The (not so) Real Bangkok: a visit to Ancient City

Back in October, Todd ran a road race in a park called Ancient City (you can read the post here). It was a pretty rad park, but we didn’t see much of it – Todd was too busy hauling his ageing body around the course, and I was too busy screaming “go haaaaaard!!” at random, baffled British children, and checking out the classy port-a-potties. We decided we needed to go back and see the park properly, so this past Saturday, we grabbed Vera (main talent: being a dead ringer for the Korean chick on “Cloud Atlas”) and Therese (main talent: thought manipulation) and headed for the park.

I was a little taken aback by the hefty entrance fee, but I got over it when I saw the awesome bicycles that the fee included:

Built for comfort (the bicycles, I mean)

A crocodile bicycle: my dream come true

Ancient City (Thai: Mueang Boran) contains replicas of a variety of Thai historical sites. From the official website:

  • Just a visit to the Ancient City is comparable to a Thailand-round journey within a day.
  • The layout preserves the pattern of traditional Thai lifestyles, which is hard to behold nowadays

Our visit was pretty short (we only had 1.5 hours before we had to head back to the stix), so I figure we made a quarter Thailand-round journey. Because of our short time frame (and my shorter attention span), I didn’t read many signs, so don’t ask me for a history lesson. I can, however, vouch for the ambience, and the coolness factor – both were right on.

The temple provides the ambience, the farangs provide the, uh, coolness factor

There were also a lot of fun statues in the park, including these fighting elephants. I cannot imagine anything more terrifying in battle than being hauled off your perch by an angry, flailing trunk.

Hmmm. Maybe I’ll be safe if I hide by his massive, thundering foot.

This was another fun statue in the park – a bunch of horses and gods go to battle together. The best part of the statue was the artificial mist being released from the rocks.

So historical, it’s almost lost in the mists of time.

We bought fresh coconuts from a long-tail boat that was floating near the replica of a traditional village.

Peeping Tom Todd creeps on the villagers

I could handle living here

Unfortunately, Therese is almost as obsessed as Todd is with birds, and as soon as one flew into sight, they were all over it. Turns out Vera also likes a good chirp. They were throwing around terms like long-breasted-short-beaked-angry-footed-booby-clucker, so I meandered around and took a few more photos.

Not sure what it is, but it looks cool.

Also very cool. The gazebo looks really romantic from afar, but when you get closer, it’s full of carvings of angry, multi-headed snakes. Whatever does it for you.

I made Todd give me a ride on his bike to make up for the delay. This bike would be the ultimate family bike: you could put one kid on the front seat, and another in the basket. Now that’s what I call family time.

Unparalleled comfort AND style

Before we made it back to the entrance, I had to snap one last photo:

Vera looking picture perfect next to a replica of Ayutthaya

Ancient City filled us so full of Thai history (and birds) that we decided to give our culture-filled brains a rest, and went for Mexican food with our American compadres.

Hmmm. Not much history/culture going on here.

I’m guessing Ancient City will lure me back again, though – the combination of immaculate history and crocodile bicycles is just too much to resist. And besides, where else can you get a Thailand-round tour in just one day?

Happy Ho-Ho-Ho-Holidays!

Last week, I was having a pity party because we won’t be home for the holidays. This week, I decided to do something about the melancholia: in fine North American style, I said to T-bone, “Schnookums, let’s celebrate Christmas early by opening the mountain of gifts that our families sent to us, and eating copious amounts of food.”* We are spending Christmas in India, so it seemed  necessary to open our gifts at least a week in advance – this way we have time to fully appreciate their wonderfulness. Basically, I couldn’t wait any longer and T-bone knows how to pick his battles. We started off with Christmas dinner.

I slaved all day in the kitchen to produce this.

We shut our blinds, lit candles, and put on Christmas music. Ahhh. Nothing like a little King’s College Choir and the cheapest bottle of red wine we could find. Thailand has introduced me to the concept of the “red blend.” We could almost pretend that we were in our drafty, aging house in our Canadian ‘hood. Minus the mice and the superfluous coal cellar. Just crank the AC and you have yourself a frosty Christmas.

Our meal concluded with a bowl of Christmas pudding that my mother made (and canned) in 1994. Wonder if my mother suspected that her daughter would be consuming that particular batch with her husband in Thailand in 2012. Maybe. Sometimes mothers just know.

18-years-old pudding covered in 5-minute-old bechamel/white sauce. Don’t ask me for my sauce recipe, because it was a little wonky.

Our families were simultaneously very generous and slightly bizarre. Here are a few of the gems that they sent us:

It just isn’t Christmas for a Dutch person without a chocolate letter and double salted (Dubbel Zout) black licorice. If you live in Big Tree and want to taste a strange and wondrous delicacy, drop by our room.

Feeling a spiritual connection to all my Dutch ancestors.

The best letter in the alphabet made from the best food in the world watches the sunrise from our balcony.

Apparently, this blog has reinforced the idea that Todd loves his birds, and both sides of la familia added to his swag:

Todd, your bird friends will always be there for you. No matter what.

Our mothers must have a psychic connection, because they were really on the same page this year. They decided that they would help us follow the romantic Asian trend of couples wearing matching clothes, and sent us not one but TWO sets of matching t-shirts.

Our matching lululemon running shirts made T-bone tear up. He is relieved that he will finally learn why so many females mortgage their lives to buy this gear.

Reading the inside of his new shirt “Drink fresh water and as much water as possible.” “Dang,” says Todd. “I was about to drink out of the canal, but now I will have to find a fresh water source because lululemon ordered me to.”

And one half of our second shirt duo, from International Justice Mission (IJM), one of our favourite NGOs.

And this wee gem. Now I can be a proper housewife and bake pies all day or whatever it is that good wives supposedly do.

Wow. What is it?

We ended up having a great evening with multiple sugar hits and our multiple matching shirts. Thanks very much to our generous families. Just a warning to all my blog world friends, though: don’t think that just because I’ve done a “Christmas dinner post” you will be spared the massive, massive curry-laden Christmas dinner that we will consume in India. It’s gonna happen. Just sayin’.

*Wow. That sounds pretty frivolous. Let me assure you all that we have not forgotten the “reason for the season,” and that our celebrating will be spiritual as well as materialistic.

My Little Bird Learns to Fly! (aka: Todd gets older)

Well, it’s just been a week full of birthdays around here! First the Queen, then Todd, and then the Queen again, because her birthday celebrations last for a week. I told Todd that we should head over to the palace and combine celebrations, but he insisted on having his own special day. He was certainly well feted, because half the contractors in the apartment building showed up to air hammer our doorframes at the same time that 15 of our teacher-buddies showed up to celebrate. There was probably one person for every year of his life present (I won’t mention the precise number of years, but let’s just say that it rhymes with “dirty-tree”).

Todd and his favourite Siamese twin, David, try to extinguish a trick candle

Now, birthdays around here mean one thing, and one thing only: birding time! Nothing brings joy to Todd’s heart like the twitters’n’chirps of his fine feathered friends. The birding began with a special cupcake from Michelle and Lisa.

These teachers know what a birder needs

I showed my support for Todd’s birding habit by eating the beak off his bird cupcake.

Always happy to help

I also planned a surprise Birding/Birthday trip to a national park three hours south of Bangkok. This necessitated staying at an adorable beach resort* in Prachuap Kiri Khan province. The things we do for our little cluckers….

It wasn’t too shabby

We spent Saturday swimming in the creepily warm water (“there are no sharks in Thailand, right Todd?”), where I got stung by a jellyfish. This was a new and not entirely enchanting experience. Coming from Calgary, I’m used to dealing with threats that are either minuscule (mosquitoes) or monstrous (grizzlies)**, with pretty much nothing in between. Getting stung by something that you can’t see felt unfair. They should at least have given me a sporting chance.

Life hurts

The only thing to do was to drown my sorrows in a vat of ghee, presented in the form of Indian food. I may be Canadian, and I may be living in Thailand, but my gut is loyal to one country, and one country only. Don’t worry, Mother India. No amount of pad thai will ever come between us.

I can’t even begin to convey my joy

The feather action began the next morning. Because this trip was planned by me, not Todd, we only had the roughest idea of where we were going. The helpful owner of our hotel drew a map for us: “drive up a random dirt road, turn left at the shrine, pass the ruined shrimp farm, hurtle down the steep hill, and stop at the ranger’s station. Someone should be able to take you out into the marshes on a boat.” Say no more. We rented scooters, and headed off early the next morning.

Hand-drawn map? Check. Birding shirt? Check.

When we arrived at the rangers’ station, we wondered if we were in the wrong place, because no one was around. We hiked through the forest to try to get a better view (“there are no spiders in Thailand, right Todd?”), and wandered around a bit. After some time, a ranger showed up. When we asked if he would take us out on a boat, he started laughing, and gestured that there was no water in the marshes. Funny how we missed that detail…

A good birder doesn’t sweat details like water

Todd still had a good time checking out storks’n’who-knows-what-else, while I sat and contemplated life, got into an altercation with a pack of dogs, and tried to converse with a local rooster, who didn’t seem to be feeling it.

Humans are depressing

That afternoon, we decided to take out our hotel’s tandem sea kayak (I don’t mind doing the conjoined thing if it means that Todd does all the paddling) and explored one of the islands in the bay. I initially regretted not bringing my camera, but in retrospect, perhaps it’s for the best. The island was covered in monkeys, and the acts in which they were engaging scarred my eyeballs and would not be appropriate for a PG blog. Here’s another picture of the bay instead.

So pensive

All in all, Todd had a great birthday weekend, even if it was a little light on the birds and heavy on the jellyfish and copulating monkeys. Once again, as we drove home, the Queen beamed benevolently at us from numerous highway shrines, because it is still her birthday.

*No, this is not a paid endorsement – just wanted to put in a good word for a friendly place.

**Grizzlies’ motto: “We may maul you, but at least you’ll see us coming”