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Sihanoukville, Cambodia   Life at Sea   Laem Chabang (Day 2)   Koh Samui, Thailand   Singapore

Laem Chabang, Thailand (Day 1)

On 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.

Royal Palace in Bangkok

Royal Palace 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:

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.

Nong Nooch Village Elephant Ride

Elephant Ride in Nong Nooch Village

Cultural Show

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

Cultural Dancing Show

Dancing Show 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!

Kick Boxing
Kick 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.

Elephant Fight

Staged Fight with Elephants

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.

Elephant Show

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 not.

Elephant Show

Elephants 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.

Tropical Garden

Our final stop of the day was a tour of a beautiful garden that specialized in a wide variety of orchids. The Nong Nooch Tropical Garden 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.

Nong Nooch Tropical Garden

Tropical 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 in Nong Nooch Garden

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.

Pattaya Beach

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 in Pattaya.

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 dining room.

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Laem Chabang, Thailand (Day 2)