Sunday, November 26, 2000

Geography School Trip to Thailand

My first travel abroad was for a Geography school trip to Thailand when during Secondary School days. It was for selected students from both the History and Geography classes. I found my old travel diary in yellowing papers for that trip while tidying my stuff and thought I would transcribe my adventures here before the papers and memories become lost.

 Day 1 

Just arrived in the Thailand hotel for about an hour plus. The SQ plane ride was pretty boring. It was pretty boring in the hotel room too because there was very few channels on TV and no familiar channels like TCS. The hotel room has got a huge window overlooking the highways in Bangkok. I feel like falling asleep but dinner's serving soon. Got to report by 6.45pm.

 My mom just disappeared at the Changi Airport earlier on without saying goodbye to me :(. My luggages are super heavy, I wished they got wheels. (I haven't got a wheeled luggage then.) I forgot to tip room service... but I don't know if I should tip. Whatever. I feel like visiting my friends in the room downstairs. I don't really know my room mate as she's a Malay girl from another class. Sigh. I think I brought too many bottles of mineral water thanks to my kiasu parents thinking Thailand water are not very clean for drinking.

 This was an enjoyable first day of the trip. Although the coach ride is long, the dinner was terrific! Delicious satay, tom yam, stir-fried vegetables, chicken drumstick and rice. I love rice. Perhaps due to the second serving of rice, I missed the fruits! Why didn't serve to me?! Nevermind, anyway I am already filled to the brim. Thailand is a place of rich culture.

The cultural performances at dinner was really nice and it is my first time watching a live cultural performance. Although I could not catch the names of the dances but I caught them all on camera. The dancers all wore beautiful, shimmery, goldish costumes. Besides dance performance, there was also a performance of martial arts and a stage play of 'battle of olden times'.

Day 2

 It was a very hot and humid day. I do not know why people from the other room said it was cold last night when I felt pretty warm. Tossed and turned and finally fell asleep until about 4.30am.

 After a quick breakfast, the long coach ride began. Surprisingly I didn't throw up, probably because I was too sleepy. We stopped at a market place and shopped a while. I bought a set of elephant carving keychains and got cheated for the price! I should learn to bargain more. I saw the same ones at the floating market later for a third of the price at 100 baht. We took a motor sampan boat ride and passed many stilt houses along the river bank. Most of them have a boat in front of their houses' door which were thatched huts. How they put the boats down or lift them up, I have no idea. It was an exciting experience and we got free 'facial' from the splash of dirty river water along the ride.

The central floating market was quite big and crowded, bustling with business. The sellers are very aggressive on snatching customers but I still felt difficult to bargain cos they just kept saying 'it's cheap'. Bought a owl carving letter opener and a few post cards. We then proceeded to the wood carving factory next where hand-made carvings are made. It varied from small, cute souvenir carvings to huge elephant carvings taller than me. I noticed most products for display are made from either woods or some other natural resources like coconut. Everything looked so traditional and cultural. After that, we stopped by a store where many dried foods are sold. It was a big place with a canteen.

 We had lunch at a floating restaurant which gave a nice view of the opposite river shore at River Kwai (the bigger section). After the fulfilling lunch, we crossed part of the death railway on foot. It's thrilling to see the river right beneath us. With tourists going the opposite way as us, we had to keep to one side and be careful not to fall into the river. The track was 2-3 storey height from the river. I was upset that I ran out of camera film and the spare rolls are all in my luggage on the coach.

 We set off next to the Jeath museum and viewed many pictures and paintings of POW. They are almost naked and extremely skinny. Their living conditions were depicted in mostly paintings. We also went to the cemetery of the POWs. Next was the train ride on the Death Railway. The scenery from the train was mainly tress and shrubs of the rural landscape, passing by tin roof houses occasionally. The train was pretty run-down and rumbly but spacious. All was dull until we reached River Kwai, the small section and people all started taking pictures. Me? Still no film. :(

 Around evening, we headed back to our resort hotel for the night. And here I am penning down my journal.

Day 3

Today was a tiring day. The aircon last night was so cold, brrr.... it froze my brain and my hands were trembling.

From Kanchanaburi, we set off for Khao Yai. The journey was long and everyone's dozing off on the bus. We arrived finally at Bang Pain palace close to noon time. We could only view them from the outside as they forbid entry to the palaces. The most memorable monument I came across was the one built in memory of a queen consort who drowned in a river when her boat capsized.

Next was to see the ruins at Ayutthaya historical park. Another picture taking time! The tour guide spoke too fast and those history was too complicated for me to understand (luckily I wasn't the history students).

It's still very cold tonight. The bathtub was really slippery and I almost fell. We set off for the night safari after a buffet dinner in the hotel. The mini bus which looked more like a covered lorry picked us up. Off we went winding up the mountain road. Everything was pitch black outside and the bus travelled so fast we could hardly attempt to see anything.

We reached the night safari headquarter and transferred to a bigger bus. So this was the actual ride... Realisation. We rumbled along at a slower rate in the park but spotted nothing except for deers and a couple of antelope. There's not a trace of elephants or other wildlife which I was expecting. I took only 2 pictures and back to the hotel we went.

Too tired... to continue writing tomorrow.

Day 4

Itinerary today:

  • Scenery viewing near Lam Takong Reservoir
  • Lam Takong Reservoir and Dam
  • Stopover for shopping
  • Muek Lek waterfall
  • Mah Boon Korn Mall
  • Empress hotel

Woke up at 6am to another busy day. Set off on the coach again, stopping over for sceneries, picture taking and toilet going. I noticed everything here, down to the toilet signs, are made with a touch of Thai culture. The toilet signage was of small wooden carvings of a man and a woman figure.

The Lam Takong reservoir and dam are on a plateau and we stood on it without realising that it is a plateau landscape. We could hardly see the dam as it's too far down, I think below a bridge-like structure that had big white Thai words on it. The turbine was located even further down. It was a big area around 2000 acres. Nice natural scenery from where we stood.

Next we headed towards the waterfall. Along the way we stopped by a roadside stall which sells al kinds of fruits and dried food stuff. I didn't buy any due to my depleting Thai baht (shouldn't have changed so little). The waterfall experience was fun! It was not very high, barely a storey in height and looked more like a taller rapid with water gushing down. We were allowed to walk the rocks at the top of the fall. So we stepped from rock to rock towards the centre of the fall. Ok we didn't go that far out actually. The rocks were rough, covered in algae and slippery at some parts. I thought I might trip and fall in my clumsiness but I made it for a good photoshoot. I could not dry my feet as I had no tissue on me, so I just dried my feet in my shoes. =.= The bridge we walked across at the waterfall was rather shaky, felt a bit off-balance at times.

Shopping time next! The multi-storey mall looked great, though about the size of a Singapore's heartland mall it seemed to have packed in much more shops and stalls. The things are generally cheaper than Singapore and we could also bargain (yes at the mall!). Bought some t-shirts. Too bad I was stuck with only a few hundred bahts. Now I am officially broke!

Sleepy and hungry now. Time to sleep.

Day 5

Another palace day. Woke up at 6.30, ate a 1 hour breakfast then off to the coach.

The coach was quite comfortable, I pulled the yellow plaid curtains to block out the uprising hot sunshine and remained sleepy all the way. No bus sick, good.

The Grand Palace was a big place, crowded with tourists. As usual, Mr K (our tour guide) gave us a long lecture of the history of the buildings. The sun was so scorching that my skin turned red. Too bad I left my sunblock in my luggage in the coach.

The buildings were really magnificent, no joke about being grand. I was quite disappointed with how my photos turned out because they failed to reflect the real magnificence that I was expecting. Most of the buildings were coated in gold paint with shimmering stones as decor and small pieces of mirrors to make them shine more. They were temples or palaces built by the many generations of kings of Thailand. We were not allowed any pictures inside and walked around behind the tour guide. We spent almost 2 hours touring the whole ground. Half the time I did not catch or understand what the tour guide was saying, but he must be really knowledgeable. Whatever questions we had for him, he could answer. Really fantastic.

No time for free and easy today as we had to rush to the airport. Got there safely, checked in and finally get to walk around the shops there before heading for the departure gate. We bade the guide farewell and took a picture together. The flight back was more entertaining because suaku me figured out how to navigate the control for games and movies. I watched Bring It On. The movie ended just before landing at around 7.20pm. Nobody came to fetch me, so I lugged my large baggage home on bus 27.

I was glad I pulled through the 5-day trip without getting lost or into any trouble, phew...  Next morning, Mrs Chia (my teacher) called to make sure I was home and sound. :)
My photos this trip cost me a whopping $23 to develop.

Those were the days when kids have no handphones, photo shoot were on film and Mediacorp was known as TCS. Nostalgia. And I still have that Yoshika camera that I brought to the trip now.

No comments:

Post a Comment