In today's discussion of the last few days of her trip, she talks about what she did while waiting for her plane to Japan:
Between Bangkok and Narita, Japan I had a regular ticket. Kate and Lane were travelling standby and decided to head out on the first plane that they could get seats. This left me in Bangkok for an extra day so I went on a cooking tour of the country.
[Image = Stalls at local food market.]
A rough and portly man came to the hotel; he was jovial and seemed to enjoy his job. I was one of 5 - all of us English speaking. We travelled to yet another enormous food market and after doing a tour, were left to explore for 20 minutes on our own. The vendors were very kind about letting us take photos and we snapped away at delicacies such as live frogs (enormous ones!) eels, snakes, mountain rats, dried sting ray, shark fins and other gourmet delights. I would have liked to have tried a lot of stuff, but there was no time. I bought some jellied candies which were tasty and very sweet and we pressed on.
[Image = What I believe to be live snakes.]
The country here is much like Holland - I'm told. Many canals, once used for travel and commerce, criss cross the plains giving life to such a variety of things: rice, lotus, herbs, cactus, fruits, and so on thrive. In the country, life is much as it is in any farming area, except for the herds of skinny cattle blocking the road from time to time.
[Image = River craft at dockside]
At an historic temple a Chinese water raft was still in use and we hired the elderly boatman to take us down the canal to a Chinese settlement - perhaps 1000 years old. This was one of the first open markets and the Chinese inhabitants are descendents of the original settlers in the area. The boat was a flat barge covered with a bow-shaped canopy. It was cool inside. We had to be very careful getting in as it was very awkwardly balanced - at least for us! The boatman was in his 70's. A proud, handsome man and rail thin, he wore a traditional bamboo hat and was barefoot. As the first one in the boat, I sat looking up at him. He would not meet my gaze and I wondered what he thought of the "big noses" he had to ferry in a boat that belonged to a much more meaningful past.
His hands and feet had been altered by time to conform to the workings of the boat. His hands were broad and powerful, his feet bare and bent in an awkward position - perhaps from steering; perhaps he was born that way. I wanted to photograph them but didn't want to be rude. People in Thailand believe strongly in Karma and I wondered about his and mine.
[Image =Boatman navigative local canal.]
He dropped us off at the old Chinese settlement about a mile down the canal. After the others were safely off the raft, I put my hand on his shoulder, discreetly gave him a large tip, and thanked him for his time. He looked at me then. I didn't know if the was grateful or sad... but I hope he appreciated the gesture.
The Chinese market was a great piece of history. Almost abandoned as a place of commerce, it is still home to many families. We walked down the deserted passageway of stalls. A couple of vendors sold household goods and the barber was busy. Both he and his client smiled and waved pleasantly as we wandered by. It was as if they were part of a strange museum display. Again, I wondered what they thought of US. Tourism is Thailand’s biggest industry, it seems. Strange to have your private life be a part of a "tour". With all the young people leaving to go to school and work in the cities, these places are disappearing fast.
On the walk back down the canal, a lady and her daughter were prepared to receive us in their lovely, private home. We took off our shoes, accepted fresh coconuts with straws in them, and cold cloths for our faces. It was such a relief to be cool! Truly, I have rarely experienced such heat and it made me wonder how they could have fought for so long in Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam.
[Image = Lynn preparing food.]
In an outdoor cooking area, we had an impromptu cooking class. This dear lady taught us how to prepare coconut milk soup, pad Thai, and sweet pickle salad. Then she ushered us into her grand old home to enjoy the meal in her dining room. I think this was one of the highlights of my trip. Around the table we random travelers were now able to greet each other. The American couple are sign language teachers and are here in Thailand for a conference. The two ladies were mom and daughter, from Tasmania, travelling for fun. And then, there was me. This was my first all English-speaking tour and it's so obvious that the inability to communicate with people is a sad barrier. No wonder there are so many misunderstandings between countries. Language, religion, and politics tear us apart... and yet, we really are all the same. Perhaps THIS is what the real future of the internet is: a way to help us understand each other.
[Image= Interior, orchid farm]
An orchid farm on the way home was interesting. Orchids are beautiful parasites! They can be attached to trees by tying them to the trunk until the roots grow into the bark. There were many varieties in this massive, fabric-covered operation. They are started by placing tiny cuttings into long, clear, square bottles in which a jelly-like growing compound provides a base and nourishment. The bottles are set out on long racks and are tended to until the baby orchids are big enough to roll into tiny slices of coconut husk. These are then placed in trays and put into the greenhouse where fans and sprayers keep everything moist and fresh. The initial growth process takes a few months. The tiny individual plants are monitored and kept sterile. Flowering doesn't occur for about 2 years so, the plants we casually buy in the grocery store have quite a history.
[Image = Workers at orchid farm]
It took hours to get back to the hotel. Bangkok in rush hour is the worst of places to be. If you think it's slow in (pick a North American city), Bangkok gets a prize! It took almost as much time to get back to the hotel as it did to get to the outskirts of the city. Next time, I'll take the train!
Tomorrow: the first leg home.
- It seems odd that Katie and Lane would leave Lynn to her own devices knowing how bored she gets until. of course, you consider what a pain in the ass she must be as a traveling companion.
- She doesn't seem to have picked up on the fact that we can see right through lines like "I would have liked to tried some but there was no time."
- As for cattle blocking the road being a shock, she doesn't seem to get how stupid that makes her sound.
- She's doing a poor job of disguising the fact that she's on a prepaid tour and that she feels disappointed that Thailand wasn't what she thought it was.
- She is starting to wonder what the people around her think of her; that's sort of a good sign. Too bad she sort of sabotages herself by wondering why the Indochina war lasted so long given how hot and sticky it is there and not getting that the world isn't supposed to be what she expects it to be.
- It seems odd that talking to English-speakers finally seems to have made her realize the possibilities of the Internet but since she's behind the curve, it's not much of a shock. She did have fun at the cooking class, though.
- What I initially found really odd is how she seems to be bang dead with her take on the orchid farm; when I realized she's quoting from a brochure, my confusion went away.
- She next discusses congestion and how her next post will be all about her impressions of the airport as she makes her way to Japan.