Sunday, March 12, 2006

Thailand Adventure

Rob had to go to Bangkok for work. Since his airfare and six nights hotel was paid for, we figured we might as well take advantage of the opportunity and make it a little vacation for the two of us. We spent twelve days there. Leaving freezing (literally) China and spending time in 90 degrees plus weather was a welcome change, but it was sure hard to come back to the cold. Enjoy the pictures.

Saturday we went on a tour of Ayutthaya, the former capital of Thailand from 1350 to 1767. It is about 50 miles north of Bangkok. The ruins were amazing to see. It made me think of the kinds of things you would see in National Geographic or something. Evidently the Burmese burned and destroyed much of the city in the 1767. It must have been an amazing civilization in its day. Our tour guide said that there are no heads on the Buddha statues because they were cut off and sold. I had always just assumed that a head on a neck is a piece likely to be broken off. It was sad to see how different ancient temples here were ransacked for profit.

We continued on to more ancient temple ruins and a currently used wat, or temple. Like many of the temples and shrines we have seen, it was quite busy with people.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Moving on we saw some elephants. Rides were available, but since we had one scheduled for the next day we passed. It was interesting watching them eat, but we passed on buying food to feed them. We saw one of them sneeze(?) and get elephant snot on a guy. I didn’t think that looked very pleasant. The elephants seemed pretty good at getting the edible things out of the basket and dropping the rest to the ground.

We went to another wat. On the grounds was a reclining Buddha statue. I found it rather strange, not like what I am used to seeing. The smaller statues on the grounds here all had heads. Our guide said that they had been stolen as well, but that they had been replaced with new ones.

Once we were finished walking around, we continued on to a hotel for lunch. We returned home and had time to go out to the pool for awhile. We went over to check on movie times and decided to see Firewall. Since there wasn’t a lot of time before it started, we decided to eat at KFC. The seats at the theatre ran us about $3 a piece and were at least as nice as what I would expect at a multiplex in the States. Depending upon the theatre, different levels of seating may be available. I was a little disappointed that our show time was in a theatre that offered “gold seating.” Gold seating resembles a plush recliner complete with pillow and blanket. Too bad airline seats aren’t that comfy! The movie wasn’t that great, but the experience of being in a theatre again was wonderful. I miss going to movies.

We finished up the day doing something we did quite often while in Bangkok, had ice cream at Swensen’s. :)
A Twelve Hour Tour…

Sunday we went to see the bridge over the River Kwai. We were picked up from our hotel at 6:45 in the morning. I had forgotten that there was a 6:45 in the morning! Our tour guide and driver took us to pick up the other two people joining our group and we were off. Kanchanaburi is about 80 miles west of Bangkok. Traffic and road conditions meant the journey took about two hours.

We stopped first at the War Cemetery which holds the remains of over 6000 Allied POWs who died building the “Death Railway” from Burma into Thailand. The cemetery is well maintained and quite beautiful.

Next we visited the JEATH war museum. JEATH stands for Japan, England, Australia, America, Thailand, and Holland. The museum is built to resemble the buildings the POWs lived in at the camp. Inside the bamboo huts are photographs, news clippings, and artifacts telling about the history and conditions of the camp.

Right outside the camp is a monastery. The monks at the monastery care for it. I found some of the monastery buildings quite beautiful and took a couple of shots before it was time to move on.

We boarded a long tail boat and took off down the river to meet up with the River Kwai. The ride was bumpy, fast, and enjoyable. Speeding across the water brought a welcome cool breeze. Once we arrived at the bridge we go off the boat and went up to the land. The bridge is still part of an active railroad track so it surprised me that we were allowed to walk across it! There is no way that people would be allowed to walk across a bridge like that even if it was not still used by trains. It wasn’t too bad until you met up with people walking the opposite direction and had to pass.

There is not a stop right at the bridge, so we drove up a little to a stop further along the way. We just missed the train and had to wait for the next one to come. When it arrived it was already packed so we had to stand for awhile until passengers got off and seats were made available. The views along the way were spectacular.

We stopped along the way for a Thai buffet lunch. Nothing special, but I was just excited that it was edible. :) There was also a fan to sit under, which in the heat is always a blessing. They also had “seaters” in the bathroom instead of “squatters” though since you weren’t allowed to flush tissue, but had to put it in the little garbage can, well you get the idea. L They actually supplied the toilet paper too so I guess I can’t complain! After lunch it was off to see the elephants. I was excited to go on our elephant ride. Much of the terrain was rough and since you aren’t strapped in or anything you want to hold on when things getting bumpy or you start heading downhill. When we went into the water, we were grateful we didn’t get sprayed by our thirsty elephant! We eventually gave up using the umbrella to shade ourselves as we found it more favorable to be able to hang on when the going got rough. I don’t imagine it is very fun to fall off of an elephant. This ride was much cooler than the one we passed on yesterday. In Ayutthaya the elephants just went around a 10 minute loop or so on pretty level ground along the road. THIS was an experience. From the elephants we walked down to the river to ride on bamboo rafts. I was surprised that they actually had life vests for us to wear. A motor boat pulled our rafts up the river and then let us float back down with the current, our guide directing the raft as needed. After the rafting trip it was time to return back to Bangkok. The return trip took almost three hours. Traffic is just incredible here. I’m glad we didn’t have to do the driving. After our long day we were too tired to think about finding a place to eat so we just grabbed some food at Burger King to bring back to our hotel. The sad thing is, Burger King seems like quite a treat to us.
Resting up
The River Kwai tour wiped us out. It was a long day in the heat and a lazy day seemed appropriate. Lunch, walking around a little, and time at the pool filled up the day. We had a dinner scheduled at Silom Village. As the mediocre Thai meal was finishing up, the entertainment began. It was interesting, and something worth seeing once, but I don’t know that it needs a repeat. The costumes are elaborate and quite beautiful. With the lighting I had trouble getting the kind of pictures I would like, but you get the idea.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Last Day in Bangkok
It was our last day to see things in Bangkok and we hadn’t been to the Grand Palace yet so our
day was pretty much decided. We rode the light rail to the end of the line and then hopped on the tourist boat. There were some interesting things to see along the way. The Grand Palace is the most visited place in Bangkok. Tourists and locals both visit the Palace Compound, which also includes the Wat Phra Kaew which holds the Emerald Buddha.