Sunday, 27 October 2013

Bites Bonking Boats and a Buddha

What a dreadful night.  My bites were itching terribly.  I convinced myself that the little beasties were in my bed.  To try and relax (and to give the also suffering Hubby a break) I took the well-thumbed Saga puzzle magazine and pen to the bathroom. I avoided self-garrotting by ducking under the pull-out washing line which held our fast-drying undies (still wet!!)  Climbing into the empty bath, I searched for a puzzle that was within my limited brain capacity.  Ah, a word search.  Boring but necessary.  

For over an hour I sat looking for words related to food and suchlike.  I tried a sudoku - the last one - messed it up good and proper.  Didn't even have space to re-write it.  Eventually the anti- histamine kicked in.  Bleary eyed I returned to bed, looking forward to some sleep before the alarm.

Except an alarm of a different sort started from the room above.  Oh it was embarrassing.  Bonkety bonk.  On and on.  Oh, hurry up and get on with it.  I need my sleep.  Silence.  Ah good.  Oh no!! They've started again.  Is Roger Rabbit up there?? Yes,yes, ye-esss!!! Hurrah.  Now we can all get some shut-eye.

Dragging myself to breakfast, the dour expressions of the two staff did nothing to lift my spirits.  Neither did the very standard, plain breakfast.  Little effort had been used to display the food.  The employees just stood watching, arms BT their sides. No offer of drinks or escorting us to our table.  4 star it is not. A rethink on grading is needed here.  

The car, driver and guide, on the other hand, are top notch.  They took us to some great places.

Tiptoe through the tulips.  Maybe not, but we did have to tread carefully to avoid the water in the fruit and veg market.  The stalls outside used flowers, fruit and veg to create gifts for the temple or as special arrangements.  One might be used to propose.  That had a banana on it (Ahem!). Another was to try and make amends when you had done or said something to offend.  If I have, please accept it.  If you have, please feel free to print it off and send it on.

All manner of fruit and veg were on display.  Hubby was rapturous.  I was impressed.  Once or twice, a worker 'Whistled a Happy Tune' as he wanted to get by with his handcart.  Ah, that reminds me.  'The King and I' is banned over here.  The Thai Government believed it did not give a true representation of their king who was well respected.  Also, they believed the main characters should have been Thai nationals.  Guess I shan't be impersonating Deborah Kerr today then.  Hubby does a good impression of Yul Bryner - at least in the head department. (Oh he will kill me if he reads this bit!!)

  We should have visited the Royal Palace today.  We requested a change of venue, owing to the little change in our pocket and to stretch our budget further.  The guide suggested a visit to Wat Po Temple.  We shall be forever indebted to her as this was a highlight of our trip.  Both our breaths were taken away at the sight of the enormous, reclining Buddha.  Made with cement and covered with gold leaf it was 43 metres long and 15 metres high. We were dwarfed by it.  

At the Buddha's 3 metre tall feet was an ornate screen, inlaid with mother-of-pearl.  I was reminded of a dear friend in England who had some great craft ideas for abalone.  She would have loved this.

In another section of the temple, our guide pointed out inscriptions and diagrams, carefully inscribed on walls.  The people of Thailand had many massage techniques kept secret in their families until a king encouraged them to share their knowledge in this way.  I took a few photos to try out later.

I was re-introduced to an old friend of mine in the courtyard.  I had written about him many years ago in Junior school.  He had a fascinating life.  Here he was as a statue.  Now I stood next to him.  Who was he?  Our guide introduced him as 'Mark Op Oh Low'.  Have you twigged yet?  I will tell you at the end. 

Along with the Big Buddha there were over a thousand other images, made of various elements and in a range of poses.  Monuments decorated with porcelain flowers towered over us.  Another tower was erected for the ordinary people to bring their relatives' ashes.  A Bodhi tree, created from the original tree where Buddha gained enlightenment added to the spiritual atmosphere.  We loved it.

At the main part of the temple, we were given little bags for our shoes.  A good job too as there was a shoe thief around today.  One poor chap was hopping mad as his best Nike trainers had disappeared.  I am glad I had my shoulders covered.  The fluorescent green robes they loaned would have done nothing for my complexion.  

I did begin to look a similar colour as we took a ride along the river in a brightly decorated boat.  It was rather choppy.  We stopped for a lady to row across.  She tried to sell me a peculiar hat that turned into a fan.  No fan-q!

Further along the river, by the side of a temple, we broke bread.  Not in a religious way.  Just to feed the protected (and very greedy) catfish.  

We turned around and were speedily returning when the driver suddenly cut the engine.  I was worried.  What was happening.  It turned out he had just spotted a river monster.  Being from the land of mythical sea horses, we were sceptical but, there it was!  A large creature with a turtle's head.  I could not get my iPod out quick enough.  In a flash it had gone.  The boatman said we were very lucky people to see it.  We thought so too.  We have been to Castle Urquhart on many occasions and have never sighted Nessie!!

So, from one boat to another.  I've never been able to do the splits.  At college they tried to help by bouncing me down between two benches.  That didn't work.  Today I almost achieved it.  Standing on the edge of our boat, I stretched one leg up to the side of the restaurant boat.  A rippling wave chose that precise second to separate the two crafts.  'Hoy,' shouted fhe waiter.  'Hee,' I replied as together we facilitated a most ungainly landing.  Definitely no piping onboard today.  It was like the landing of a giant whale.  Flobberlops.  Hubby had a similar experience.  I watched him wince and feared a return to a surgeon was imminent.  A hip and a hip and he was almost as right as rain.

It certainly didn't prevent him from walking to the buffet table a few times.  Once more our eyes and stomachs feasted on delicious local dishes.  Oh, the bread cobs rivalled my favourite Cromarty morning rolls.  I must admit to lathering them in butter and savouring every last mouthful.

After lunch we were taken to a gem factory.  Here we were presented with a free soft drink and shown into a small cinema for the obligatory film.  Needless to say, it was not a comedy.  The doors opened and we were taken to the workshops to observe  how the gems were cut and fitted.  Very clever.  

Afterwards we walked around the shop, closely followed by a little lady making encouraging noises in a vain attempt to persuade Hubby to buy his oh-so-deserving wife an oh-so-beautiful piece.  How do you tell someone oh-so-politely that we were only here for the film and the free drinks??  At last we escaped, joining our guide for an oh-so-delicious coffee which just happened to be oh-so-free.  

We requested some free time to search the shops.  We were dropped off at the local shopping mall with map, instructions and a telephone number in case of emergency.  It did cross my mind that our guide had been alerted of our navigation skills!!

The mall reminded us of Meadowhell back home.  It even had a Boots!  I was grateful to see that as I had left my flight socks at home.  Knocking a nought off and dividing by three became quite taxing.  Prices seemed inflated after the bargains in Cambodia.  We bought a couple of items then headed for the Sky Train.

The ticket vendor must have thought I was a mute as I passed my note through the opening.  It was supposed to say, in Thai, 'Two tickets to Salaaming please.'  Our guide may well have written, 'another two daft Brits wanting to get to Salaaming' because the vendor replied in perfect English. 'That will be 50 baht.  Take these coins to that machine for your tickets.'  

No problem.  Tickets dispensed we went in search of the platform.  A kind lady sweeper said,'Just up those stairs.'  A train was in.  I waved my ticket in front of the guard.  'Yes,yes.  Jump on quick.'  The doors closed behind us and we were away.  It was a most pleasant journey, spoiled only by a posh elderly Brit who was rather drunk.  He was leering at a shy Thai lady, telling her what beautiful eyes she had.  Thankfully she was left in peace when he departed at the next station.  He was about to get a piece of my mind, and not a nice piece.

Back at the hotel we had plenty of time to prepare for our evening's entertainment.  In best bib and tucker - or in my case the harem pants from Vietnam.  Oh yes, wait till you see them! -   we caught a tuk-tuk with our guide.  We love this mode of transport.  Tonight it took on another guise.  It was like playing a game of 'sardines' as we were tightly packed into the tiny vehicle.  None of us were exactly on the slim side.  Still, no one could have tagged us if they wanted to play because we were so speedy.

We arrived at our destination.  There was a short walk through a well-illuminated walkway, full of shops and eateries.  Climbing a few stairs, we were asked to remove our shoes.  Handing them over, the attendant gave Hubby a numbered key in exchange.  Was that wise?  Entering through a curtain, we beheld a room full of tables for dwarves with a stage at one end.  Hubby's face fell.  He had already suffered a near dislocation on the boat today.  This would just about finish him off.  After a short discussion we realised that the seating was cleverly disguised.  We did not have to sit cross-legged after all.  Under the table was a deep drop where your legs could dangle.  Mine did.  Normal sized ones reached the floor.  Getting into place was somewhat troublesome for Hubby.  Laid on his back, feet forward, he shuffled in.  Like a Commando in reverse.  He HAS been trained!  

The waiter arrived and took our order.  We had quite enjoyed a cocktail beginning with M on previous nights.  There was only one starting with that letter.  It must be that, so we chose two. When delivered we remarked how pretty it looked with an orchid and piece of lime as decoration.  Something  was different though.  This was pink.  The other had been green.  Perhaps they used different food colouring here.  We drank it anyway.  Then I remembered.  This was a Mai Tai. The other was a Mojito.  Nothing like travel to educate the mind. 

Our waiter brought forth a tray of dishes. Instead of passing them over, he clambered in front of us on his knees in a servile pose.  Keeping his head lower than ours, we were served as though royalty.  I took the role of royal taster and noted that his Lordship had been served shrimps.  I explained that he did not eat fish.  'No feesh.  Iz shrimp.' That's shellfish.  'No feesh.  Iz shrimp.'  We changed tack.  No eat shellfish.  No eat fish.  Success.

Bring on the dancing girls.  Dressed in all the colours of the rainbow, in costumes studded with gold and coloured crystals, they demonstrated traditional moves before performing a few well known Thai dances.  Same, same but different.  I loved the parasol number and thought I might give it a go later with my umbrella.  

Show over, we collected our shoes.  Hubby did not lose the key.  Phew.  Hubby and our guide walked quickly ahead.  I meandered.  'Hello lady.  Like your trousers,' said a shopkeeper.  I told him sorrowfully I would like another pair but had not seen any in Thailand.  Quick as a flash, he produced several pairs.  Like Goldilocks I checked them over.  Too heave.  Wrong colour.  Just right.  Some minor haggling and Hubby was called back.  'Mr David.  Your lady love , she want buy.'  And buy I did. 

No squeezing into the tuk-tuk on the way home.  Our guide left us in peace.  Back at the hotel I completed the day with our last two coffee sachets from home.  As we drank I read the hotel's charge list for items in the room.  Flying pan.  Yes, flying pan!! I searched all over.  Ours must have spread its wings and taken off!!

And so our last full day with the tour company ended.  It had been such fun.  We could not thank Sarah aka Land Lady enough for her fine organisation.  Off course, our adventures will continue.  I may not always have time to write every day but, like a good Girl Guide, I will do my best.  Night night.  

Oh, I almost forgot.  Mark Op Oh Low.  Give yourself ten points if you worked out it was Marco Polo, the famous explorer!!!

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