Barb’s first week

Greetings one and all,

Thailand or Siam, as the royals prefer, is called the land of smiles
and for good reason.
The warmth and delight that people exhibit when they see us or
anyone else for that
matter is a pleasure. Nor is it part of the Thai culture to solicit
you in the manner of
“buy this or buy from me” either. Largely a Buddhist nation, doing so
would be offensive.

We spent several days in Bangkok, where it was very, very hot and
humid. We acclimated
ourselves to the public transportation system and took the new skyway
(above the street
subway) around the city; and also the water busses and road busses.
It is a busy place
and the slowest way to go is on road busses, everything else is
faster. The Thai history
museum was a real treat–a tiny museum nestled into the National
Museum, we have finally
begun to understand Thai history and the way a person becomes King.
The King is very
revered and he has had an unusually long reign, since 1946. He will
be 80 this year.
Each day of the week has a color associated with it and Mondays are
for yellow. The King
was born on a Monday and everyone wears yellow on Mondays. It is nice
to be a place
where the monarch is loved so well.

We travelled south and have done a lot of snorkelling, all on Ko
Surin, an island 2 hours
off the coast and in sight of Burma. The fish life was very colorful
and vast and the
coral reefs, while damaged from the tsunami, were not as devastated as
we expected. They
are actually recovering pretty quickly. We saw turtles and sharks
swimming under us and
literally tens of thousands of fishes. We spent 3 days there, with
relatively rustic
accommodations, as it is a national park.

Today we visited a man who trains monkeys to pick coconuts, kind of
strange experience
and I am not sure what to think of it.

For the next three days we are here in Nakhon Si Thammarat, a real
working town,
definitely not a tourist town. It is the kind of town that when
people riding by on
motorscooters see you, they call out HELLO, HELLO and collapse into
giggles when you
shout Hello back. Little boys (who are braver than little girls) come
running up to say
hello and run away when you answer; laughing. Sometimes they even go
further with their
English. We love these kinds of places. We asked a young man for an
internet cafe and
he was thrilled and when he said go left, he waited to see if we
understood and he said
it correctly. (he had)

There is a revered Buddhist shrine with a dome that has 600kg of gold
applied to it and
can actually be seen by satellite, we will visit it tomorrow. Kasma
mixes Buddhist Wats
in with snorkelling and local craft activities pretty well and the
blend works. She is a
good guide and is also giving us a food tour of the south, we eat all
kinds of curious
and interesting combinations.

Last night we were at an enormous lake which really is a power
resevoir and national
park. Monkees and a variety of hornbills were in abundance, including
the Great
Hornbill, which is pretty big. Because the lake was in an area with
limestone karsts
(tall, skinny jutting rocks that are 1000′ tall), the water was very
soft and swimming in
it was heavenly. My skin still feels soft. Quiet and peaceful, the
monkees and birds
woke us and we took a canoe into the lake and wandered around at dawn,
watching the sun
rise. Accommodations were dormatory style and we slept with another
couple, it was
primitive but lovely.

That’s about it for now, hope the winter isn’t treating you too poorly.
Love Barb (and Toby too, of course)