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  • Thailand: A Short Stay and Lots of Music

    Thailand should be a destination in an of itself. But for me, Bangkok turned out to be a three-night, two-day stopover on the way to Bhutan. Other than a plane change in Hong Kong, this was my first stop in southeast Asia. It pained me to limit my visit to only two days.

     

    I arranged this portion of the trip for me, my husband, and niece, through the Internet. After a 14 hour flight from the United States, I knew we would need some serious down time when we arrived. I wanted comfort, quiet, and darkness. So I booked a hotel with a great reputation—the Banyan Tree. I also knew that after we got recharged from the flight we'd want to pack in as much as possible. That's why I hired a private tour guide.

    We saw all the highlights of Bangkok that any first time visitor should see—the temple, the palace, the emerald Buddha, the reclining Buddha, the solid gold Buddha, and the many colorful markets—flower, railway, meat, sundry, and floating markets. It's all wrapped up in a video posted to my You Tube channel. Take a look at Thailand.

    A Country With a Rich Musical Heritage

    When I travel, I enjoy researching the music of the country, both traditional and modern. Thailand is represented by a variety of music, the most famous of which is perhaps that of the King of Thailand. King Bhumibol Adulyadej, also referred to as the King of Swing, composes and performs jazz music. On the other side of the music spectrum is the Thai Hip Hop phenom, Joey Boy. The rhythmic patter of Hip hop in Thai sounds amazing. In between there is Luk Thung, music of the countryside, and the gamelan ensemble. I've just touched the surface of Thai music!

    Music Info

    Thailand's Monarch is Ruler, Jazz Musician, an article from the Washington Post

    Candlelight Blues / Music: King Bhumibol, King of Thailand, a video on YouTube

    Joey Boy's official website

    Joey Boy: Fun Fun Fun, a video on YouTube

    Travel Info

    Banyan Tree Bangkok: Rooftop With a View (review)
    We stayed in a two-bedroom suite in the Banyan Tree. By prepaying, the rate was the same as booking two standard rooms. It was a great deal.

    Private Thai Tour Guide: A Recommendation With Caveats (review)

  • Taken for a Ride in Thailand

    The question was innocent enough. Would you like to see Asian elephants on your way back to the hotel? I was at the floating market outside Bangkok when Mr. George, our Thai guide, made the inquiry. I am not sure why I said yes. Being so close to Bangkok, the elephants couldn't be wild. I'm not a fan of seeing captive animals.

    When I arrived at the elephant place, I found out it was a "ride-an-elephant" attraction. After handing over the fee to ride and another fee to cover bananas for the elephant, I climbed up a set of stairs to the elephant-mounting platform. They are big, friendly beasts who don't seem to mind taking on passengers. Perhaps it's the bananas they enjoy most.

    The padding on the seat was so worn that the seat back was really a metal bar, a bit uncomfortable. Still, it was an amazing feeling—and fun—to be jostled back and forth as our elephant ambled along. Taking photos is a challenge; no image stabilizer lens would be able to compensate for this motion.

    At the start of the ride, I was feeling that our guide might have been "given an incentive" by the elephant concession to side-trip his clients there. I felt trapped. But after I met my elephant, my heart warmed. I hoped my money was keeping the elephant employed in the outdoors and happy. But then, halfway through the ride, my driver stopped the elephant, turned around, and offered to sell me ivory jewelry. This ivory, of course, was supposed to be "legal" ivory. After declining, the ride continued.

    I'll be a bit more wary next time I'm offered a side trip.