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Of wats, friendly smiles and elephants

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It is best to travel well than to arrive. – Buddha

If I would list the places I want to write about, I will not be able to finish. When we go traveling, I make sure to research a lot about the place we want to visit that there is too much information to put in writing or too much history to forget. One of the places I have always wanted to write about is Thailand. We spent about two weeks in this country as our honeymoon destination two years ago but the experience is just so special that I am afraid I will not do it justice if I ever write about it.

However, I decided to try anyway. A week ago, I was asked this question: ¨what do you like most about Thailand?¨ My off-the-cuff answer to the off-the-cuff question is, ¨the wats, the friendly smiles and the elephants¨.

A wat in the Grand palace complex
One of the many gigantic and intricately-designed wats in Thailand

Wats
Wats are the Buddhist temples dotting the country´s landscape. The first Wat that we visited was Wat Arun, also called the ¨Temple of Dawn¨ because it shines at dawn. I was awe-inspired. The architecture and intricate design just blew my mind away. Not only because the wats are magnanimous in size but because of how they were built and decorated. Small porcelain pieces and glass chunks are the materials mostly used to build the biggest wats we saw while touring Thailand. Just imagine making a whole temple out of those small pieces! And they were made during the time when machines were not yet famous. They were made by hand.

When we go traveling and see stuff like this, I can´t help but admire the people who lived before us. Just look at the pyramids of Egypt and the rice terraces of the Philippines! All built with the same philosophy as the Wats, products of manual labor and old-age patience. Somehow, I can´t help but believe that there is something noble in all of that. Somehow, I can’t help but think that maybe, there is a tiny microscopic possibility that we indeed hailed from giants.
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A Thai woman showing her Thai nails outside the Grand Palace complex
A Thai woman showing her Thai nails outside the Grand Palace complex

Smiles
All countries in South East Asia bowed to European power at least once in their history. But not Thailand. That is why it became known as ¨the land of the free¨. That might also be why Thai people are smiling most of the time. Because they are free! Ok, I was trying to make you laugh there! But honestly, when we arrived in Thailand and during our stay, we were blessed with helpful, happy people. This could also be the reason why Thailand is one of the primary tourism destinations in Asia.

Compared to other countries in this continent, Thailand has a big handicap — English language skills. And yet, they receive more visitors each year than the Philippines! Tourism in Thailand is well-organised. The people seem to know what their role is in this industry. And that is a BIG plus. I have to say, I´m hats off to how they handle tourists. Ok, there were one or two not-very-nice taxi/tuktuk drivers but that´s almost in every big city! The trick is, make sure you agree on the fare first, or in case of taxi drivers, use the meter. That will prevent any misunderstanding.

The painting elephant. His painting fetched for more than 1000baht!
The painting elephant. His painting fetched for more than 1000baht!

Elephants
Who would not fall in love with these humongous (believe me, they are!) and sweet (they are too!) creatures. They are even very, very intelligent! (ok, too much exclamation marks) They can play football, give some massage and even paint just like the one on the picture. We saw it with our own eyes so how can I not believe it! I don´t know how they did that but it´s true, these creatures are magnificent.

I still remember the elephant we rode on when we did the Elephant Tour at the Maesa Camp — Bocha. Her mahout (elephant caretaker) would always shout ¨Bocha! Bocha!¨. I don´t know why but it just stuck. I can never forget her name and her relationship with her mahout. Bocha is a mother of two other elephants and she performed very well during our trip, taking care all the time not to throw us off. The elephant ride is as touristic as it may sound, but it´s not stupid and does not feel all played out. It is showbiz but it´s good showbiz.

My husband will probably laugh at the beautiful words I have of Thailand. Upon reading this post, which I´m sure he will, he is probably thinking, ¨but you were cranky most of the time!¨ Well, true, I couldn´t stand the heat when we were there. That coming from a woman who grew up in the tropics. But this is one of the advantages of writing about a place after some time. You tend to romanticize it. You remember the good things that a place did to your soul. And that makes you want to go back again. #

One thought on “Of wats, friendly smiles and elephants

  1. what i like? the spicy food, the fruits, the flowers and the singsong tone they use all the time…fhooh massssahj? hunled bahhht…id love to try the steet food one day…

    what i dont like? the friggin heat…it's hotter than davao…the language barrier (understanding smiles greet you everywhere yet they dont understand you at all)…

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