|FREE ELEMENTS. As this had been a free trip for me (a friend's mom won it in a department store competition but she couldn't take time off so he gave me the tickets), I was able to take Laetitia along for half of what it would normally have cost. Catch was, we had to follow a Taiwanese tour group around the country. We did arrange to do our own thing for two days, though - we weren't massively into that "getting up at 6.30 for a rushed breakfast before jumping on the tour bus and going off to visit another 'authentic' Thai market/monkey zoo/ jade market etc in between snatched wolf-downs at CHINESE restaurants" thing. No surprises there. We just told them "See you in two days. Goodbye!"|
LIFE'S A BEACH. We stayed in a massive hotel on Jomtien beach at the Southern end of Pattaya, a resort city about 2 hours from Bangkok. The place has its own beach, complete with streams of food and curio-sellers, so we supported the local economy by buying plates of freshly-fried shrimp, chilled beers, hot corn-on-the-cob, roasted almonds and choccie ice-creams for lunch - all without getting out of our deckchairs!
|EVENINGS were MUCH better than we'd expected, due to the fact that the week-long rainy spell forecast on WEATHER.COM turned out to be wrong. We were well-chuffed to get some sun on our backs as I followed L around the rows of tailors in her quest to have some new skirts made. This was a good thing, as the tailors are almost all Indians, and ours gave us the lowdown on where to go for the best Indian nosh in town. We took his advice and pigged out in an unrestrained manner. Yum. We obviously ate in brilliant Thai places and even a traditional German restaurant called Zeppelin's.|
|THURSDAY took us to Bangkok with the tour group. We spent silly amounts of time twiddling our thumbs while they flashed dollars and plastic around at various jewellery and leather showrooms which were mandatory stops. People here love to BUY things and then jump back on the bus to compare purchases with everyone else in a vain attempt to convince themselves that the stuff they've bought is actually NOT overpriced or too kitsch.|
|Finally, we made it to the sunset dinner cruise through the heart of Bangkok - naturally on a cruise boat complete with Chinese-speaking staff and not a morsel of Thai food in sight. I suppose it was inevitable that L'd get food poisoning the next day...so I spent the Friday looking after her in the hotel and missed the tour of the Bangkok Palace which we'd really wanted to see. Alas. There's always next time.|
ONE of the more interesting forced stops we made with the group was at the world's biggest tiger zoo, where we got the chance to cuddle (or should that be 'narrowly avoid being bitten by') a baby tiger. The poor guy was so docile that we thought that he'd been tranquilised or something, but we saw later that the tigers here are generally raised not by their natural mother (i.e a tiger) but by a foster mother - A PIG! Apparently, this makes them a tad more docile. In fact, there are several enclosures where fully- grown tigers, whopping great sows and common-or garden variety domestic dogs live and play together. Sure, the dogs are NOT of the 'yappy ankle-biter' type, but even Rottweilers are bound to come off second best in a bout with a tiger. These huge cats, though, played like kittens. It was quite cute - until you realised that they'd still rip your vital organs out before you could say "Here, kitty kitty kitty AAAAGGGHHH*".
|All good things must come to an end, and the free holiday ended with us cramming ourselves onto another Airmiles-earning jaunt back to Taiwan for the last few months in the country. That was what we thought...|
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