Thailand

I spent a couple of days in the Bangkok area, and to be honest, that was enough for me. I found it too crowded and too smoggy. I’m sure there are nice, quiet sections of Bangkok though. As for the smog, I don’t see how you can escape it without traveling far from the city.

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But there are some attractions in Bangkok, including Bang Pa In Palace.

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And the turtles at Wat Prayoon.

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Bangkok has its own “water village,” which I cruised through.

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For me, the main attraction in Bangkok was Ayutthaya. All that remains of it now are ruins, having been destroyed during war with the Burmese in 1767.

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There’s a giant reclining Buddha at Ayatthuya. Devotees keep him clothed.

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Near Ayutthaya is a place where you can rent an elephant and driver.

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As you can see, I availed myself of this service. The elephants take you around the perimeter of the ruins.

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I hired a driver/guide to take me to Kanchanaburi, and to the “Bridge Over the River Kwai,” of movie fame. Though I did see a bridge, and I did see the Kwai River (also spelled “Khwae”), this is not the bridge depicted in the film. Then again, it was a fictional film, so there really is no specific bridge that can be said to be from the film.

If I’d had more time and money, I would have taken the more extensive tour. As it was, I satisfied myself with a visit to the Jeath Museum and a look around.

My visit was in 2005. I’m pretty sure that since then the entrance has been renovated.

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My driver was a devout Buddhist, and every time we passed a buddha, he’d put his hands together in reverence. Above the dashboard were small statues of both Buddha and the King of Thailand, King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

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As in much of the world, insects form an important part of the Thai diet. I applaud them for this; insects represent a vast source of protein – which remains untapped in much of the Western world.

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Personally, I would have to be very hungry before I ate some of those! Speaking of food, the entire time I was in Thailand, I never ate actual Thai food. Odd, isn’t it? I did eat Indian food, and Moroccan food though.

Also, since Thailand is part of the “durianosphere,” I tried durian – but not in Bangkok; my hotel wouldn’t allow it.

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The reason many Thai hotels do not allow durian is that this fruit gives off an extremely offensive odor that’s hard to get rid of. If prepared properly, the odor mostly goes away, and it’s supposed to taste pretty good.

But what do I know? I’m just a dumb American, so while in Pattaya, I visited the market and bought samples of every fruit I was unfamiliar with – and brought them back to my hotel room. This hotel had no durian ban. I sliced open the raw durian, and removed one of the membranes. The consistency, and smell, was as if somebody had filled empty egg membranes with diarrhea. It was stinky, squishy and gross. I ate the contents of one membrane, and that was enough! Some day, I’ll give durian a fair chance and eat it the way it’s supposed to be eaten.

There was another fruit I’d brought back to the hotel that captured my heart: The dragon fruit.

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Imagine, if you will, a kiwi on steroids.  The dragon fruit is much larger than a kiwi, and it peels as easily as a banana.  There is no pit to worry about, and the seeds are small and greatly enhance its consistency.  The fresh ones I had in Thailand were mildly sweet and the flesh was somewhat firm and almost crunchy.  Eating it, for the first time, was so heavenly that I felt like I was in food nirvana.

It’s possible, sometimes, to buy dragon fruit here in Portland, Oregon. But they’re expensive and of inferior quality. Some day, I may visit Thailand once again – just to eat good dragon fruit. I’ll be a “dragon fruit tourist.”

I went to Pattaya to enjoy the beach, and get away from Bangkok. Judging from the many white man/ Thai woman couples I saw there, I’m guessing that many tourists hire girlfriends and have the ladies show them around. But I was on my own, the beaches were narrow and you had to pay to sit on a chair under an umbrella. Once you get up and leave, you relinquish your rights to that spot. I didn’t travel halfway around the world to sit at one spot for hours. I like to wander and explore. Here are some photos from Pattaya.

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In hindsight, Pattaya was not the best choice for lounging at the beach. I ended up playing a lot of snooker at the hotel.

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