Japan and Thailand: Armchair Travel Series
Pauline experienced an "enlightened" overnight stay at an authentic ryokan (inn); not knowing which slippers to wear in the bedroom, prepare use of the onsen (public bath) which kimono to wear for breakfast, dinner. Strict Japanese customs, the Hagers learn the hard way. In Thailand, Pauline propelled out of this planet into an exotic world. More
Pauline and husband lived in Japan from 1994 to 1996. One weekend they spent a night at an authentic Japanese ryokan (inn) at Nikko National Park Japan. Unfamiliar with the rules of the inn, the Hagers committed several faux pas, not knowing which slippers to wear in the bedroom, how to bathe before entering an onsen (spa) and which clothes to wear for each meal. Pauline describes the lobby, the bedroom, the spa, and the reaction of the Japanese diners inside the restaurant. This is a modified chapter taken from Pauline's published book titled Memoirs of an American Housewife in Japan. Another chapter from the same book recounts a seven day trip to Thailand. To see as much of the country possible in 7 days, the Hagers hired a tour guide. Their first encounter was a scene in Bangkok, viewing four monks in saffron-colored robes standing in line to receive their daily alms. A trip to three ancient temples "Wat", begun in 1345 and now in ruins, was another first. The evening consisted of an interesting Thai dinner and dance show, very different from Western-style entertainment. Next morning their guide drove them to Chiang Mai, 450 miles north of Bangkok. Pauline describes a stop at the Meo Hilltribe Village. They paid a tribesman to enter his home and watch him demonstrate how he smokes his opium through a long pipe. From the Golden Triangle near Chiang Rai, they climbed a steep slope overlooking the Mae Khong River, where the rivers of Thailand, Burma and Laos converge. Next was an elephant work farm. They experienced a harrowing elephant ride, climbing a steep hillside on soft, soggy ground, sensing they were on a seesaw! Next a visit to a reptile farm housing poisonous and nonlethal snakes, and attended a show where the trainer treated them to a riveting performance, tossing reptiles at the audience!!! The Hagers were taken to a large furniture factory, a jewelry outlet and a hand-woven silk factory, whether they wanted to visit or not! They returned to Bangkok in time to view The Royal Barge Procession on the Chao Phraya River in a driving, monsoonal rain storm, celebrating the King of Thailand 50th year on the throne, a spectacular scene. The parade consisted of 53 gilded royal barges rowed by Royal Navy oarsmen, 20 miles upstream from the Gulf of Thailand, ending at the Grand Palace. A spectacular river parade. A visit to the Grand Palace, expecting to see this palace similar to those seen all over Europe with opulent rooms and gardens. This Palace was completely different and overwhelming, resembling a Siamese version of Disneyland. The grounds housed Buddhist religious compounds comprised of several temples, monasteries, and meditation halls. The "Emerald Buddha" (The Enlightened One and founder of Buddhism) is stored here, among other statues and fierce-looking Garudas (half bird and half human). Their final significant tour was the JEATH War Museum, named after the six counties involved in the construction of the "Death Railway" over the River Kwai, linking Thailand and Burma during WWII. Next to the museum sits a bomb enclosed in a glass stand. Dropped by the English, it never exploded and is now on display with the words "The Bomb". Large letters above the bomb read: Forgive but Not Forget. Their final visit was the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery. Rows of marble headstone inscribed with the names and countries of the fallen soldiers, are buried here; an emotional experience. The following day the Hagers left this fascinating country and flew back to Japan. Photos by Pauline.
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