Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Ties to Thailand

If you read my previous blog post you would know that we were here mainly for the dental work. But no point staying in a place for a month and not having a look around. So in between dental visits and recovery time we ventured around and beyond Bangkok.

In Bangkok our trips included a ferry ride on the Chao Phraya River, Ko Kret Island, Wat Arun  (or Temple of the Dawn), The Grand Palace, Nonthaburi, numerous shopping explorations and tiny art galleries and an afternoon at the cinema seeing Wonder Woman. Hey, it was good and in English. We learned the subway, skytrain and bus systems and how to say hello, good morning and thank you (the great multi linguists that we are). Elizabeth even spent some time at a local cat haven to get a much needed cat fix.

We also visited Lumpini Park, and Benchasiri Park multiple times. Benchasiri is a fantastic  park for people watching. Any evening of the week you can see masses of people doing aerobics at the motivation of an energetic instructor yelling over a loud PA system. There are two outdoor gyms with facilities including weights, two children's playgrounds, a skate park, volleyball and soccer courts, friendly cats (and not so friendly), a jogging track encircling the whole park, and more. Once we even found a group doing a form of Tai Chi with swords. It also has a beautiful lake in the middle and lovely views of the surrounding buildings, especially speccy in the evening.

We did a wonderful day trip to the Bridge on the River Kwai. You can take a train from Hua Lumphong Train Station that runs on weekends, which stops briefly at the bridge for you to look around and take pictures, and then goes over the bridge and on to Nam Tok and the Sai Yok Noi waterfall near the Myanmar border. You are given several hours to look around and walk up to the hilltop national park, and then taken back to Bangkok. At about $20AU, a bargain!

At one point we had a week between appointments since I needed to recover from a tooth extraction. We took that opportunity to go to Chiang Mai for a few days to visit our friend Dianne. One of the best things we did here was go to the Elephant Nature Park. No elephant rides or circus tricks here; this place is a sanctuary for elephants rescued from those types of activities as well as elephants injured by stepping on land mines while being used as beasts of burden by loggers. You see them relaxing and enjoying themselves along with buffaloes in a beautiful valley encircled by soft hills and tropical greenery. There are also sanctuaries there for abandoned dogs and cats. We learned that elephants experience terrible pain and trauma being 'broken' by beatings to make them docile for riding and circus performances. Please avoid the places that use elephants as performers and support wonderful sanctuaries like this one. https://www.elephantnaturepark.org

*** A note of warning from Elizabeth - other companies in Chiang Mai have chosen similar names to Elephant Nature Park but use unethical methods of discipline such as prodding the elephants with nails hidden in their hands. One of the most joyous experiences at Elephant Nature Park was watching from the bank as the elephants bathed themselves in the river and then clambered out and snorted themselves with their favourite sunscreen - dust - without any prodding. And it's far more comfortable to walk alongside elephants than to ride on them. You can observe them so much more intently by gving them their space and be happy knowing that they're happy. So make sure you choose the correct company (website above). Ok, here endeth the lecture. Love and pleadings, Elizabeth.

Elizabeth and Dianne grossed me out while we were exploring the old town by eating that horrible, foul smelling, banned in most places, Durian fruit. I pretended not to know them and sat on a bench by myself watching community aerobics. A nice activity that happens in many public parks in Asia. Eventually Elizabeth finished her fruit and joined the aerobics.

From here we took a day trip to Chiang Rai, including a boat ride to the Golden Triangle where Thailand, Laos and Myanmar meet on the Mekong River banks. It also included a visitor's pass to Donesao Island in Laos, bonus! In reality this is just a marketing opportunity as you were only there long enough to run the gauntlet of market stalls selling clothing, jewellery and whisky containing various animal parts. Being vegetarian we do not agree with treating animals this way, so did not sample or buy. I will take my whisky clear and with ice thank you.

We also saw the White Temple which was one of the most beautiful temples I have seen since the Taj Mahal, and dropped in to see the Kayan people with the long necks. They believe that the long necks make them beautiful, they certainly look fragile, but we were assured it is mostly an illusion. Their necks are the same length as ours, it is the shoulders that droop. They come over from Myanmar to earn more money than they can there and send it home and return for family visits. There are conflicting stories in this region about their treatment and freedoms but I can only go on what we were told by asking them questions with the answers translated by our guide.

Although we were in Thailand for medical reasons, we really enjoyed our time there and getting to know an area in a bit more depth than would normally be the case when travelling. Whether it is for dental work, catching up with old and new friends or visiting the cats and elephants, our ties to Thailand will see us returning soon.

The White Temple


Elephants at Play