That’s one hungry elephant!!!
By Paul Clement
One of my biggest dreams was always to have a vacation in Asia. I was in Asia once before, on my way to Australia, but I was only in the airports in Tokyo and Taipei and I had two days in Kuala Lumpur.
So, when Agnieszka and I decided to spend most of December in Thailand and Vietnam, I was pretty excited. Now I am in Thailand and I can give you my first impression of the country.
We arrived in Bangkok a little more than a week ago and we stayed near the airport for the first two days.
The airport area in Bangkok is not the most exciting place, but we just wanted to relax for the first two days after such a long flight. But we did see some interesting things in those first two days!
We were very tired when we got off the plane and into our taxi. The taxi driver drove pretty fast down the busy road from the airport and Agnieszka thinks that he smelled like alcohol! I didn’t smell it, but from the way he was driving, it is possible!
He went off the main street and down a back alley. I thought “Where is he taking us? Are we going to get left here with no idea where we are?” But then we saw the entrance to our hotel. It wasn’t the most expensive hotel, but it was pretty good.
We probably only slept three or four hours the first night, even though we were really tired. The next morning, we decided to go out for a nice breakfast. The street where we were staying is a main street to the airport and it was very busy. We finally saw a place that looked safe enough to cross the street and we got to our destination… a small hotel that we found on Google with a good breakfast.
They had four choices for breakfast. Two of them were European style (bacon, eggs, toast etc..) and two of them were Asian style. We chose the Asian breakfasts!
Agnieszka had a chicken soup with rice noodles and I had fried rice with pork. They were both really good and the price for two of us, including coffee was 180 Thai Baht (about 23 zlotych).
Here’s my beef noodle soup from breakfast on our second day! Delicious!!!
We continued our first day adventure and after walking for about half an hour, we decided that it was time for a beer. We walked and walked and walked, but we couldn’t find anywhere that was selling beer! Eventually, we went to a big shopping mall. It was very modern and very similar to something like Plaza or Focus Park in Rybnik. Finally…. we saw a place that had beer!!!
We tried to order, but there was a problem…. Thailand has some very specific regulations about when you can buy alcohol. You can’t buy any alcohol before 11 in the morning. Then there is a time between 2 pm and 5 pm where you also can’t buy alcohol and you can’t buy it again after midnight!
We walked a little further and, after crossing a small river, we saw a nice little Buddhist temple and we found a restaurant beside the river. It was 11:01 and we got two beers, some spring rolls and fried squid. It was very good and the beers tasted even better after all that walking!!!
One thing we noticed in Thailand is that the food is cheap, but the beer is not very cheap. The cheapest that we saw in a restaurant was 70 Baht (about 9 zlotych) for a 620 mL beer, but at most restaurants it costs about 90-100 Baht (about 11-13 zlotych). But we can buy a good breakfast for about 50 Baht (6-7 zlotych).
A funny thing that we noticed in Thailand is that in every hotel and restaurant bathroom, there are signs telling you not to put the toilet paper in the toilet! The system in Southeast Asia is not very good and if you put too much paper in the toilet, it can block the system. Instead of toilet paper you should use a hose to clean yourself and then the toilet paper to dry yourself. After you use the paper, you should throw it in the garbage. It was a little strange to me at first, but I got used to it.
Like I said before, the airport area in Bangkok is not the most exciting part of the city, but Agnieszka and I found one really cool thing our second night there. We went to a small outdoor shopping centre and they had a lot of small places selling street food, so we tried a few things. Our favourite was like a Thai hot dog. It was a wiener and some eggs and spices in a crepe. The crepe was a little sweet and the taste of everything together was perfect!
Hot dog in a crepe!
After we had the street food, we found a small place outside that looked like a cowboy place, with hay to sit on, where you could buy a “tower” of Chang beer (our favourite kind in Thailand!). A tower is 3 litres.
Soon, two Thai men got on a small stage, one with a guitar and one with electronic drums and started playing some live music. They were really good and played songs by the Cure, Metallica, the Red Hot Chilli Peppers and other English and American groups! It was really fun!
The next morning we went to Chiang Mai, in the North of Thailand and met Agnieszka’s friend Kasia there. I was a little disappointed with Chiang Mai. It was a place that I really wanted to go and it wasn’t what I expected. It wasn’t bad, and we saw some nice temples and ate some really good food, but it wasn’t as nice as I was hoping for.
The one thing that was NOT a disappointment in Chiang Mai was visiting an elephant sanctuary. In the past (and still a little bit today), the tourism industry in Thailand was not very good to elephants, with a lot of them having to carry people on their backs and do shows for people. Elephants were also used very often in other industries, because they are big and strong. They used them for pulling trees that were cut down and other things.
Today, a lot of the elephant sanctuaries take elephants who had a bad life and protect them. Instead of getting money from tourists by doing elephant shows and rides, they educate the tourists and you can go to a sanctuary for a half day or a full day and feed and wash the elephants.
We went for a half day and we fed the elephants sugar cane, which they ate faster than you can believe, then we made medicine balls for them (a combination of bananas, tamarind and some vitamins). You hold up the medicine ball and say “BON” and the elephants open their mouths and you put the ball into their mouth. You also get your hand a little wet from their huge tongue!!!!
Three crazy animals and one elephant!!!
The last thing that we did at the elephant sanctuary was to get in the small river with them and brush them. When we were getting out of the river, a few of the elephants took water in their trunks and sprayed all the tourists! It was really great and we were all very happy that we did it!
After Chaing Mai, we went to Phuket, a big famous island with a lot of beaches. Our first stop was in Kamala Beach. It is a nice little town with a great beach and a lot of small restaurants. It is also a little more expensive than Chiang Mai. The food and drinks are probably about 25-30% more expensive in Kamala Beach.
On our last day in Kamala Beach, we went on a tour by boat to Phi Phi Islands. The first stop on the boat was to a small island called Mai Thon, where we stopped in the water near the island and did some snorkelling. We had about 45 minutes to swim around and look at the reef and the fish. We didn’t know the names of the fish that we were looking at, but it was fantastic! There were a lot of different kinds of fish with all different colours. This was Agnieszka’s first time doing something like this and she really loved it!
The next stop was to the island where they made the film “The Beach” with Leonardo DiCaprio. We couldn’t get out of the boat and onto Leo’s beach, because the beach is closed. They had too many tourists in the past who destroyed parts of the beach, so we had to see it from our boat. We went to Monkey Bay after that, where there are a lot of monkeys in the trees and on the rocks. We also saw this from our boat. Our guide told us that the monkeys can be dangerous and bite the tourists, so it is safer to see them from the boat.
On the boat in front of the Viking Caves on Phi Phi island!
After the monkeys, the next stop was really important… lunch!!! It was our first meal of the day, because our bus came early in the morning to take us on the tour and we didn’t eat any breakfast. It was a buffet lunch with chicken in coconut-curry sauce, tofu and pineapple in a sweet and sour sauce, potatoes, pasta, soup and fresh watermelon. It was delicious and we all went back for a second plate!
The tour was perfect and after it, we moved on to our next stop…. Patong Beach, which I will write about after Christmas!
modern – nowoczesny
e.g. There are a lot of modern buildings in Warsaw.
order – zamówić
e.g. I ordered a vegetarian meal, but when they gave it to me, there was meat in it.
temple – świątynia
e.g. All religions have different kinds of temples and I always like to see them when I go on vacation to a foreign country.
spring rolls – sajgonki
e.g. Spring rolls are very popular in China and Vietnam.
squid – kałamarnica
e.g. There are a lot of ways to cook squid. You can fry it, grill it or put it in a soup.
notice – zauważyć
e.g. One of the first things I noticed when I got to Poland was that a lot of people spoke English better than I expected.
hose – A hose is something that is long and thin, often made of plastic, which we use to take water from one place to another. They have hoses in Southeast Asia that are beside the toilets.
e.g. Firemen use hoses to fight a fire.
got used to – When something is not normal to us, but after some time it is more and more normal, we say that we get used to it.
e.g. I know that the present perfect tense in English is difficult at the beginning, but when you use it more and more, you will get used to it.
wiener – parówka
e.g. Today, you can buy wieners made of pork, chicken, turkey, beef or even vegetables!
crepe – naleśnik
e.g. Paul gets really angry when he has to tell people the difference between crepes and pancakes!!! Crepes are very thin and pancakes are thicker!!!
hay – siano
e.g. A lot of animals on a farm eat hay.
sugar cane – trzcina cukrowa
e.g. You can only find fresh sugar cane in hot countries.
tamarind – tamarynda
e.g. Tamarind is similar to a date (daktyl), but it is usually not as sweet.
trunk – We call the long part of an elephant, that looks like its nose, the trunk.
e.g. Elephants are so strong that they can pull down small trees with their trunks.
spray – spryskać
e.g. There is one day of the year in Poland where boys like to spray girls with water!
Do you understand?
1. What did Agnieszka have for breakfast on our first day in Thailand?
b) Bacon and Eggs
2. Which is a complete list of all the Asian countries where I have been in an airport?
a) Japan, China, Malaysia, Thailand
b) Japan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand
c) Japan, Taiwan, Malaysia, Thailand
3. In which place did we NOT see any exotic animals?
b) Mai Thon
c) Chiang Mai
4. Which sentence describes my experience in Chiang Mai the best?
a) Chiang Mai is my favourite part of the trip, because I saw elephants, ate great food and went to temples.
b) I thought Chiang Mai would be better, but I still had a good time and it was not very expensive.
c) There is nothing to do in Chiang Mai and I hated it there.
5. Where did we buy our first beers in Thailand?
a) in a big modern shopping mall
b) at a small outdoor concert
c) in a restaurant near a temple beside the river