Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Thailand: River Boat Cruise

Sawadee is how people in Thailand say "Hello."

Thailand has many interesting things to see. In Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, the Chao Phraya River, the country’s main river, flows through the city. It is a busy and fascinating working river with small colorful tugboats pulling three to five heavily loaded barges, water taxis crisscrossing the river, and many other boats.
We drove about one hour from Bangkok to the ancient capital of Ayutthaya and boarded a rice boat on the Chao Phraya River. Boats are no longer used to transport rice down the river so some boats were converted into restaurants and houseboats. Our boat could accommodate 12 passengers; however, we were lucky because there were two other guests along with our two guides, a cook, and the boat’s pilot.

We traveled the river for two days and one night stopping to visit small villages along the way. Many people still grow rice but during the time when they are not busy in the fields some families started small businesses to make extra money. Everyone in the family works together. We saw them making bricks, drums, charcoal, and growing mushrooms. Mainly they make things that can be used by people in their community.

Most of the people in Thailand belong to the Buddhist religion. Our houseboat usually tied up by a Buddhist temple, which is the center of the community. Buddhist monks live a very simple life without any personal belongings so the people of the community give them what they need including food. One morning we got up before the sun and with food our cook had prepared waited for the monks to walk by so we could give them the food. The monks in Thailand wear saffron colored robes, sandals, and shave their heads. We had a bowl with rice and the cook had put a soup-like mixture that contained chicken and vegetables in small plastic bags. In a show of respect for the monks we took off our shoes, bowed our head, then divided the food between the four monks. After the food was distributed the monks thanked us by chanting a blessing and went on their way. Buddhists believe that if you do good then good will come back to you. If you do bad then bad will come back to you.

One day we visited an orphanage with 1400 children. It was dinner time so one group at a time chanted a prayer of thanks and then got in line for their dinner of rice and a mixture of vegetables. We saw many boy scouts helping to distribute the food.

We also visited a school. The children we so excited to see us. They all wanted to have their picture taken with us. Before we entered the classroom we took off our shoes. Thai people do not usually wear their shoes inside their homes, temples, or schools. Surprisingly the students knew how to say many words in English including how to count. We wonder how many people in America know Thai words.

When our houseboat was traveling down the river toward Bangkok we relaxed, waved to people on the shore, and watched the activity along the river. People were fishing, watering their crops, and just relaxing by the river. The barges were especially interesting because families live on little houses on the barges. They were cooking meals, doing laundry, and other daily chores. It was an amazing trip. We were sorry when it ended.