OK, this is it--the last Thailand post! I am so incredibly grateful that I got to go and experience this beautiful country (thanks, Mom!).
What I'll never forget:
Ron, the best guide we could ever hope to have. He was sincere and genuine, funny and informative.
Food I did eat—water lily stems, morning glory vines (“moaning glory” on the menu), sticky rice cooked in bamboo tubes over a fire, lemongrass salad, fried coconut milk, dragon fruit, pomelo (large white grapefruit-like), rose apple, sapodilla, deep fried fava beans, taro chips, jack fruit, ivy soup, loofah, lots of curries.
Wai—traditional bowing greeting meaning hello, good-bye, thank you, sort of like aloha. Where you hold you hands means honor. Lower for greeting children and servers, nose level for those older or that you honor and forehead high for Buddha. Women say “So-wah-dee-so-ka,” Men say “So-wah-dee-so-krup.”
They say that the Chinese eat everything with four legs except table and chair.
Forms of transportation—long tail boats, ferry, Sky train, hoochie bus, motorized trikes, elephants, raft, train, “stretch limo” tractor-trucks, rice barge.
There are three men’s sizes: Small—Medium— and Liar.
Food I didn’t eat—long tail chickens (rats or star, backwards), bird’s nests (literally made of swallow spittle), black chicken, fish stomach (blown up and crunchy), dancing shrimp (real live shrimp in sauce, jumping around, Brad ate it though), jungle curry, grubs (Brad ate these too).
No barking dogs. We saw hundreds of dogs, running free, who were not in the least disturbed to see 16 tall white people in funny hats, sunglasses with packs on their backs.
At the first temple we went to Brad got a fortune that read: A baby boy forthcoming—awww.
Happy Room—to visit the happy room, you might need happy money to buy your happiness. If not, you might be shooting the rapids for men, or picking the flowers for women (going outdoors).
They adore their king—Rama IX. There are gigantic (20 foot tall) portraits of him everywhere. Every home has a whole wall of portraits, no matter how poor they are. My personal favorite one is the one on the money, the king with a camera around his neck, no crown, no throne, just a camera. You must be very respectful of the money for that reason.
The cobwebs in the rice factory was overwhelming. They leave it because it catches the rice dust.
The wise monk telling us that we needed to learn how to calm our “naughty monkey mind.”
Motorbikes everywhere—the driver often wears a helmet, but the riders (including small children don’t), and they are often barefoot too.
At the market you can buy original antiques or genuine imitations.
The giant bat flying at night as we walked to dinner. Ron said it was a "night bird." But I saw it outlined against the light--totally a bat! Mom said, “It was as big as a seagull,” and I agree.
We saw a guy carrying a giant paper Mercedes down the road to burn for his ancestors.
When Brad asked if there were tigers in the jungle, Ron said, “No tigers, just Thai-girls.”
Riding along in the purple Hoochie bus, with Thai relaxation music playing, while I stare out the window at all that verdant lush green countryside going by.
All the things we did that were “not on the program,” things that Ron wanted us to see—recycled metals, a salt farm, sawdust & glue sculptures, tapioca.
The paper lanterns for Loy Kra Tong. The night sky was amazing with them floating as far as you could see.
The iron buffalos to prepare the fields for planting rice.
The cobras in liquor bottles in Laos.
Ron kept saying that we would be stopping to “visit our cousins”--wild monkeys in the forest. He brought peanuts to bring them out to play.
When we stopped along the road to see how the tapioca grows, Sandy Santa Cruz said to me, “That’s about as exciting as watching salt.”
We were astonished by the similarities to Costa Rica—the outdoor restaurants, the schools, the vegetation, the houses, everything.
70% of prostitutes died of AIDS—this has dramatically reduced the sex trade in Thailand now.
Everybody drinks their to-go drinks from little plastic bags with a straw sticking out—no cups.
The man holding the bamboo ladder while his partner was at the top leaning way too far to work on electrical line. His shirt said, “Safety First.”
If you buy something made of wood, especially bamboo, put it in the freezer for three days when you get home. We don’t want any surprises.
The king’s older sister, the Princess, died in January. They had her funeral this weekend (10 months later). Everyone was wearing black and white for three days in her honor. She was burned in a four story crematorium, costing millions of dollars, with the whole building.
Almost all of us, including the guide, driver, and bus boy, got sick. But we trooped right through it; almost everyone made every activity, only a few missed meals. We are tough cookies.
The bathrooms, even in nice hotels, had little ankle breakers. It was about an inch high step designed to keep the evil spirits from coming in.
Almost everyone has a spirit house and they are quite serious about them, at both homes and businesses. The idea is that the land has the spirit of everyone who lived there. You put food and drinks and flowers there to convince them to stay out of your house.
Oh. my. buddha!