The KIngdom of Thailand
I have been away for six days for a tour of Thailand. Here is a summary of the places I went to and my impressions:
April 27 - We were first billeted at Bangkok Palace Hotel, about a mile walk from the famous Bayioke Hotel, the tallest in the coutry. We sampled the food in street stalls and while I could not call it a true "orgasmic" treat for the palate, it was good and clean (I hope) for dinner. Then we took a walk towards Bayioke just to have a feel walking the streets feeling the pulse of the city.
April 28 - Temples!!! I am impressed with the temples. Who would not be? The huge reclining Buddha in Wat Pho is awesome. The altar where the monks pray is laden with gold. No, make that the whole temple! Suffice it to say that the architecture with all the stupas (bell-like edifices to glorify a king or probably a god) is so uniquely Thailand. We crossed a river by boat and while the water was not immaculately clean, it was not filthy. About twenty or so boats ply it to cross tourists to and fro.
Next stop was the Sriracha Tiger Zoo. Here, I found Bengal tigers bred and cared for by pigs! What else? I do not know why but you will find a cage with odd mixtures of dogs, tigers and pigs. The sign says "happy family". I guess that sums it up. We also saw a pig who can do arithmetic (that is just my best guess as they do not translate what was happening) and a race of pigs. No betting taking place though. We also saw a crocodile show. Some tourists even took crocodile barbecue to the show. (That was a little insensitive, don't you think?)
Then, we proceded to the Pattaya Century Hotel. Curious, we went out after checking in to see a freak show. Anybody who has been to Thailand would know what I am talking about. What a waste of time and money!
April 29 - We were headed to the beach to go to Coral Island, a twenty or so minutes ride by speedboat from the city. But before going there, we were taken for a stopover on a huge barge where one can go parasailing. While some of my friends went, I, short for cash, as always, had to stay and cheer them on.
The island was very nice. The crystal clear turquoise water was inviting that I had to go and sample it. I swam for a few minutes by my lonesome until two or three of them joined me. Oh well, I am a sucker for beaches.
After lunch, we were taken to the Gems Gallery. We were led by receptionists to a train ride (I prayed it would not be some sort of a roller coaster or I would not have taken it) which was actually a historical tour of how gems are created by volcanoes until how they are cut into what we know as jewelry. Needless to say that after the ride, I did not even dare look at the prices of the jewelry in the store.
After dinner, our tour guide took us to the Alcaraz, a Las Vegas type of show showcasing transvestite. Unlike the ones you see in clubs, this was a theater which is dedicated to this kind of show. Since there were only four of us, the tour company sent a coaster to ferry us to and from the hotel. The transvestites were adorable in the sense that they were picture perfect. The well-sculpted body and boobs tell you the plastic surgeon made a killing out these people. After the show, the main cast would line-up outside for photo-ops for 40 baht. Again, I did not bite.
April 30 - We checked out to the hotel and were on our way after breakfast. We were taken to the Nong Nooch Tropical Gardens. We also watched a cultural show that had an array of cast with wonderful costumes and an amazing stage design. It also had elephants, a lampooned thai boxing, a historical overview (non of which I understood as I do not speak the language). After that, we went to the adjacent arena for an elephant show. The elephants did a lot of tricks one of which was a set of three elephants who painted a floral arrangement on a tshirt which they sold for 300 baht. Again... you know the deal.
Thereafter, we went to Safari World. While we missed the orang utan and seal show, we managed to see the stunt show, which was a western type of show at Universal Studios; the dolphin show which also had three beluga whales; spy show, which I surmise is the same as the Waterworld; and the bird show, something similar to what the wife and I saw in Hong Kong's Ocean Park.
We checked in again at the Bangkok Palace Hotel and my roommate, Chito Ortega and I, decided to experience the Thai massage. No, we did not go to those barbershop-like massages lined-up in the streets, but went to a spa where you are massaged in a cubicle (o hanky panky, of course) with aromatic flavors just like here in Manila. It was 600 baht for two hours. Not bad as I was already snoring during the right foot.
May 1 - Shopping - shopping - shopping!!! We went to Prattunam beside the Bayioke Hotel. Amazingly, practicallly all stores carried one size only. For slim women! I did not go with the women when they went to MBK as I did not plan to buy that much.
We were back in Manila on May 2. INcidentally, I just realized that this was the same day I came home from Canada last year.
Thailand should have been no better than the Philippines. It has the same narrow streets, the ubiquitous traffic jams, the markets, etc. What is amazing is that it has managed to preserve its culture while adapting those at the west. Street food is safe and clean unlike what you find in the streets of Manila. The fruits being pedelled are always sweet. The public toilets are by far always clean. The tourist buses are magnificent, spacious and very relaxing.
The food may be exotic but if you have been eating it for a number of days, you also grow tired of it. Imagine having Tom Yam every meal, for example.
The people are interesting. Several times, I had been cut-off in the buffet table. Whiule I was lined up, say for rice, someone will cut in and just get food ahead of you. But then again, these are asian tourists I figure. Several times I would have wanted to say "Excuse me but the end of the line is always there!" But I thought about it and figured I am here to have a holiday and a good time. Why waste my breath?
Okay, I hope I did not bore you to death. Well, if you're reading this...