VI, educated in England, renovated the mansion several times. He continued
the modernization with the introduction of the first indoor bath and shower
in the mansion.While photographing the paintings, the beautifully decorated
rooms, the realistic peonies and roses made by art students, my camera
suddenly announced I had filled my memory stick. Hastily deleting several
shots, I probably lost some I would have kept on closer scrutiny.
still slow in Bangkok despite the new elevated skyway. Help is
on the way as the subway opens in June, 04. We ran out of time
and missed a few sights on the agenda. That made me appreciate the
location of the Conrad: around the corner from the American Embassy and
near Lumphina Park. Also within walking distance are the shopping
stalls of Suan Lum Night Bazaar where live stage performances are held
each night. In the same vicinity is the strangely named Joe Lewis
Theatre. Joe Lewis is really Sakorn Yangkhiawsod (a fan of Joe Lewis) who
has revived the art of the meter high marionettes made of paper and wire.
Three dancers, acting in unison, manipulate the puppets. One dancer
manipulates the head and left arm, another the right arm and the third,
the legs. The puppet masters train for five year in classical dance and
a further two years in puppetry. The graceful performance of loves
lost and found lasts about an hour.
We flew to
Chiang Mai for the New Year's Festival of Songkran. What originally
began as a sprinkling of scented waters into the hands of elders as a sign
of respect has evolved into a free-for-all with pails of water and bazooka
type water pistols. This year the Chiang Mai celebration was special
as it would be the first time that it would include eight neighboring Thai
provinces as well as Yunnan in China, Burma (Myanmar), Laos and Viet Nam,
all of whom celebrate Songkran. This territory represents the Lanna
Civilization that existed 800 years ago with Chiang Mai as its capital.
emphasize the importance of this new alliance the Prime Minister, Thaksin
Shinawabin, was to be there. The riverside was festive with colorful
flags lining the streets, lanterns hanging from the trees and garlands
of red lights outlining the arch under which The Prime Minister and the
governors would arrive at the parade area.
three feet from the ceremonial arch, I nevertheless saw only the flash
of a smile above a white silk suit as the Prime Minister sailed by.
After the dignitaries arrived the parade began in a cloud of smoke, clanging
cymbals and undulating 15-foot dragons. My battery lasted through
the parade of elaborate floats and marching cultural troops, but stopped
dead before we went to the colorful exhibits in Nong Buak Hard Public Park.
There were missed photo ops of traditionally dressed representatives of
all the provinces and countries along with their handicrafts.
Not to be missed
is the Elephant Conservation Center about an hour's drive from Chiang Mai.
The center provides care and employment for the dwindling elephant population
whose forests are shrinking. We arrived at ten in order to watch the
mahouts take the elephants for a bath and then, after watching a demonstration
of working techniques for moving logs, the elephants moved into the artistic
program! In addition to elephants playing the xylophone, there were
elephant artists. The pictures were amazingly crisp and bright and I couldn't
resist buying two of them. It was quite a bargain at 500 baht as I saw
on the Internet where at a fundraiser for the Center, Christi's had sold
them for $2,000 to $3000 dollars.
We were leaving
the Center when we saw a sign, "Animal Hospital" and turned into
a clearing where three elephants stood under an enormous shed. One
large elephant has an injured foot-blown off by a land mine in Burma. The
other was a baby whose hindquarters were in a wheeled contraption.
The baby had fallen in a hole and its hindquarters are paralyzed.
The mother stood patiently beside the baby. I asked Dr. Sarvn Jansittiwate
how long they would care for the elephants. His reply, "For their
whole life." A touching example of the Buddhist reverence for life.
We had a
late lunch that day at the Four Season's Hotel. There wasn't time to
attend the open-air cooking school on the extensive grounds but the Lotus
Platter, including green papaya salad and roast duck had me making a mental
note for my next trip.
in Chiang Mai was the comfortable, older Chiang Mai Plaza Hotel, with
a large lively lobby where local talent entertained each evening. The hotel
is just a few steps from the atmospheric Burmese restaurant, Whole Earth,
and just 2 blocks to the night market where shy hill-tribe women moved
among the many stalls offering hand loomed purses and silver decorated
I decided to give up the wonders of sand and sea tours and the multiple
pools and restaurants of the Hilton's Arcadia Beach Resort when I read
in the guidebook, that "the beach services the tourists, and Phuket the
locals". As the last chapter in the digital saga I forgot to retrieve
my battery from its plug. I hate to admit that I had finally read
that the battery charger was dual voltage and all I needed was an adapter
which the Arcadia Hotel supplied. Fortunately I had my backup camera.
I found Phuket
essentially a small town (with big-box stores on the outskirts) where
almost everyone I met is a third generation Chinese-Thai whose family had
come to Phuket because of tin mining. Many original Chinese shop houses,
a blend of Chinese and European influences, still have shops below and
living quarters above. Soul of Asia, billed as "almost a museum",
is an art gallery in two beautifully restored houses and features not only
fine paintings, but also furniture and jewelry. Nearby, Antique Arts, has
many curios small enough to tuck into my overflowing suitcase. The numerous
small shops made for much more pleasant shopping than the night markets
we had visited.
two hotels that friends had raved about that I wanted to see, so we
made a quick stop at the Banyon Tree. Located on a lagoon, the very
private, super luxurious villas with pools are reached by golf cart. Lunch
was at the new JW Marriott Hotel, with numerous pools, its own private
beach and turtle release program and time-shares for fully equipped apartments.
At four o'clock
our group met at the Massage Training Center, where Dr. Pinit, who studied
and trained for 20 years at Wat Pho in Bangkok, now teaches courses that
run from 60 hours (10 days) to 800 hours (2 Years). Dr Pinit, sitting
under the small shrine dedicated to his teacher, the legendary Dr. Jivaka
Kumara, who is believed to have treated Buddha, started studying at 8 years
old with his father who had learned from his father. However his children
have chosen to be a teacher, a civil servant and an entrepreneur. "But,"
he added modestly, "I often have foreign students studying at my school
and they are charged the same price as locals."
After our massages,
which were becoming a habit, we drove out Lagoon Road to dine alfresco
at the Watermark Restaurants located in a marina adjacent to ocean going
yachts. While sampling fresh prawns wrapped in crispy vermicelli with honey-mustard
sauce, sliced banana flower salad with palm hearts and a seafood stir-fry,
we talked with Ken Brookes, an ex-pat who wears a lawyer's hat as well
as Managing Director for the tourist guide, Art and Culture. Lori
Ashton is the editor and writes often for the Bangkok Post. As
an ex-expat of Indonesia with a publishing stint similar to Lori's, I felt
the nostalgic pull of this "other life", the lure of discovery and
the compulsion to tell. It was a fitting last supper.
To eat in
Thailand would be reason enough to go back. I had had plenty
of Thai food in the states, but to dine in situ is a world apart.
Even Thai Airline served broiled salmon, black sesame rice, mushrooms carrots
and turnips in a glass casserole…in economy…along with French wines…followed
by brandy. Of course you expect excellent food at five star establishments,
but you couldn't go wrong at a fishing village near Pattaya, or a roadside
restaurant in Phuket.
And then there
are all those massages, which ranged from $8 to $70 at Spas. Despite the
food, pageantry, scenery and shopping, I was most impressed with the respect
that every Thai shows to friends and strangers. At first the palms together
wie greeting seemed just for tourists, but then I noticed they pause and
greet each other the same way.s Before starting a massage, the masseuse
gives respect to her centuries dead teacher and the guide in the Royal
Palace gives respect to the empty throne which represents the King.
At even at the Phuket Arcadia Beach Resort, tourists joined hotel employees
in a blessing ceremony, which in some small way made us feel a part of
I joined this
eight-day tour to see if I wanted to explore Thailand in depth. At first
I thought three more weeks would be enough, then a year and finally I wondered
how much time be enough. All through the trip I kept thinking of a Japanese
haiku that goes something like, "Even in Kyoto I miss Kyoto".
I felt the same way about Thailand.
camera must have done the trick. I didn't fall down once. I loved
having my photos immediately and zooming in on them later on the computer.
I haven't decided if I need more pixels and more zoom but I am definitely
a digital fan.
are the two other articles that Dorothy wrote for the magazine:
Dorothy Click Here
camera before the trip
Take battery charger
and an extra battery
Take an adapter
memory sticks-my 128 captured about 135 images
Delete as you
go along and delete carefully
Remember to retrieve
the battery charger and the battery.
If the camera
is small, keep it in the same place so you won't forget it.