissed and lunged at the audience and we were all very close - of course I had ensured I got a front row seat and Im sure everyone needed to change their underwear afterwards (one way to clear a woosy stomach I guess).
Before leaving Bangkok we had one more appointment - with Khao Yai National Park, 100 km North. Our main aim was to see gibbons in the wild. The park took a bit of effort to get to. Skytrain to Victory Monument (Andrew , the skytrain and underground here are fast clean and efficient, leaving those in Australia in the shade). Anyway, then it was a minivan to town of Pak Chong (another white knuckle ride), then one hour to park entrance by songtheow (bascially, a ute, with two rows of bench seats facing each other)-. The park was great. We went on a guided tour (30 dollars for whole day). Did a lot of wakling through jungle and then it happened. We came upon a gibbon family - black father, brown mother and little brown baby. They were high in canopy but clearly visible to naked eye. I was thrilled, and got some decent pics. Other critters spotted included a herd of elephants at salt lick, barking and sambar deer, various lovely birds. We stayed there 2 nights. We went on a supposed night safari, but the spotter guide had a patch over one eye, was clearly half drunk and spent most of the time with the spotlight pointing aimlessly at the night sky while he chatted to his driver mate. And when we did miraculously see something, he illuminated it for about a picosecond and then we zoomed off !
On the second night, walking back from the park caferteria to our bungalow, I spotted a porcupine and ran off in hot pursuit. The area was dimly lit and in the confusion, Ross fell down an embankment. He cut his forehead, nose and slashed his knee. Luckily, Dr Smith carries a moblie Chemist Warehouse when he travels, and wounds were treated with antiseptic, bandaged and I gave him pain relief (primarily, EtOH).
Luckily, we realised the next day that he had not sustained major damage. He just looks like he has done a round with Mike Tyson.
So, our time in and around Bangkok involved a good mix of history, culture, nature, and of course food. Everyone is always cooking and eating - but no obesity here !
Tomorrow we fly North to Chiang Mai , where we have booked into a Thai cooking class (you get to pick all your own ingredients from the organic farm, then cook it - yum). And we will also go to the Elephant rehab centre., which gets rave reviews
More later. This is already too long.
Christmas parties must be in full swing. Not much of that here, only a few drear-looking Xmas trees in hotels, thank goodness.
Enjoy the silly season there in Oz.
bye for now
Craig and Ross
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