Thailand a land of truth and elephants

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February 18th 2023
Published: February 18th 2023
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Here are some facts about our next stop Thailand.

Thailand was actually known as Siam until 1939 (and again from 1945 to 1949).

Siamese cats are native to Thailand.

In Thailand, it is illegal to leave your house without underwear on.

Thailand is the world's largest exporter of rice.

Thai brothers Eng & Chang Bunker inspired the term "Siamese twins" and were joined at the chest. They died in 1873.

It is illegal to step on any Thai currency.

The ship is moored at Laem Chabang which is the major port of Thailand. There are literally tens of thousand containers waiting shipping or transfer within the country. A huge car park is covered with cars made in Thailand by Toyota, Honda etc and aimed at export.

We are off to see the Sanctuary of Truth today.

The guide on the coach is a local man who I think must have been paid by the word as he didn’t shut up. He told us this was his first tour in three years because of Covid so that probably explained his excitement. He tells us how cheap food is in Thailand and that Thai people like to eat insects and that they import them from Cambodia. He assures us that they are very tasty and nutritious. He hasn’t convinced me!

The pictures show a large temple and we are expecting something several hundreds of years old with maybe the occasional monk and people praying. Not quite. It transpires it was started in the 1980’s and it isn’t finished yet. It is really a work of Buddhist philosophy. Every single surface (that has been finished) is covered with carvings. Along side the Sanctuary is a wood working shop with tens of staff carving the next section of the project.

It is meant to disclose seven truths, matters such as being true to yourself rather than following the trends of others. Symbolised by fish swimming against the wave to enter the Sanctuary and the Castle of Truth. The Castle itself is a shrine to Buddha containing 37 relics relating to Buddha. On closer examination they all appear to be small pebbles, the explanatory notes are only in Thai so we have no idea what the significance of the pebbles is. It does seem strange that such a recent addition to the religious buildings in the region would have so many relics.

Within the same complex is an official Boy Scouts campsite with what appears to be dozens of different groups undertaking scouting activities. Building and using rope bridges and other temporary structures. There are also 40 or so patrol tents for those staying overnight.

A group of three Asian elephants are available for visitors to feed or ride (with a mahout in attendance) and have there pictures taken with.

So not so much an ancient temple, more a sort of Buddhist Disneyland.

We are then taken into Pattaya, a tourist resort where the Main Street seems to be largely composed of bars, restaurants and massage parlours. We stopped at a shopping mall (see a pattern here? We always stop at a mall!)

Clothes and other products made in Thailand were very cheap but goods imported were very expensive.

We return to the ship we’re I go to the sun deck for a paddle in the pool and some vitamin D and Ian goes to the gym. We win the afternoon trivia so a good day.

Before we relate the events of the second day in Thailand a question. Does elephant poo float or sink? Answer at the end of the posting.

We are up early again because we are going on a trip to interact with Asian elephants. We travel for about 45 minutes to the elephant sanctuary. There we listen to a lady who tells us what we can expect and how to behave around the elephants. There are seven female elephants ranging in age from 10 to 56. There oldest elephant died last year at 102.

We walk down to the elephants who are stood with their mahouts. There are large trugs with bananas, pineapples and small cucumbers. We are introduced to the elephants (Vanessa, Ninja these are the names I can remember) and told about their personality and how they liked to be stroked. We grab some food and start to feed them, they eat the bananas and cucumbers with the skin on but cleverly break the green spikes tops of the pineapples off before eating them.

We were lucky enough to do something similar with African elephants a few years ago and these are quite a bit smaller but still powerful beasts.

We then move over to a large muddy puddle and grab handfuls of mud from buckets to rub into the elephants skin which also covers us!

They enjoy spraying us with muddy water

The next stage takes us to a large muddy pool, the elephants enter first and then we go in to rinse them with buckets of the water and brush them with scrubbing brushes. The water is hip deep on us, the elephants lie down in the grubby water and relax as they are cleaned. They are much bigger than the average car let me tell you.

After ten minutes or so they start to start up. We are still scrubbing some of them. The ones standing then defecate. (Answer to the question, they float) Each stool is a bit bigger that a cricket ball. For whatever reason they seem to deposit them in groups of seven that float around like small mines. Each elephant can produce a number of ‘minefields.’ One of the guides is going round with a large pierced trug scooping up these presents. Regardless of this episode, the entire experience has been great.

The Reserve has modern showers for those of us that were made muddy and soaked by the elephants. We had been told to bring a change of clothing so after ten minutes we were all presentable again.

A fruit buffet was then offered to us. The usual option were available but so were ‘rose apples’. A fruit the shape of a pear but 50% bigger and red at one end and green at the other. They have firm flesh and taste much like an apple if slightly sweeter.

All too soon we are on our way, to another shopping opportunity, obviously. Back into the city of Pattaya to what is builded as the biggest gem shop in the world. Aisle after aisle of jewellery show cases, with a significant number of staff to watch us.

The items are frequently garish to our eyes although the orientals on the tour are really taken with the displays. It is a real case of aesthetics differing between cultures. The most expensive item I saw was a necklace priced at 7.5m baht. A pound is worth about 40 baht. I didn’t get that long looking at it as Ian seemed quite keen for us to move on.

Anyway, without buying anything we return to the ship for our onwards journey to Vietnam.

Sorry photos still not loading see them on my Facebook x


19th February 2023

Ships pass in the night!
We seem to be travelling in the opposite direction to you! Left Thailand for Laos and then Phnom Penh in Cambodia. On our way back to Thailand now for a welcome 2 week beach break in hua hin, the old stomping ground of the Royal family, bit like Sandringham for our lot. Keep having fun xx
20th February 2023

Shame we can’t meet up somewhere exotic. We only have the one day in Vietnam before returning to Singapore for the grand gala (in the Gardens by the Bay) and then travelling onwards to Bali and Australia. Of course whilst in Bali rather than going to interesting historical sites Bridget is insisting we spend time on some tropical beach.

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