Audition and recruitment tour in Seoul, Taipei, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Singapore, Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Beijing
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Hello from the enchanting city of Bangkok! We always have a wonderful time here. The people are so friendly, the talent level is great, and best of all, it is the most cost-effective portion of the trip (our beautiful hotel rooms are only about $60 per night and an 8-course dinner costs about $20/person). IC enrolled a student from Bangkok last year, and it has been rewarding to meet some of her classmates who are applying this year. It is amazing how far our reputation has extended in the short time of participating in this audition tour.
One of my absolute favorite parts of the audition day is taking the hotel tuk-tuk to the audition site. We are all dressed up and looking our best, and we load ourselves into this old tuk-tuk which putters along back streets toward our destination. It is quite comical and we have a good laugh the entire way.
After the audition day, we had a free day and the group decided to hire a local tour guide through Tours with Tong to take us to the train market, the floating market, and the fishing village. I can honestly say that this was one of the most memorable traveling experiences I have ever had.
We were supposed to meet our guide, Jerry, at 7:00 a.m. in the lobby to depart, but of course, we were running a little behind. Little did we know the first attraction – the train market – was an hour away and required perfect timing to get the full effect. So, as a result, our driver, Roger, decided to make up for lost time and drove about 90 mph to the market! It was quite an experience. Keep in mind that cars drive on the left side of the road, so the highway is also on the left side, and as a result, cars pass on the right side and slower traffic bears left. It is completely the opposite than the US. Needless to say, it was a very exciting drive.
When we arrived at the train market, it didn’t seem like anything out of the ordinary. We have visited plenty of markets and seen the local fish, meats, and vegetables displayed in raw fashion. However, as we meandered our way through the stalls and around carts, I noticed that we were walking on two ancient looking train tracks. I surmised that this location must have once been a train station, hence the name. Little did I know that the train station was still active and the train would be arriving in less than one minute!
Soon, someone gave a warning shout, and within 15 seconds, the entire market had cleared a space just large enough for a full-sized passenger train to pass through toward the nearby train station. The place where the tour guide instructed us to stand was about 18 inches from the side of the train, so we got amazing photos and could touch the train as it passed by.
Then, as soon as the train passed, the market reset within another 15 seconds and it was back to business as usual. The story goes that years ago, the Thai government told the market that they were going to build a train line right through the center of the market and that they will have to move. The market owners refused to do so and continued to hold their market on the train tracks, and thus, we have the amazing train market.
From here, we continued on to the floating market. This was a lot of fun. First, you hire a boat, and the gondolier paddles the boat around narrow canals of shops that are being run out of boats or shacks on the bank of the canal. There are all sorts of fun gifts and haggling is common practice. We all bought a bunch of goodies; I scored two animal-themed nightlights made out coconut shells. I think my kids are going to love them!
After we had enough shopping, we traveled to a fishing village that is located on the Gulf of Thailand. The fishing village was more like a mud farm. The villagers use the water and mud to raise cockleshells. There were bamboo posts separating each “field,” and raised shacks erected around each field to monitor progress and prevent poaching during the harvest. We rented a boat and soon were traveling among the mud fields and then wound our way through a side stream.
Before we knew it, there was a group of wild monkeys following our boat! The guide was prepared for this and had several bunches of bananas to feed the monkeys. We later found out that they only allow tour groups to participate in this tour a maximum of once per week so that the monkeys do not get used to being fed. In any case, we hung out and fed the wild monkeys for about a half hour. It was an amazing experience and insightful into group dynamics and the social order of primates. We observed babies holding on to the underbellies of their mothers, runts and weaker monkeys hanging out behind the crowd, a clear group leader, and many other interesting phenomenon.
After this experience, we continued on to explore the mud fields and ended up approaching a floating house on stilts. After climbing the ladder to the top, we were met with the most fantastic lunch of crab, shrimp, sea bass, fish cakes, tom yum soup, vegetables, and fried rice. It was perfect.
This was a fantastic way to end such an eventful day, and were soon traveling back to Bangkok. We all agreed that this was the most memorable tour we have ever experienced during our Asia trip. And the best part, it only cost $80 per person! Don’t worry, IC, I paid for this one ;-)
Now it is time to depart for Singapore, which will conclude the Southeast Asia portion of the tour, and then we head on to mainland China. I am missing my family like crazy, but I do get to FaceTime with them once or twice every day. Thanks, Apple!
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