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“A Visit to the Land of Smiles” The Kingdom of Thailand A Travel Article by Brian for Travel Magazine Ms. Plowman’s Class 2002 Day One • The Kingdom of Thailand is one of the friendliest countries in the world. Everywhere you go throughout this exotic land you see friendly, smiling faces. This is a great country for young people to visit, as I will report for Travel Magazine. Day One • Thailand is the size of Texas and is Many were sitting outside in front of located between Burma Laos, small shops and eating at small Cambodia and Malaysia. Thailand is restaurants. I couldn¹t wait to explore on the other side of the world, so it Bangkok. takes a long time to get there. I boarded the country¹s national airline in Seattle and flew 15 hours in a 747 jumbo jet before arriving in Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, and largest city. I ate three meals, watched two movies and had two naps on the airplane. When we landed I was anxious to get off. As soon as the door opened I felt a warm blast of humid 80-degree air, even at 11:00 at night! We went through immigration and were whisked away by taxi to our hotel. I noticed a lot of families were on the streets at this late hour. Day Two • I woke up at first light and looked out my glamorous hotel window. The mighty Chao Phya River, the “River of Kings”, flowed below me. What a magnificent sight! Huge barges filled with rice or coal crawled slowly up the river. There were long tailed boats skimming across the water and I saw water taxis carrying people from one side of the river to the other. Bangkok was huge; it stretched out in all directions as far as the eye could see! Dotted all around the city were gilded temples or wats, and I could even see the walls of the famed Grand Palace in the distance. Day Two • We ate breakfast outside on the verandah by the river. My mom thought it would be a good idea to try a typical Thai breakfast. It wasn¹t a good choice for me. It was a kind of rice gruel with an egg floating in it. My mother ordered fruit and I shared her plate. There was pineapple, watermelon, mango, papaya and many fruits I have never seen before like mangosteen and rambutan, all beautifully sliced and carved in different patterns. Day Two • It was 8:00 a.m. and it was already getting hot. February is supposed to be a cool month, I can¹t imagine what the hot season is like. We started our sightseeing adventure by river on our first day because it is cooler on the water, and we can avoid the famous Bangkok traffic jams. We rented a long tail boat with a guide for a half-day. Our driver was named Prasert and he spoke a little English. He liked to hydroplane, skimming across the water at a thrilling speed. The long boat passed the slow rice barges using the long motor for shallow maneuvering. Our first stop was Wat Aroon, the Temple of the Dawn. Day Two • Prasert let us out on a platform near • early in the morning they sit on the the temple and said he would wait ground before their living quarters for us. The temple rose high into the heads bowed while people line up to sky and glittered in the sun. As we put food offerings in their empty came closer we could see the bowels. To feed a monk is an honor temple was made of small, shiny, believed to bring good luck. colorful ceramic tiles. We climbed the steep stairs to the very top of Wat Aroon. It was a beautiful view. A Buddhist monastery was behind the temple and I could see many boys my age with shaved heads wearing saffron colored robes. Buddhism is the primary religion in Thailand. Most boys spend six months to two years as monks. They live in monasteries and are taught about Bhuddism and how to live a simple life. All over Thailand Day Two • Prasert was waiting for us as he We stopped at a large open building promised, and he sped us away at and we stepped out to see the royal high speed to see the Royal Barges. barges. Two times a year at special It was interesting to see life along the ceremonies the royal barges are river. I saw beautiful flower markets brought out from their river warehouse. filled with orchids and roses of all They are like giant, elaborately colors and we could smell the decorated canoes. Forty men wearing fragrant lotus blossoms. There were traditional Thai costumes oar the huge warehouses filled with teak individual boats in races on the Chyao logs. There were ornate Thai styled Phya River. They pass the grandstand houses belonging to the wealthy next saluting the King and Queen of to simple houses where children Thailand with their oars. bathed and brushed their teeth in the shallow banks of the river. • Prasert maneuvered our boat through Bangkok¹s canals to the home of the royal barges. Bangkok is known as the “Venice of the East” because it was built on canals or klongs. Day Two • Our next stop was the magnificent There are many statues of Buddha, Grand Palace built in the eighteen which are covered in gold leaf. I liked century. It looked just like the seeing the interesting murals painted elaborate palace in the movie the along the walls of the complex. The “King and I”, which is actually murals tell the story of the life of banned in Thailand for making fun Buddha. of the King. It is here that Thailand¹s King, His Majesty Bhumibol Adulyadez, meets heads of states. Thailand is a constitutional monarchy. It is run by an elected parliament headed by the Prime Minister who is elected by the King. The King is a figurehead, but still has a lot of influence in Thailand and is loved by the people The Grand Palace complex is spread out on many acres. There are temples with ornate gilded spires guarded by exotic statues of mythical beasts. Day Two • I visited the Royal Chapel, which is We also visited nearby Wat Po the home of the Emerald Buddha. which is the oldest and largest of Everyone has to take off their shoes Bangkok¹s more than 300 temples. It is and sit on the marble floors with home to the huge Reclining Buddha, the their feet crossed so as not point largest Buddha in Thailand. their feet at the Emerald Buddha, which is a sin. The Emerald Buddha is smaller than I thought. It is only about three feet tall and sits on a golden altar in the front of the temple. It is not really made of Emerald but jasper. The Emerald Buddha was wearing its winter coat. Three times a year His Majesty the King changes the robes of the Emerald Buddha to reflect the season. There is a scent of burning incense, and many Thais pray and meditate in this peaceful place. Day Two • As we were leaving the Grand Thai food is very popular in the United Palace, I begged my mom to let us States so I was not surprised at many of take a thuk- thuks back to the hotel. the flavors of the cuisine including Thuk-thuks are fast, noisy open -air coconut, peanuts and coriander. I was three wheeled vehicles, She surprised at how much hotter and relented and we had a crazy ride spicier the food was here. through the famous Bangkok traffic. • We decided to eat dinner that evening at the popular Sala Rim Naam one of the six restaurants at the Oriental Hotel where we were staying. We wanted to see the Thai Classical Dance show. We sat crossed legged at the low tables while waiters served us many different kinds of delicious food. Including sweet noodles curry and prawns. Day Two • Soon after dinner the lights dimmed and musicians started to play music using instruments I had never seen before. They were woodwind and percussion instruments. The musicians sat on the floor and played Thai classical music by ear. Then the Thai classical dancers appeared wearing elaborate costumes and headdresses. They danced and acted out stories from the Ramayana the ancient Thai story of good versus evil. There were characters representing monkey gods and princesses and princes. Day Three • The next day we went shopping hoping – Next we visited many of the gem to find some famous Thai bargains. Our and jewelry stores near our hotel. first stop was the Jim Thompson Silk • Thailand is famous for its rubies and Shop. Jim Thompson was the sapphires as well as many other American who helped establish the • precious gemstones. You can choose Thai Silk Industry in the 1950¹s. There from individual stones or beautiful were rows and rows of brightly colored silks, all of them hand-loomed and • jewelry designs at great prices. My mom bought some sapphire earrings hand-dyed in a mind-boggling range of colors, patterns and weights. My mom • We visited many small shops selling purchased some bright royal blue silk in Thai handicrafts from bronzeware to an elaborate pattern. A tailor took her baskets, quilts to porcelains. There are measurements for a custom made also many shops selling antiques such dress which would be ready for a fitting as tapestries and puppets from Burma. the next day and ready for pick up the following day. Day Three • At dawn the next morning we were • There were boats selling noodles, on our way to the floating market of fried bananas, fresh coconut milk, Damnern Saduak. The market is dried fish, and rice. It was very about one hour from Bangkok. colorful and I took lots of photos. People here live on klongs or canals • There was even one boat brimming and travel by small boats from one with durian fruit, the most infamous destination to another. The local fruit in all of Asia. I saw many signs market is on the water where in Thailand saying no durian vendors in boats sell everything you allowed. People say that a ripe could want. We arrived early so we durian tastes something like a could enjoy the market before it gets banana but it smells terrible, like too hot. We arrived at the market Limburger cheese. I don¹t think I and hired a boat and driver so we want to try one. could wander among the klongs. The waterways were crowded with boats paddled by women with their unique wide brimmed Thai style straw hats for sun protection. The boats were laden with all sorts of things to sell from beautiful orchids to fruits and vegetables. Floating Market Bangkok Day Three • It was interesting to see life along the Once, the only way to get there from klongs. Many children waved to us as Bangkok was a trip of several weeks on they paddled to school on the narrow elephant back or an exhausting river waterways. We looked inside one journey. In the late 1920¹s a railroad was school, which had its doors wide open, built, but today it is only a one-hour flight and we could see young children by air. reciting the Thai alphabet. We passed•a Chiang Mai is known for its slower way of wat and we could see monks in their life. We rode on a bicycle pulled cart orange robes sitting on the floor through the city to visit the handicraft humming in unison. A small boat came areas. One area makes lacquerware; alongside in which the driver cooked us another produces big, brightly colored some delicious Thai noodles, or Phad paper umbrellas. We visited silk weavers Thai. and I saw silk moth larvae being fed special leaves. When they got big • The next morning we left exciting enough, they would begin spinning their Bangkok for a visit to northern Thailand silk cocoons. In another part of town we and the slower paced city of Chiang Mai. watched silversmiths hammer out bowls Chiang Mai was once the capital of a that look as thin as tissue paper. We kingdom called Lanna or “Land of the visited a Thai celadon pottery factory. Million Rice Fields”. Celadon bowls are light green or blue in color and they have a cracked glittering glaze. Day Three/Day Four • In the evening Chiang Mai has a At the camp, the mahouts or keepers night bazaar that is very interesting. train the young elephants. The elephants Hill tribe people from all around the lumber down to the river every morning area come to the market to sell their for a bath. They are like mischievous wares. Each tribe has their unique children. Sucking up trunkfuls of water to costumes. I bought some jewelry at drench their mahouts. We watched the one stand of the Karen tribe. I think older elephants demonstrate how to roll, the jewelry is made from the horn of pull and lift logs. I even got to feed a a water buffalo. My mom bought a baby elephant some bananas. quilt and a wall hanging. • The next morning we took an excursion out of town to a traditional Thai logging camp and elephant training center at Chang Dao about 40 miles away. Elephants are still used today to move teak logs from the dense jungle areas of northern Thailand to the rivers. Day Four • Our next adventure was a short trek on • A few children are playing soft music on elephant back. We took a 1 ½-hour trek bamboo flutes. On our return to the hotel through the jungle, passing through we stopped at the famous temple of Doi bamboo, mango and litchi trees as we Suthep on Suthep Mountain overlooking stomped up a jungle creek bed. I sat in a Chiang Mai. It was built in 1383 to house creaking, swaying box behind the a relic of Lord Buddha. It is said that to mahout who sat on top of the elephant find the perfect site the local King behind the ears. Along the way the released a white elephant, which walked mahout taught us how to say hello, a all the way up the mountain, circled one little, and thank you in Thai hello is spot three times, trumpeted his Sawasdee, a little is nit noi, and thank satisfaction then knelt down. A tower of you is kap khun krap. The elephant gold in the courtyard of the temple stands walked slowly through the jungle on our to this day to mark the spot. It is a festival way to visit a hilltribe village of the Lisu day and there are vendors making special people. The Lisus live in a small village foods such as banana fritters. Other with a single row of open houses. There vendors offer wicker baskets of caged is no running water or electricity. There little birds. I buy a basket with a bird and are pudgy pigs running around like pets. set the bird free for good luck. Chickens and roosters wander through the houses. Day Four Day Five • From Chiang Mai we flew to the south in the water and on the shoulders of the water of Thailand to the tropical island of buffaloes were little orange birds. Rubber Phuket. Phuket is a beautiful coral- plantations and fields of sugarcane cover large rimmed island of rolling hills and tracts of the island. jungles resting on the waters of the Andaman Sea. It is now a popular tourist attraction. The first thing I noticed as we were landing was how bright blue and clear the water was. I couldn¹t wait to go swimming! • On the way to the hotel we saw plantations of coconut trees. We watched as men urged monkeys to climb the tall trees and throw down their harvest of ripe coconut fruit. We saw rice paddies with water buffaloes standing Day Five • We arrived at our hotel which was right on the beach and I wasted no time in putting on my swim trunks and heading for the water. I swam out a short way and was amazed at the coral that was so close to the beach. Swimming around the coral were brightly colored tropical fish including angelfish and parrotfish. I ran out of the water to get my fins and snorkel and I spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the coral reefs to watch the interesting sea life including groupers, sea rays and schools of small fish of every imaginable color and shape. We feasted on seafood that evening, including huge Phuket lobster and crab. Day Six • We took a boat the next morning to • On our return to Phuket we visited see the unique limestone rock the Sea Gypsies who are Muslim formations near Phuket which were fishermen who have built their once featured in a James Bond houses on stilts on top of the water movie. The amazing green cliffs rise beyond Phuket Island. There are straight out of the sea for hundreds about 50 houses and buildings on of feet. We visited nearby sea caves stilts. and saws hundreds of swallow-like birds build their nests on rock walls on the caves. Their nests are made with the bird¹s saliva. The Thais harvest the nests of these birds to make bird nest soup, a delicacy in Thailand. Day Seven • The next few days were spent relaxing on the beach with a few visits to Phuket town and a sightseeing trip to the nearby jungle of Ton Sai National Park. It was eerie hiking in the dense jungle with waterfalls cascading into jungle pools and strange sounds of animals I couldn¹t recognize. Day Eight • We returned to Bangkok after a few days in Phuket and the following day we were on another 747 back to Seattle. • I will never forget the exotic sights, sounds and smells of Thailand. Most of all I will never forget the friendly people who always greeted me with a “wai” and the word Sawasdee or welcome to the “Land of Smiles.” TRAVEL TIPS Getting There • Getting There: The best way to get to Thailand is by using the country¹s national carrier, Thai Airways International. The airline has great package deals from locations throughout the United States. When you board Thai Airways 747 jumbo jet, it is like you are entering the country of Thailand. Airhostesses wearing traditional Thai silk dresses, which were chosen by the Queen greet you with an orchid and a “wai”; their hands folded in a prayer like gesture that bids you welcome. Where To Stay • The best hotel to stay at in Bangkok is the exotic Oriental Hotel on the banks of the Chao Phya River. There is a lot of history at this beautiful hotel originally built in 1800. It was the only hotel in Bangkok at the turn of the century and many rooms have been named after the famous authors who have visited the Oriental. Including Somerset Maughm, Joseph Conrad, Mark Twain, and Tennessee Williams. It has two swimming pools, a workout room and six restaurants. One of the restaurants has a Thai Classical Dance show. Ask for a room with a view of the river. When To Go • When to go: Thailand¹s climate is ruled by monsoons resulting in three seasons: rainy (June to October), cool and dry (November to February), and hot (March to May). There are also extremes in weather from 95degrees and humid in April to 70 degrees in December. The dry season is the best time to go from November until late April. From May to October there is a shower most mornings and sun in the afternoon, occasionally there are days of pouring rain. The cool season is from November to February. What To Wear/Local Customs • What to wear: Thais are • Local customs: Never touch a Thai¹s exceptionally friendly, polite and head or point your feet at them, this is modest. While they make considered extremely impolite. If allowances for tourists, women someone “wai¹s” to you ( greets you with should not wear shorts in public. hands together while bending their head Generally dress is informal and only down) it is proper to return the gesture. the fanciest hotels and restaurants Instead of saying Sawasdee for hello or require men to wear a jacket. goodbye, men should say Sawasdee Because of the heat and humidity of krab and women should say Sawasdee Thailand, loose clothes made of Ka. It is a small gesture but infinitely cotton and natural fabrics are best. more polite in a country that values such Bring comfortable shoes. gestures. Proper behavior is especially important at temples. You must remove your shoes before entering a wat or building that contains a Buddha image. You can sit on the floor of the wat but with legs folded under you so as not to point your toes at anyone. Women must never enter the monks¹ quarters, nor hand anything to a monk. Bibliography Bond, Jean. “The Kingdom and I.” Town and Country December1997: 190-196. Cummings, Joe Thailand A Travel Survival Kit. Victoria, . Lonely Planet, 1982. Mitchell, John. A Taste of Thailand. Hong Kong: Asia Books, 1982. “Thailand” Microsoft Encarta 98 Encyclopedia. Office 98 Macintosh Edition. 1996 Warren, William, Thailand Seven Days in the Kingdom. Singapore: Didier Millet, 1987.
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