Wednesday 23 July 2014

Lots of treats and two disappointments

Most of today was spent sitting - but on a wide variety of vehicles. First there was our usual coach, a fancy big black thing with massage seats that whisked us from Korat along a wide motorway through farmland with rice fields, small herds of water buffalo, little towns lined with shops, fruit stalls piled with durians and mangosteens, and, finally, hills. Here we went first to a pottery village which we toured in a sort of tram. Everyone there is involved in producing and selling all sorts of goods, from huge tasteful garden urns to garishly painted and infectiously smiling figures. We watched one of the former being made, in a dim shed by a man smeared in clay, the pot rising from a lump to a beautiful simple shape in just minutes. As mesmerising now as it ever was in the black and white days of the TV Interlude.

[Speaking of TV, here's a YouTube clip about today posted by Duncan of Duncan's Thai Kitchen. You may glimpse me in the background!]

Then came a silk-weaving village, where we were feted guests, and saw all the work that goes into producing a length of fabric: one barefooted man walks 10km a day, back and forth eight metres turning 120 of the finest threads into weavable thickness. Most of their machinery is so simple, wood and nails and wire, but the looms are something else entirely. I'm full of admiration for their skill.

Next we arrived at our very flash 5-star hotel for two nights - Botanica in Khao Yai, an elegant modern glass affair with views over the lumpy wooded hills. We drove further into them, a long way, to see a waterfall much talked-up by our guide Suree which was, almost inevitably, a bit of a disappointment - big, roaring, a torrent of brown water, sure, and reached by flights of the most astonishingly steep and narrow steps I've ever seen, but no match for Iguassu, naturally. Never mind, it was good to get the exercise. And the huge millipede, and the leeches attached to the specially issued anti-leech socks were something of a sensation.

More genuinely disappointing was not seeing any elephants, especially after driving past the yellow diamond warning sign Danger: Wild Elephants. We went on a night safari on the back of a ute, our plastic macs flapping, the warm rain slanting down in the light from our spotter's torch, but all we found were some barking deer and a big black-tailed squirrel in a tree. No elephants. So we had to make do with the photo taken by the guide just yesterday, right outside the national park headquarters. Sigh.

Dinner at Botanica's restaurant Tempo (curiously, reached via golf cart through the underground car park) was a consolation though, especially dessert: banana, mango, papaya and white chocolate mousse. Yum!

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