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Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Siam : Of Smiles & Snarls

Why I love Thailand

The Land of Smiles

You just have to stand there and you'll drool all over yourself. I love strolling the sidewalks because there's always so much food everywhere! The smells, the colors.... man Thailand's street food are to DIE FOR! I always end up with more than I can handle (like the Chinese say 'wide eyes narrow stomach'). MMmmmm..... these pork-sicles are so god damn yummy I can smell them by just looking at this picture. Aiyoh... torture la...

And then, there's my favorite shopping place, the Prathunam market. Here, I enjoy local prices, unlike the other more commercialized markets like Jatujak.

The best hotel there is to stay in Bangkok if you're a Prathunam fan like me. Rooms are great, affordable rates, with the market next door, wholesale departmental store right opposite and more markets behind, it's the best bet! Also, only a 10-min walk away to the fancier malls on Sukhumvit like Siam Paragon and Central.
Nice things don't always come expensive. In Thailand you're opportuned to shop smart. And the choices, an endless string of creative merchandize. There's this place a showgirl finds everything she can dream of and imagine wearing on-stage. From ready-made costumes and accessories to those I want custom-made to my size and style. Fabulous.

These Thai tailors are like machines! They can get costumes made in 2-3 days. For the price I pay and the workmanship I get, there's no place like Thailand for the showgirl.

I think the Thais are a terribly creative clan of human beings. Their cultural and religious heritage inspires such grand architectural designs, even the smaller elements make beautiful ID design details, like this roof figurine called chofa . So there you go, the chofa it is, for our table tops!

But what I'm most fond of, for reasons I don't quite know but definitely deeper than just beauty alone, is the garuda. I got my stars read before I left for Myanmar and funny how I was told to always pay homeage to the garuda - you know, offer jasmine flowers & water - and wish for anything in my heart. Cosmic huh.... I always find myself attracted to this peculiar half bird half animal creature.
Well, the garuda it is, for the front of our JapaMala lobby. As a symbol of peace.

The doggies' 'Mother Theresa' in Chiang Mai's night bazaar.

Dogs are virtually every Thai's favorite pet. I have great respect for them; for their love and compassion shown to even stray dogs.

The Thais' sense of devotion, loyalty and deep respect for their King, religion and elephants.

We were caught in a flash flood on one of our drives up to Northern Thailand. We were stuck in a massive massive jam for hours but these passer-bys kept me so engaged I forgot how long we were stuck there for.

His Majesty King Chulalongkorn is my favorite Thai King of all times. Rama V came to the throne at the age of 16 and died as one of Siam's most loved and revered kings, after a remarkable reign of 42 years. Modern Thailand may be said to be a product of the comprehensive and progressive reforms of his reign, for these touched almost every aspects of Thai life.
My interest for Rama V was sparked by the movie. Needless to mention the amount of times I've watched it, it remains as my favorite musical till today. (I still watch it once in a while by the way.... LOVE IT.)

Thailand has such diverse peoples. I love the hilltribes from the entire Golden Triangle and am crazy crazy crazy for hilltribe fabric, antique jewellery, ethnic outfits, Hmong patchwork bags and just anything and everything from the tribe culture.

There's this special place I often go to in Chiang Mai that's strewn with tapestries, woven in indigenous garb and rainbow-hued handicrafts. Being there is bliss and should there be hostility in my veins at that time, it would've been usurped by a joyful spendthrift gleam.

I've literally crossed path with peoples of sorts in Thailand - really, from hilltribe farmers to Hollywood superstars.

Chiang Mai - I was walking around the Warorot Market while the filming of soon-to-release Hollywood movie 'An American Gangster' was going on. Guess who I bumped into?

Why I don't

The Land of Smiles turned my smile into a snarl for the very first time.
On one trip to Bangkok recently, we decided to take a day to enjoy the city like a real tourist. So we went on a river tour to see life along the Chao Phraya river.

A trip along the Chao Phraya river takes you to many attractions, one is the Snake Farm about 35 minutes from Wat Sai Floating Market. Turns out to be more than just snakes, you'll find some reptiles, gibbons, a couple of bears and a tiger. Yes, bears and tiger... left to live behind bars in the most atrocious and horrific state, probably for the rest of their lives.

I knew I'd be even more fired up if I watched the snake show that was about to begin in a few minutes. I knew more or less what to expect as snakes are usually teased, aggravated, milked for their venom and handled roughly by showmen. Well, I stuck around nonetheless....
Sure enough, my skipper had to drag me out before we got dragged out.

Ok, apart from the usual absurd stints with a king cobra, a monocle cobra and a rat snake plus the usual photo session after each stint, what pissed me majorly off here was when a mangrove snake was swung in the air like how a cowboy swings his lasso. For whatever reason , this is sick. This much I understood. I was stunned, lost for words, only swear words. He then landed the snake roughly on the floor in a quick gliding motion. The snake seemed a little less aggressive by then, I guess a sign of disorientation. By then, I was fuming enough to kick the guy in the face.
Seemingly testing my patience, this guy continued to pick up the mangrove snake with his mouth. Gripping it by the neck, he paraded around with a schmuck look I could so totally slap.
I signaled to skipper that we should leave.

As we walked away, I sneered at both the 'performers' and the (cheering & applauding) audience. How could anyone be celebrating cruelty??? We actually paid for this bloody circus?! I kicked myself so hard because I should've known better.

Although the Thais have great respect for their elephants (or 'chang' in Thai), I'm neither amused nor entertained to see these majestic beasts end up on the streets. You see, many elephants are literally jobless due to the rampant deforestation. So the mahouts bring them to town, where the center of entertainment is, where pedestrians and tourists may be interested to pay for some peanuts or corn for a feeding frenzy or a photograph. It's a common site, these elephants roaming about in the city. It is also common to hear of elephants being run over by moving vehicles in town. That's sad.


9 said...

the exploitation of animals is one side of thailand which i don't wnt to see.

Maple Loo said...

hey 9,
yeah... i know. I love Thailand so much I wish I could be in denial. But this is just the surface, we know there's more heart-breaking things happening in the wildelife trade over there....

Kent said...

Hey Maple,

I like your travel journal. nice pixs..feel free to visit mine..i
have some nice pixs from Thailand posted too...


Maple Loo said...

Hey Kent,
Thanks for visiting:) Will check out your page in a minute....