Riding Tigers: REPORT #6
|October 22, 1999, Bangkok Thailand by Margaret|
We are now one month "on the road." The trip is great, as you can see from Keel's travel-log.
Thailand is impossible to describe in its entirety, as would any diverse land. After one month, I am impressed by the yin and yang of the country. Indeed, among its many splendorous, Thailand seems to be a land of dramatic contrasts. The people have such a gentle nature and most that we have met are very friendly and inviting. The practice of Buddhism and the culture's spirituality seems to take place daily and publicly all around us. Though I am still gathering my "notes" and impressions, it strikes me as remarkable that in the midst of such a seemingly happy people that there is an attitude fiercely resistant to change. Of course, it is human nature to be adverse to change, but some of the stories, though anecdotal, hint at a true dark side of the culture. In the upper echelons of the business world the corruption holds fast. One Thai said that this country would never truly recover from its economic crisis because they don't want to change their strategies or try anything new or that would cause them to "lose face." I spoke with one young Thai photographer at length who wants to capture this land of contrasts, honoring both its traditions and its struggles. It will be interesting as the new generation comes to power on the heels of economic crisis and on the wings of the new millenium -- what will Thailand look like in 25 years...Another great example of this contrast is the ceremony and practice of kick-boxing. Before each match, an elaborate ceremony/ritual is played out by the opponents where they honor each other and wear garlands of flowers, etc. Five minutes later they are kicking the hell out of each other.
Anyway, my intention is not to conduct a philosophical nor political discussion, but to open a window to internet travelers on part of the view not described in the guide books.
We are in Bangkok for the weekend, having spent some 3 weeks in Isaan exploring the most important of the Khmer ruins. If you make it to this area, it is worth the extra effort and extra day or two to try to find your way to Khao Phra Wihaan (many different spellings), the site that is actually in Cambodia, but only accessible from the Thai border (due to its being precariously balanced on a 1000 meter cliff). Keel and I can officially say we've been in Cambodia now. We crossed the border (having stayed in a hotel in Si Saket) and only had to show our passports. We had hired a driver to take us -- he was a funny guy who had just enough English to be dangerous, and unlike most Thais, spoke VERY LOUDLY! He was trying to relay some information about pick-pockets or something near the ruins, but because he couldn't really explain himself, and one of the few English words he knew was "gun," we began to get very nervous thinking that perhaps this excursion was not such a good idea. It was, in the end, a trip highlight, and I recommend it to all. In hindsight, perhaps our driver had seen one too many American cop TV shows and chose this as a way to try to communicate with us. Though we were fully expecting to be met by AK-47s upon our arrival, Khao Phra Wihaan is a beautiful sanctuary that once must have been a very peaceful place for worship as the expanse of countryside unrolls for miles below its highland perch.
Five days staying in the area of Khao Yai National park were great! Though Keel has commented on our feelings about our lodgings, the park itself was exciting and beautiful. It was a real pleasure to be out of the cities and into the country. I spotted a Malaysian sun bear quite by accident as we were scanning the trees for gibbons. In fact, truth be told, when I saw it I thought it was a gibbon. But much to our delight it was a bear -- not an easy park inhabitant to see. Exciting for me especially as I've never seen a bear in the wild before! And me, coming from Maine where the black bears rule! Had to come all the way to Thailand to see a bear... go figure.
So, we stay a few days at our favorite hotel, the Atlanta. Its the end of October and already we can see that business at the hotel is picking up. Many more farangs at the pool and in the dining room. We were lucky that some Australians (Paul and Melissa) that we had just briefly met at the hotel a month ago happened to be passing through this weekend too. Actually, today they fly to Madras(India) to tour the south and do some sightseeing and surfing! They have been in the north of Thailand and passed on some good tips about Chiang Mai and treks. Also they had visited Laos and absolutely loved it and were sorry that they only had 10 days to spend there. We have not yet heard one negative thing about Laos. We'll be there soon! Anyway, cheers to Paul and Melissa on their way into the stew of India!
Keel and I are beginning to stretch our wings and strike out on our own to give each other some space. Its not normal to be with each other each and every day, so we are trying to find creative ways to tolerate it and to get some alone time. We have only once had to use the "gizmo" since we instituted it about 3 weeks ago. I played it when I just had to have a fresh, raw salad and went to TGI Fridays for lunch here in Bangkok the other day. I am such a rabbit, salad eater back home that I have been missing my greens! Anyway, you could not be more ON the beaten path than going to such an establishment, so the gizmo was played. Now Keel gets to wield it's power!
Off to Chiang Mai on Monday. More from the road as we continue our tiger ride. Oh, by the way, we did see some tiger tracks at Khao Yai!
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