Right, who knows why they changed the Country’s name, back in ’45, renaming it Thailand: for once, the old name was not a bogus name imposed by western colonisers, as Siam has always managed to remain independent, thanks to the wise policy of alliances played by its Kings.
Strange, the Siamese Kings: absolute monarchs until the mid ’30’s, they are nonetheless loved by the population (and it really seems a genuine affection, also considering than nowadays the Kings have no power), and the present dynasty seems to have always been keen on arts and culture, although the current octuagenarian King Bhumipol the Great (!…) is also quick at spending out of his own purse to finance development projects around the Country and likes being portrayed like a common person (sitting on the throne with a photo-camera hanging from his neck?…).
Our first impressions of the Country were not very positive, also because we had been a bit spoilt by Malaysia and we were expecting something similar: on the contrary, we found breathtakingly spectacular sceneries spoiled by over-crowding, ugly-looking buildings, lots of shops all selling the same useless stuff, over-insisting sellers and noise.
In a class on their own, the “longtails”: very noisy launches, with a huge engine perched on the stern and directly driving a long prop-shaft: difficult to handle, but suitable for very shallow waters, the problem is that many ARE NOT SILENCED and their noise is like that of a Formula-1 car, spoiling the quiet of all anchorages.
The towns were also markedly less well-kept than we expected, even the capital Bangkok is rather depressing, but the historical buildings, the temples and palaces are absolutely extraordinary, with their complex shapes and thousand colors.
And the people: there’s the insisting seller that does not take “no, thank-you” for an answer, but there is also the fisherman approaching on his canoe to offer freshly caught fish and crabs and who keeps smiling also if you do not buy anything, and the tourist-boat operators that smile and chat at every opportunity when they anchor nearby.
And the views, the rocky pinnacles jutting out of the water in numbers, and the islands pierced by caves leading to secret internal lakes (called “hongs”, houses), and the funny “horseshoe” crabs that look like they came out of a book about fossils.
And there’s also the cart-vendor selling fried locusts, cockroaches and worms, which literally horrified Baby…
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