The sea that calls all things unto her calls me, and I must embark – Kahlil Gibran
We docked this morning at 8:00am in Laem Chabang, Thailand. This port is huge. It’s a purpose built port handling bulk cargoes, in particular agricultural products including rice – the country’s most important crop. It’s Thailand’s main container port and has approximately 3500 ship calls a year.
The folks operating the cranes could teach our people a thing or two. I’ve never seen harder working people in my life, this place operates 7/24!!
They work very long hours and are very methodical about how they work – no wasted time here!
Thailand, officially the Kingdom of Thailand or “Land of the Free” is the only southeast Asian country never to have been occupied by any European or foreign power, except in war. The country was an absolute monarchy from 1782 to 1932 when rebels seized power in a coup and established a constitutional monarchy. Since then, Thailand has come under the rules of many government, both civil and military. The current king is King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX). He seems to be a fair king and the people love him.
The country was known as Siam until 1939 when it was renamed Thailand. Bangkok, known in Thai as Krung Thep or “City of Angels” is Thailand’s capital and largest city. It dominates the country politically and economically. Bangkok is a vibrant city in which the old blends with the new. Within the city, traditional, multicoloured temples (or wats in Thai) and royal palaces are dwarfed by modern skyscrapers. Bangkok is just one long notorious traffic congestion and has sever air pollution. Other important Thai cities include Nakhon ratchasima, an industrial city in the East; Nonthaburi a suburb of Bangkok; Chian Mai is the largest city in the northern mountains and Songkhal is a fairly large costal city in the south.
Thailand has a long and intricate coastline measuring approximately 3200 kilometres (about 2000 miles). It faces the Andaman Sea in the West and the gulf of Thailand in the east and south. Resorts are being built at a great speed here as the beaches are just awesome. Only foreigners swim with bathing suits, Thai people prefer to swim in capri pants (ladies); shorts and T-shirts. They do not like to swim virtually naked – quite interesting. The beaches are clean, white sand and many (and I mean MANY) little bicycles sell food under shelter of umbrellas.
Today we went to Pattaya in the southeast of the country. Our first stop was to Nong Mon seafood and fruit market. This market reflected the very healthy diet of the Thai people (little to no obese people here). It was a traditional fish market with dried, pressed, marinated and rolled fish of every description possible. Gert just thought he’d died and gone to Heaven. His only regret was that he couldn’t buy anything to bring home. But he’s got a list of stuff to try and find :-). They sold some spices, along with many candy items and the aromas were just awesome.
We then made our way to Bang Saen where we watched some mortars and pestles being made. These were being hand cut (using a chisel) from local and imported stone – my God but what hard work. These people earn 2000Bhat per month ($125 Cdn) and the work is often hard and very dangerous. Typical production is one mortar per day. At one state in finishing the product, in order to make it shine, an electric grinder is used and you clearly see the danger one man faced when his toe was removed while he grinded. The workers here are mostly illegal immigrants who don’t have a lot of say in working conditions.
In an outstanding contrast we made our way to the Asia Pacific Hotel in Pattaya for lunch – where we enjoyed a lovely meal, unfortunately it was Americanized for us – Gert and I would have preferred a traditional Thai meal.
We then headed to Wat Yansangwararam (Wat = temple) and enjoyed this very unique mix of architectural styles. Entering the temple one must always remove one’s shoes, which we did. It’s a Chinese pavilion containing hundreds of antiques donated to King Bhumibol by the Chinese Government. Some of the statues and artifacts were just mind blowing. The detail just isn’t something you can capture on camera, but we certainly tried.
We then stopped at Chee-Jan Mountain, on the side of which is a 390 foot tall high Buddha, embossed in gold. The mountain was made flat/smooth by workers, then the department of arts drew a design and then lasers where used to inlay 24K gold on top of this drawn design. The work from beginning to end took approximately 3 years to complete. Most of the work was done at night – I still didn’t figure out why, maybe because of the laser work?
Our final stop in Pattaya was the Gems Gallery where Gert insisted in buying me a beautiful pair of earrings (for my birthday). We got a tour of how the jewellery is made – much similar to the Bali tour.
We got back to the ship just before 7pm (thankfully, we’re here for 2 days), we had a light supper and went to bed. It was a long day – almost 10 hours of travelling.
The temperature today was about 40C. I’m just amazed I’m taking the heat as well as I am – I think I’d psyched myself up before leaving Toronto so I’m not noticing it too much. Tomorrow promises to be hotter with a lot more humidity – so we’ll see what tomorrow brings.