A Travellerspoint blog

Thailand

Happy Valentine

sunny 34 °C

Valentine day is here in Thailand in a very big way - roses, chocolates and pink balloons everywhere.
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Throughout our travels we have been caught up in numerous celebrations. We began with the state funeral of the King's sister in Bangkok in November; we launched candlelit krathons, (lotus blossom boats), onto the river in Ayuttaya to celebrate Loi Krathon; we saw the dawn procession of saffron-robed monks through the streets of Luang Prabang in Laos; and we celebrated Christmas with the Muslims of Malaysia. Births, marriages and deaths are all celebrated with enormous zeal here. One funeral we witnessed in Luang Prabang necessitated the closure of the road for three days while mourners feasted and drank under a massive makeshift marquee of tarpaulins. Throughout this time, the gaudy coffin was the centrepiece - illuminated like a Christmas tree with strings of flashing coloured lights. In Bali we followed funeral processions like this one, where dozens of casket carriers lurch erraticatically down the road in the hope of shaking off the evil spirits.
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Each morning we found the streets of Vietnam littered with dollar bills. Grieving relatives believe their loved ones will go to hell unless they give everything away before they are buried, so, as they raucusly process with the coffin on the back of a gaily decorated truck, they throw away thousands of dollar bills - all fake. Note that they never throw the real stuff - we know ... we checked.
In Bangkok we found ourselves in the midst of a graduation throng when every university student, together with hundreds of friends and relatives, celebrate simultaneously at the King's Palace.
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And today we joined a joyous procession as young boys preparing to become monks were led through the streets by dragons and costumed dancers.
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Wherever we have been in South East Asia we have witnessed elaborate ceremonies. These people certainly know how to enjoy themselves - even in the midst of poverty and grief

Posted by Hawkson 22:47 Archived in Thailand Comments (1)

Hirsute pursuits

overcast 25 °C

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After 3 weeks, Jim's beard took a hint from the lush tropical surroundings and madly sprouted. Thai children started calling him, "Meester Chreestmas." So a little trim was called for. The barber in Sukhothai seemed to have no equivalent of "little" and after 5 minutes of discussion and preparation Jim was swaddled in several towels, (for the blood perhaps!). and a blindfold. He looked, and felt, like an accident victim awaiting a tracheotomy.
Twenty five minutes later each individual hair had been razored and scissored to within an inch of its life.
"Great!" exclaimed Jim.
"Not so fast," (or the Thai equivalent), and he was physically forced back into the chair.
Now what? Nose hairs and ear hairs - all part of the deal.
"This is going to cost," muttered Jim as the clock ticked past 30 minutes.
"O.K. Enough," he tried again. But anyone who has tangled with a Thai barber knows that they are closet Thai Boxers. Jim was wrestled back to the chair for a full upper-torso Thai massage; hands, arms, shoulders, neck, head and face.
"I only wanted a quick trim," bleated Jim. Too late - he got the works.
And the total cost - tax included - exactly $1 Canadian. (Fifty pence!)

The winner of last weeks quiz was Roy who guessed that a Tuk-Tuk can carry 12 people. However Janet gets second prize for saying that a Tuk-Tuk can only carry 4 COMFORTABLY. Almost right Janet. The absolutely true answer is that Tuk-Tuk's don't carry anyone COMFORTABLY.

First prize for Roy - a one hour Tuk-Tuk ride in Bangkok. (airfare not included).
Second prize for Janet - a two hour Tuk-Tuk ride in Bangkok. (Ditto).

Posted by Hawkson 01:59 Archived in Thailand Tagged postcards Comments (3)

Ancient Capitals-Ayutthaya and Sukhothai

sunny 30 °C

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In the past week we have visited two former capitals of Thailand.
Sukhothai's heyday was in the early thirteenth century, while Ayutthaya rose to splendour in the late fourteenth century after the King escaped there to avoid a smallpox epidemic. Both cities lie in ruins - ravaged by war, time and the tropical jungle.
The Thais are justifiably proud of their heritage and have carefully preserved and restored these monuments. We were greatly impressed by the craftsmanship and skill that is still evident after so many centuries of decay.
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Here is an easy question for Roger only:
What is the present capital of Thailand?

Posted by Hawkson 18:23 Archived in Thailand Tagged postcards Comments (0)

Last week's quiz/This week's question.

sunny 34 °C

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Last week's question was: If it is $15 one way from Bangkok to Hua Hin by train, (250 Kms.), how much is the return?
The answer is $1.50 cents. 75pence UK.
Unbelievable but true. 250 Kms. for less than the price of a cup of Mr. Starbucks finest Java.
Why? Because we went 2nd. class with air conditioning and came back 3rd. class with the window wide open.

This week's question involves Tuk-Tuks; tiny 200cc tricycle taxis that are ubiquitous in Thailand.
The question is: How many passengers can you comfortably take in a Tuk-Tuk?

Answer next week.

Posted by Hawkson 23:59 Archived in Thailand Tagged transportation Comments (2)

Spot the fake monk!

sunny 33 °C

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Signs in Bangkok warned us against giving alms to fake monks, so we have been trying to work out which are the real McCoy.
Many working peasants, living in mosquito infested hovels knee-deep in stagnant swamps, make generous offerings of money and food to the monks of the numerous magnificent Buddhist temples, (Wats). On trains, passengers buy food and water for travelling monks from the dozens of itinerant vendors. Buddha is everywhere here - always with his hand out. There is a Buddha around every corner; enormous Buddhas look down from the hill tops; armies of baby Buddhas surround Wats; pictures of Buddha hang on every wall. If we had started counting Buddha images from the time we arrived by now we may have discovered the world's largest known number.
But, back to the monks: Saffron robed monks are in the same category as the elderly and disabled and have to be given a seat on a bus or train, (trains have separate compartments for them). But monks are not allowed to sit next to a woman, (God forbid such a thing). On the bus from Phitsanoluk to Sukhothai Sheila and another woman sat either side of the only vacant seat. Then a monk got on and chaos ensued. The bus conductress began moving people around the bus so that the only spare seat would be flanked by two men - easier said than done on a crowded bus. After several minutes of musical chairs the correct gender balance was achieved, then a spoilsport further down the bus stood up and gave his seat to the monk. The conductress was clearly miffed that all her organizational skills had been usurped by one thoughtless passenger.

So - Back to the question. How do you tell a fake monk from a real one?
You ask him of course!

Posted by Hawkson 18:38 Archived in Thailand Tagged postcards Comments (1)

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