Saturday, March 21, 2009

Thailand Day 3

Day 3
Tired from our previous days in the hot sweltering sun, we decide to have a leisurely morning and head to the airconditioned Central World Mall for some Starbucks and window shopping. I enjoy my Caramel Macchiato (my first in 2 months- I’m pretty sure it’s a record!) and walk through the mall admiring the Thai Boutiques on the first floor as well as the American and British shops on the upper levels. Window shopping turns to actual shopping when I find a long purple shrug, hand-made and less than 20$ dollars (don’t worry Mom and Dad-I put it on my Visa Buxx). Brittany and Perri find quite a few fashionably thai items to purchase before we decide to head back to the hotel to meet Perri’s family friend Phillip as well as our friend Becca who was on an SAS trip.

While Perri frantically BBMs (Blackberry Messages) with Becca, Brittany and I head upstairs to change bags (I got my camera, etc) before returning downstairs to find Perri nervous that Becca is in gridlock traffic. Phillip arrives quickly thereafter in a luxurious town car and  proceeds to speak perfect Thai to Becca’s cab driver, which was pretty hilarious emanating from his Jewish being. While Phillip jumps out of the car to grab us some fresh fruit (watermelon and pineapple!) from the street vendors, Becca arrives and hops in, a little deshelved from her adventure.

As we drive off, Phillips asks us what we want to do. Brittany had been wanting to see tigers, a rather pricey trip offered by SAS, which we had decided against. When we mentioned it to Phillip he politely offered to take us-despite it being almost two hours away. I was also very excited as I really wanted to get out of the city and see more of the countryside and the way many Thai live.

Becca’s tummy was bothering her and after an hour of fast driving (that car could really go!) Phillip pulled over to a rest stop. He treated us all to Dairy Queen (interestingly, the size and the price of the treats were much smaller than in the United States) and pointed out to us the dried fish and other Thai dishes available at small stands along the rest stop.

Another hour of driving on the expressway takes us to the Sri Racha Tiger Zoo. Phillip treats us to our tickets and the sweltering sky turns to clouds and rain drops as we head into the park. The park is nice and reminds me a little bit of fair child tropical gardens. It is not totally up to so called “American standards” of animal treatment, although it only made me cringe a couple of times. We find a bunch of large pigs in an open cage with numbers on their backs (painted, not tattooed) ready for racing. We pose with the hogs who seem to smile for our cameras before heading in for the big show: pictures with tigers!

We head into a slightly air-conditioned room with a plain wooden bench in front of a decorative “Sri Racha Tiger Zoo” background. Brittany goes first, the women puts a towel on her lap and gives her a bottle before opening the cage for the tiger (it was rather large for it to be playing with us, when it went on our laps it was almost twice the width of our lap. All goes smoothly as I shoot pictures and she smiles happily. I go next, a little more nervous, as she takes pictures and I pet and feed the teenage tiger. However, on its way back into the cage it gets out and runs to my leg, too quickly for it to really register in my head. The women who worked there quickly run to remove the tiger who only  scratched me, but what a story! I was mauled by a tiger in Thailand!!! Becca and Perri decide to feed it together and their faces showed their fright after watching my incident. It made me sad to watch the tigers (there were two) in the cage and I had to remind myself many times that the rest of the world does not think of animals in the same way as we do in America.

Next, we headed to the Elephant show, which was quite entertaining, but again my heart ached for the animals (who did seem well fed and taken care of). The elephants were highly trained and could walk a trapeze, use hoola-hoops and even manage to jump over audience members!

We decided to head back to the car after our tiger and elephant filled adventure. On our way back to the hotel we stopped twice along the highway. First at an authentic Thai Food Market, where there was no English or foreigners. We bought grilled corn (amazing!) and immersed ourselves in the culture as we saw such an array of food such as Chicken knees! The food was all very fresh and cheap, it looked like it had been picked or plucked earlier that morning.

Our second stop was at another rest stop, however this one was more traditional (no dairy queen). Phillip bought us sticky rice in bamboo shoots and pointed out the array of very local (he said every rest stop has completely different items for sale) cuisine. Although the hygiene of everything being left out did make me cringe, it was amazing to see the plethora of fresh items for sale that would never make it in America.

Another hour brings us to our hotel, where Phillip drops us off and tells us where to meet him for dinner. We shower and discuss our exciting afternoon (mauled by a tiger, who does that happen to?) and get dressed for dinner. On our way to dinner we stop at a tailor because Brittany and Perri were thinking of getting something handmade as it is quite inexpensive in Thailand. Although that didn’t work out (they didn’t have perfect sketches and the women was a little timid about trying), Becca managed to find some cool silk night robes to purchase. From the tailor we follow Phillip to an upscale restaurant on a side street, still very close to the hotel.

After sitting down, he instructs us all to order smoothies, which he said were their specialty. I chose the coconut one and was delighted at its succulent and fresh taste. Then, Phillip asks us if we have any preference for dinner, stating that he would just order a variety of dishes that we could sample many different dishes. We all agree that whatever he wants is fine and proceeds to order about 10 dishes! From delectable chicken satay to coconut milk soup to spicy duck, it felt like a feast! Other dishes include rice cakes with salty miced pork, sweet and sour prawns, and an entire fish! Our taste buds were in heaven as we sampled the delectable array of dishes.

By the end of dinner we were all very full and I headed back to the hotel to rest (and stay away from more shopping, lol), while Becca, Brittany and Perri went to the night market once more.

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