Wednesday morning, February 1, we got up for an early breakfast on
the Lido deck. After breakfast, we wandered out back to the fan
tail of the ship just as the ship was backing into a long, narrow
harbor. We were quite a ways from the dock, but our skilled crew
slowly backed the big ship up to the pier. Then it was time to
disembark for the day’s tours. Some of our group chose the all-day
trip to Bangkok, while some chose the overnight trip, which was
quite expensive at $550.00 per adult.
in Bangkok (Courtesy of Ralph B.)
Others of us chose the cheaper trip, scheduled to last about five
hours. The price was a reasonable $69.00 per adult.
Our excursion included:
- Drive to Pattaya and beautiful Nong Nooch village.
- Bus tour of the beach in Pattaya.
Nong Nooch Village
We parked at the entrance to this exotic village and went inside
the shops to wait until the start of the cultural show. While
waiting, we wandered through the souvenir shops and then into the
food markets, which sold mainly vegetables and fresh exotic
fruits. Two of our group (Harry and Randy) had previously bought a
durian and managed to stink up their stateroom for two days. I
avoided the durian because of the bad press, but I hear that
eating it works better than just smelling it. Did you know that
you can buy this exotic fruit right here in Seattle? Yes, you can!
Check it out at Uwajimaya next time.
I explored the gardens and the landscape of the village and
happened to catch two people enjoying an elephant ride.
in Nong Nooch Village
Soon our guide led us into the show and got us seated. The show
turned out to be quite spectacular and varied. In addition to the
beautiful costumes and dancing, the performers presented us with a
kick boxing exhibition and also a recreation of an ancient battle
with swords and elephants
with Beautiful Costumes
Although the kick boxing looked real, as it progressed and no
blood showed, we realized that the fighters were acting, like our
professional wrestlers in the U.S. But they did an excellent job
of it, looking convincing as ever!
Boxing, Real or Faked? You Be the Judge!
When the announcer told us the next exhibition would be the staged
elephant fight, I wondered how they were going to fake such a
spectacle as that. Well, then did it very well, with live
elephants charging each other in their armor and with all the
terror and ferocity they could muster.
The elephants were impressive in their discipline with all the
audience noise and banging that went on with the show. The fight
left us with mouths agape at the pageantry and apparent ferocity
of the fight.
As we filed out of the cultural show, our guide directed us over
to the elephant show. The intelligence and coordination displayed
by the elephants was amazing. They did tricks like sit up and beg
like dogs asking for treats as well as throwing darts at a target.
I’m not kidding! And they actually hit the targets more often than
Performing Various Stunts
At the end of the show, the elephants came up to the crowd to meet
us. Trunks waved over us and people screamed to get away while
others touched the snaking proboscises. One elephant snatched a
bunch of bananas from a startled woman as she screamed and tried
to move away. Too late! The pachyderm ate the entire bunch, skins
and all. I later found out that people could buy bananas to feed
the elephants after the show, and the elephants expected the
feast. In fact, they looked forward to it.
Our final stop of the day was a tour of a beautiful garden that
specialized in a wide variety of orchids. The Nong Nooch
wafted fragrance from the moment we entered.
In addition to the flora, the garden contains a some fascinating
sculptures, nicely designed walkways, and a few pools of water.
Perhaps it’s Thailand’s version of the Japanese garden.
Garden with Sculptures, Pools, and Other Displays
To add to the ambiance, we were treated with a visit from one of
the important local Buddhist monks and his entourage.
Buddhist Monk and His Entourage
It was difficult to get a good picture of his highness because he
was surrounded by bodyguards, cameramen, and his entourage of
disciple monks. But this picture of him (thanks to my zoom
feature) gives you a good idea of his calm and feeling of peace in
the lovely garden. You can also see more of the intriguing
sculptures to his right.
On the bus ride back to the ship, we drove along the famous beach
in the town of Pattaya. For the most part, the beach was pretty
narrow, similar to Waikiki Beach up by the Royal Hawaiian Hotel.
Like Mexican beaches, sunbathers were being plagued by a phalanx
of vendors as though on a conveyor belt, trying to sell stuff that
nobody really wants. Across the street from the beach, I saw quite
a few restaurants. Some looked rather small and informal, while
others looked fancy and high-end. Signs that advertised the
establishments appeared in Thai and Russian. Some were written in
English. I found out later that the Russians have a huge presence
Largest Gem Store in the World
Our final stop included a fascinating little underground train
trip through dioramas depicting how gems people mined gems in the
past and also how they mine gems today with modern equipment. It
also included displays of how gems are polished and mounted for
sale. The dioramas made clever use of robots and lighting to
demonstrate all the procedures up to the finished product, which
we then saw in the store. As we walked through the huge gem shop,
a “minder” escorted us. We tried, but could not shake her.
Everytime we made a comment, she answered, even though we weren’t
addressing her. As with the pearl shop in Vietnam, we saw no gems
for men — no tie clasps, no cuff links, and no men’s watches.
Because the trip through the dioramas took more time than
anticipated, we just barely made it back to the bus in time. The
attendants at the gem shop warned us not to take any pictures —
none in the dioramas and none in the store. So, I can’t show you
what we saw.
Back at the ship, our long hot day of touring ended. I ended up on
the Lido deck to chase down a fine cold Dutch beer and relaxed
before getting dressed for another elegant dinner in the Rotterdam
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