Monday, June 15, 2009



Well now that I have completely failed to keep up with my blog, I suppose there is no pressure on me anymore! Lucky for all of you, I am now stuck at work where I have copious amounts of free time.

So here is Thailand:

Thailand was stunning. Imagine elephant rides, ancient ruins, and beheaded Buddhas all mixing together for five amazing days. The first day was spent at an elephant village in Pattaya. We watched the elephants haul logs, play basketball, and eat bunches of bananas straight from our hands! Some students rode them into the nearby pond for their daily bath, but I chose to stay dry on my elephant ride. Let me just say that elephants are much wider than horses. They are also taller. Picture, if you will, a tall, really white girl attempting to drag herself on top of an elephant (and actually succeeding with the help of the elephant!). Now unlike riding horses, you sit on an elephant’s neck instead of its back. Even on the neck you feel like your legs have been dragged into the splits. There is nothing to really hold on to and every step of the elephant makes you worry about the plummet to the ground. Was it one of the best experiences of my life? Of course it was! After we left the elephant village, my friend Alicia and I spent the rest of the evening relaxing in Laem Chabang. Well there isn’t much to do in Laem Chabang. We hung out at the mall and cooked our own dinners at a restaurant called Hot Pot. After that we made new friends while drinking beer with the cabbies that were camped out on the pier. It was a good day.

The second day had my small tour group leaving for the River Kwai. I had never really thought about WWII in terms of Thailand before and this was a learning experience. We took a bus to a small town where we ate lunch in a jungle restaurant. None of us really knew what to expect when, after lunch, we were taken to the local train station. Now the Death Railway was built by 60,000 POWs from Allied countries. The Japanese wanted the railroad to stretch to Burma and help in the Pacific war efforts. 16,000 POWs died while building the railway. One of the faculty members on our trip found the train ride very emotional as her own father had been one of the POWs. It was an amazing journey that ended after the train crossed the re-built bridge over the River Kwai.

On the third day we had some new surprises. We were taken to the banks of the river and put into small boats in groups of 4-6. The boat ride was beautiful and our tour guide “Witty” made sure we had a good time. We got off the boats at the river entrance to the JEATH War Museum. This museum was designed as a replica of the huts that the POWs lived in. The name JEATH comes from the countries that were involved (Japan, England, Australia and America, Thailand, and Holland). Following our visit to the museum we went to the cemetery that held only a fraction of the POWs. That afternoon we took a bus to Ayutthaya, the former capitol of Siam. We visited some of the ruins and climbed to the top of the pyramid-like temples. All the Buddhas were in ruins missing anything from an arm to a head. Despite this destruction, the ruins were unbelievably beautiful.

My tour group spent most of the fourth day wandering through the ruins of Ayutthaya. We went to various sites of old temples and destroyed buildings. I bought a travel-sized wooden Buddha to come back on the ship with me for good luck! We continued on to Bang Pa In, the Summer Palace of the kings of Thailand. It was a beautiful mixture of Eastern and Western styles. There were elephant topiaries next to a Thai pavilion across from a traditional Western palace. That afternoon we went into Bangkok to do some shopping, but it wasn’t nearly as memorable as the rest of the day had been.

I decided to go back to Bangkok for my last day in Thailand. I was very lucky and the trip I signed up for went to Wat Po, home of the most amazing reclining Buddha in the world. He is the largest Buddha in Thailand and is 152 feet long with mother-of-pearl feet and gold plating. I really cannot describe this Buddha at all, but I promise to put up photos! After going to Wat Po my group took a refurbished rice barge down the Chao Phraya River and ate a delicious lunch while watching the city go by. After lunch we visited a fish market and then took a bus to Vimanmek Palace. Imagine a Victorian palace made completely out of teak. It is no longer used as a residence, but as a demonstration of Thai culture. That evening we returned to Laem Chabang and the ship. I was sorry to leave Thailand behind me, but I felt like my time there could not have been better spent. Besides, if there is one thing that Semester at Sea taught me, it is that there is always another port on the horizon

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