|A dragon in the Ancient City|
My husband has a working relationship with a University in Thailand, and over the years he's been hosting Thai students in the U.S. for several months as they work on their PhD degrees. The payment for his work comes in the form of two trips to Thailand — one to visit the student's research site to provide consultation, and one attend the doctoral defense of the student he's been working with. He's been to Thailand twice in the past, but for the last few years has not used his trips, even though he has continued to mentor students. This year, when his latest student defended, we both traveled to Thailand, and spent a week hosted by the professor and her students, both current and former, who are involved in the program. The Thai people are very kind and generous, and although we did sneak out a couple of times on our own, nearly everything we did was orchestrated by our hosts. In addition to masterminding a week of activities, they also made sure we were served vegan food.
|Breakfast soup at our hotel in Bangkok|
In Thailand, at least where we were in Bangkok and Phitsanulok, vegetarianism is very unusual. In fact, though we were sometimes offered a spectacular vegan feast, none of our Thai friends would even try any of the dishes, preferring to eat their meat-based ones. I don't know if they were being polite, or if they really didn't want to eat vegan food. At our hotels, without the aid of English-speaking Thai friends, we had difficulty ordering food without meat. At our first hotel, another guest intervened on our behalf when she heard us trying to order breakfast in the hotel restaurant. We were ordering the menu item of boiled rice with vegetables, which came as a soup, and it was necessary to have specially prepared vegetarian stock. At least I hope it was vegetarian. Sometimes you just have to trust. It sure tasted good.
|One of the re-created buildings at the Ancient City|
The flight to Thailand was in two segments — Seattle to Tokyo took about 10-1/2 hours, and the Tokyo to Bangkok segment took about 5-1/2 hours. (I'll talk about the flight in another post.) We arrived in Bangkok at midnight, were picked up and taken to our guest house where we slept very little, then picked up the early the next morning to start our adventure at the Ancient City.
|The professor and her student buying crispy rice crackers at the Ancient City.|
I want to mention that the temperature outside during our stay was hovering around 105˚F with high humidity; if you tried to convince me that the humidity was 150%, I probably would have believed you. I like heat, and did very well, but it was seriously hot, and every so often I was ready to plotz (the only word I can think of that truly conveys what I mean).
|A small section of the floating market at the Ancient City.|
The Ancient City is "one of the world’s largest outdoor museums featuring a 200-acre city with 109 scaled-down copies of Thailand’s most famous monuments and architectural attractions." It's laid out in the shape of Thailand so you can learn about the historical architecture and lifestyle of the entire country in a day. Except for a couple of actual buildings that were disassembled, transported to the site and reconstructed in immaculate detail, the structures are all 1/3 actual size.In some cases, it's hard to believe the real structures are 2/3 larger.
|Ceiling detail at the Ancient City.|
Every detail has been precisely executed to exact historical correctness. Walls have been hand-painted exactly as they would have been when they were first built. I know this because it so happens that the site was founded by the grandfather of our host, the professor who collaborates with my husband. The site is administered by a foundation that continues to expand and build, as well as provide workshops and educational programs for children. The foundation is run by our host's brother and nephew, and her nephew has also built a small hotel and restaurant to accommodate guests to the museum. Lest you think we walked around the 200 acres in 105˚ heat, don't worry. We rode golf carts. That's what happens when you are friends of the owner.
We had lunch at the hotel, and though I had read about the excess of food guests in Thailand are served, it was still overwhelming to experience it first hand.
In Thailand, you're supposed to always leave some food on your plate so your hosts know you've had enough to eat, otherwise they will bring more.
We were seriously overfed, to the point I was afraid our host would think we didn't like the food because we just couldn't eat any more. We loved the food — it was fabulous, though you are on your own to figure out what it is.
As I mentioned before, our Thai companions did not share any of the vegan food with us. It's true they had ample omni-choices of their own, but our food was so good I really wanted them to try it.
Remember, all the food I just showed you was prepared for just two people. There was also white rice.
The one thing I wasn't so fond of in Thailand was dessert. Some of the desserts we were served were so weird I had trouble getting past their appearance to taste them — green worm-like things in white liquid or starchy fruits mixed with ice. Most were also extremely sweet. A bigger problem was how stuffed I was by the time dessert came along. This dessert was chunks of ice that get eaten along with taro root and other fruit I couldn't identify.I didn't like it much, but after the meal we had just eaten, it hardly mattered.