Monday, December 7, 2009

So, what did you do before you moved to Thailand?

Hi everyone, we're back in mainland Thailand after a week relaxing on the beaches of Ko Samet. Internet access on the island was very expensive and slowwwww, so I will try to summarize the past couple of weeks.
The trip from Chiang Mai to Lopburi was our inaugural train ride on the Royal Thai Railway. Even second-class express is pretty darned civilized, I must say. On a ten-hour trip, they fed us a breakfast and a lunch snack, and the car had a/c and reclining seats. Colin's favorite part of the journey was the hostess, whom he christened , "the rear admiral," because of her fancy uniform and her nice caboose. When she walked the aisle facing toward us, we noticed she bore a rather unfortunate resemblance to a Pekingese. Once we arrived in Lopburi, we found a guesthouse for the night and headed to the market to locate some dinner. We each had an interesting bowl of duck-part soup, which was tasty but had some unidentifiable and grisly bits. Colin did manage to eat all of his congealed blood this time, though I did not. The next morning, we ventured out to visit Wat Phra Prang Sam Yot, which is the 11th century ruins of a Khmer Buddist temple, famous for its community of monkeys. We paid our admission and entered unarmed, noticing that a number of people (who had obviously been there before) had monkey-hitting sticks and slingshots to fend off hungry monkeys. Fortunately for us, the annual celebratory monkey feast was held the previous evening, so most of them sat lazily munching on leftovers and left those of us without food in hand alone. After a wander about town, we got our bags and hopped on the bus to Ayutthaya.
Ayutthaya was once the capital of Thailand, which is reflected in the beautiful ruins and temples throughout the city. We rented a motorbike for the day and rode out to see several of the wats that are a distance from town. We went to one working temple that has been partially restored and where a community of Buddhist nuns live, as well as to the ruins of a 17th century temple. Both were beautiful, and in fact, we rode back to the ruins that evening to view them alit. My favorite spot in the city was the elephant kraal (of course). This is where the royal army elephants were trained but is now a home for rescued ones. At the kraal, you can buy baskets of vegetables to feed the elephants. As you can imagine, I went through several. They loooove cucumbers especially well (one of the big females took the basket out of my hands and wouldn't return it). We saw some of the huge bull elephants in town later in the day being bathed by their mahouts (one looked like he was only about 11 or 12 years old and, without a doubt, was in control) after giving rides. All in all, it was a good day of sightseeing.
The next day, we took the bus to the monorail above Bangkok (now we are excited about visiting Bangkok when we come back from Cambodia! It looks like a neat city from above!) to another bus to the ferry to Ko Samet, an island off the coast in the Gulf of Thailand. We struck up a conversation on the ferry with an American guy who lives in Pattaya (on the coast) and owns a burger shack on the beach. After finding out we were practically neighbors (he's from Tacoma, WA), he asked what we do for a living. We told him I was an xray tech and Colin was a prosecutor, and I in return, asked him what he did in the US of A, and how he managed to move to Thailand. He replied, "I was a professional marijuana grower, got caught, and spent two years in federal prison, after which, I went home, dug up my money from the yard, and moved here." That was a new one for me. He gave us his card and the location of his burger joint if we end up in Pattaya and was also kind enough to let us use his phone to find a guesthouse on the island. We spent the week reading (if anyone is looking for a really good read, A Fraction of the Whole, by Steve Tolz, is a fabulously hilarious book- contains some f-bombs and pretty heavy philosophical concepts, so maybe not appropriate yet, Judith Ann!!), swimming, and relaxing.
We are now in Trat, and tomorrow will cross into Cambodia for some amount of time. Will update when we have something to write about, probably when we get to Phnom Penh.

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