Friday, May 22, 2009

Travelers tales

Ayutthaya ruins in old Siam, originally uploaded by Paul Grand.

Last night we dinned with the old friend of Martine at her outdoor restaurant, the same French restaurant patron I'd written about in the previous funny blog last year, about the bicycle accident
As Martine and I have just returned from a months touring vacation of Thailand, she amused us again, this time with her travelers tales from her 'hippy' trip to Thailand 40 years ago.

She was staying on Phuket's Patong Beach when it was only a little fishing village and had a little rented private sleeping hut on stilts on the beach. The nearby James Bond (Man with the Golden Gun) on Phi Phi Island was yet to be filmed, and thus renamed James Bond island. She said it was then 'Paradise'. Of course there are no longer any huts on that beach at Patong, the Tsunami (or 'tiramiso' as she jokingly referred to it) swept them all away along with several thousand unlucky people..

She also visited 'Chang Mia' in the north as we did and took the generic 'Golden Triangle' walking tour of the Jungles along the borders of the joined neighboring countries and found to their mounting horror,
they were lead by a native bush guide who was continually drinking as he walked, leading them in huge circles until they'd had enough 'daja vu' for one day
and all decided to abandon him.
They left him sitting cross legged, Buddha's lotus style, on a flat rock, calling down;
"You might not like me, but I still like all of you" !

In those days as it still is now, this trip can be dangerous, at one point the inebriated guide told them all to lie down in the long grass-fast, whilst a troupe of heavily armed gorilla soldiers marched by..

Whilst traveling with a small group friends, they one day became intrigued by the thought of seeing a huge mythical glass Buddha, 300 kilometers north of where they were staying at the time.
So they all hired an old car and drove several hours along mostly unsurfaced roads to reach this Monastery of the famous glass Buddha.
Upon finally reaching this nirvana they found the temple doors locked!
After banging for what seemed like hours, a minion monk finally arrived from within and opened up temple.
He said "It's not possible to visit today, please come back tomorrow"..
Thus they all groaned and began to beg to see the relic as they had made this arduous several hour pilgrimage especially to see this mythical Chrystal Buddha.
Finally having melted the gatekeepers heart he disappeared within to speak to the head monk. A while later an elderly Monk arrived at the door with a little bungle in old newsprint.
He said they had been lucky and had been granted a little peep at the blessed icon. Whereupon he started unraveling the newspapers, finally bringing out, cupped in the palm of one hand a every small, boring glass Buddha!
Their collective hearts sank, and turned around after politely cooing 'How lovely' it was, set off back to the city and their several hour nightmare car trip in the broiling afternoon sun...

She also did a lot of traveling by train, she said in those days the sleeping bunks were at either side of the train, a passage separated the two sides and personal curtains in front of all the sleepers.
A tea server or 'Char' would walk the corridors all night with boiling hot tea, fresh leaf Green Chinese tea, quite unlike the dried green tea we find in the west.
To obtain this refreshing brew one would simply stick out ones hand holding their metal cup through the curtain for it to be refilled as many times as you wanted. She added that the trains were nice and clean.
However things change, as we read in the Thai press just last week, that the continuing Thai railway bed bug infestation was now under control and all the countries trains were in the process of being stripped and renewed in Bug repelling plastic or leather upholstery.
Thankfully we chose not to cross Thailand by train but gleaned the information while cruising in air conditioned, bug free comfort at a height of several thousand meters!


Glen Goffin said...

That is a stunning piece. True fine art photography. Breathtaking really. And what a wonderful journey. Thank you for sharing it with us :)

Steve Law said...

Once again, what is probably little more than a tourist destination for most of us is here restored to something of the majesty and presence it deserves.

But is that The Gherkin I see in the background? I have to say it looks a lot more in keeping here than in the London skyline

paulgrand said...

Lol, Steve, My brother in Law works in that very same Gherkin, so I wont hear a word said against it!
And besides, I'm still itching for an invite to dine with my camera, on the top floor restaurant! :-)

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