Porcelain and Pachyderms!

Most of the group headed for the outskirts of Bangkok today to hang around with elephants.  A few of us stayed behind so we walked out to River City to check out some stunning Thai porcelain, and then we basically just walked around Bangkok.  It’s the best way to see the real city, but man it’s hot.

If you have a few baht in your pocket, it is impossible to go hungry in this city.  There is literally food everywhere, from the upscale embassy district to dark back alleys.  The green spiky fruit is durian, but oddly Thai durians do not have the same pungent smell like the ones in Singapore and Malaysia do.  I still don’t recommend them.

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Need cookware?  Along with food, the streets are crowded with vendors selling just about anything you can imagine.  Imagine sidewalks lined with stalls such as this on both sides.  Now imagine random people charging through on motorized scooters, and you will get a sense of what “taking a walk” is like in Bangkok.

This is where Jon and I ate lunch.  This is a little food court just behind our hotel, but it is clearly a spot for locals.  There are no westerners in sight.  My lunch, with drink, cost 55 baht ($1.54 US).

This is a boat shaped temple at Wat Yannawa, just a short walk from our hotel.

Narrow, sketchy looking alleys are like a magnet to me.  I tried to get photos without being too intrusive.  People are living in tiny little houses with literally 6-8 feet of space in some cases between them and the people across the alley from them.  But people are actually running little business, selling food and drink in most cases, along these alleys.  Some people look at us a little curiously as we explore these tiny spaces, but for the most part they give us a welcoming smile and a “sawadee ka” (hello).

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Russell, the Cat Whisperer (TM) at work.  This alley was a goldmine.

Picture from the elephant tour.

Even more pictures of the elephant tour.

I now turn over the blog over to Nate Hurwitz, our roving correspondent on the River Kwai:

Nate:

At 5:15am, 12 groggy, but sorta-awake college students lumbered downstairs and into our tour vans and we were off!

First stop was the Bridge over the River Kwai. The bridge has historical significance as part of what was called The Death Railway, built by war prisoners of the Japanese during WWII.  We were told to watch out for trains as we walked out 100 meters into the middle of the bridge. Luckily none came – but if they had, there are small little platforms in the middle to step off onto to avoid… you know… The train.

Next up we were off to Erawan National Park. Where is it? Well, we didn’t really know… But close to Myanmar according to our tour guide. There were huge waterfalls and several swimming holes with bright blue water. The best part (if you ask me)? The fish were the same type that we got our feet massaged (I use this term very lightly) with, so while trying to swim, we had groups of fish following us and semi trying to eat us. At one point, Troy refused to swim back from the waterfall, requesting that we send a boat out to get him.

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Then it was off to ride the elephants! We all paired up and rode bareback with a mahout (elephant trainer) on the back of the elephant. Lots of the elephants didn’t seem phased by us being on their backs, but were rather very excited about taking detours to eat leaves off the trees.

Next, we split up on our own elephants and got into the River Kwai to bathe the elephants. After the elephants got us drenched, we headed back up, fed them bananas, changed, and we’re back on the road.

All in all, an exhausting but exhilarating day. Such large and powerful animals that are so gentle and tame. Off to sleep for me!

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