Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Thailand: A Cultural Exploration in the New World

"I drift like a cloud, across these venerable eastern lands, a journey of unfathomable distances, an endless scroll of experiences..."
- Tom Carter - 

As a first-time traveler in any place, my sister and I saw to it that we tried to learn a history and culture of the place. In as much as we wanted to cramp everything to see and do; however, it could not always be possible. We would leave some things unexplored for another time and would give us a reason to come back. After sight-seeing the ancient Wats in Thailand, we continued to explore the new Thailand. This included the summer palace in Bang Pa-in, the Grand Palace in Bangkok, the colorful floating market, and watched a Thai cultural show to wrap up the trip. 
The summer palace has an impressive well-manicured lawn. There are structures within the property that resembled architectural styles from different parts of the world. 
The summer palace is used occasionally by current day Majesties King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX) and Queen Sirikit as a residence and for holding receptions and banquets. 
One interesting structure is the Ho Withun Thasana. "Ho" means tower and "Thasana" means the sages' lookout. According to history, this observatory has been built by King Chulalongkorn in 1881 as a lookout tower for viewing the surrounding countryside. Visitors are allowed to climb to the top of the tower. There's a spiral and sturdy staircase inside. You just need to leave your shoes outside and walk barefoot inside. It is a must-try because it gives you a bird's eye-view of the entire palace grounds. 
There is a lot of foot traffic in this place. There are so many tourists as far as your eyes can see. You have no choice but to share your photo op with another tourist behind, beside, or in front of you. 
Modest clothing must be observed within the palace grounds. Shorts and sleeveless were not allowed. We had met a Japanese guy who was with us in the van, he was wearing shorts and the guide told him to don his long pants right there and then in the car. He was perplexed and asked "Right now?" and the guide told him "Yes". He must had been embarrassed because my sister was seated beside him. 
When I think of Thailand, I imagine floating markets so we made sure to make it a part of our itinerary before we flew out of Bangkok. We were not disappointed, it was full of life and character. We were told that there were fewer boat vendors during our trip because it was a holiday. There were less fruit vendors who would have made the market all the more colorful. I didn't personally like the boat ride on the way to the market, but it was an experience to say the least. Every time it was a duo travel with my sister and I, we would meet kindred spirits of girl travelers too. It was during this trip that we met two Manila ladies and "what a small world" after all, one of the ladies knew a work colleague of my sister. I now conclude that this is my sister's TRAVEL before she gets hitched this year. 
On the way to the floating market, we had to stop in one place that offers an elephant ride at the river. We waited for the Korean tourists while we, who opted out from it, took photos around the place. 
Lucky of us to be in town when it was the Songkran Festival (Water Festival & Thai New Year). We just knew when we arrived in Bangkok and such we had not planned it out well. Nevertheless, at least we had a brief experience of this Thai festival when we were water-sprayed while walking on the streets. It was during this festival that you would see people bringing big water guns and you would fear not much for your life, but for your non water-proofed gears. 
There was a parade at the floating market. We saw how the Thais venerated their water god. 
Last two stops before we call it a day and had to hurry back to the city proper for last minute shopping. We went to the Samphran Elephant Zoo and watched a quick show. The elephants knew some tricks here and there. It was fun to watch, but I felt sad for these elephants. 
Our last day in Bangkok was the Pacquiao-Bradley fight. We didn't get the chance to watch it coz' we were on the road the entire day; however, we had a chance to watch a traditional Thai martial arts, Muay Thai. We ended our day with other cultural presentations depicting of the Thai tradition when celebrating a wedding, festivities after a wedding, and the other forms of combat. 

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