After leaving the farm I stopped by to see my friends ‘J’ and ‘A’ once more before departing Australia for good. During that portion of my time with them we got our adventurous spirits on once again and visited the Featherdale Wildlife Park just about a 20 minute drive from Marsfield and the Jenolan caves nestled in the Blue Mountains.
For this post I will let the pictures do all the talking as my words won’t be able to give the proper justice to the beauty found at the Jenolan caves! As for the Wildlife Park, it was both awesome and sometimes a bit nerve-wracking to be in such an open area with kangaroos and wallaby bouncing around! Though they were all quite used to humans, I was still pretty nervous to pet them. The variety of native birds, mammals and reptiles were quite impressive and was a wonderous way to spend the day! Both would recommend both of these attractions for anyone visiting the area.
I’ve been traveling in Thailand now for over 5 months now, so I thought perhaps now is the best time to break out with a few things I love or at least find the most interesting about Thailand:)
It will be a working list and isn’t in any particular order with the exception of the first one. 🙂
#1: NO SHOES!!!
I absolutely adore how before entering any building, home or place of work you must first remove your shoes! This goes for just about every place, with the exception of some grocery stores (though no one would squawk if you didn’t have your shoes on) and with some restaurants as well. But for the most part (including in the vet clinic where I volunteered) you have to kick off your shoes before entering. I will admit sometimes it’s a pain to do so (if you are wearing anything other than flip flops) but otherwise, the no shoe rule is my favorite cultural behavior and one that I will be using wherever I end up for good:) I love, love, LOVE it!!
The diversity of the landscapes here are extraordinary! From the beaches to jungle to islands, mountains, rivers and lakes, Thailand seems to have just about every kind of terrain one would want to find.
#3: House Geckos
I just adore these creatures! They are simply a much larger version of regular geckos and they are quite beneficial to have in the home since they take care of the majority of other insects in the home (including spiders, yay!!). They also make the cutest and most interesting sound. They start off with a quick series of chitters, then make a series of staccato sounds in repetition. When I first heard their sound I thought I was crazy because it sounded like they were saying “F you” in slow repetition. However, I’ve come across many other travelers and very-well-spoken-in-English-locals who have also pointed this out, so I guess I wasn’t as crazy as I thought, LOL!
I know I just wrote about the geckos, and they technically would qualify in the animal section as well, but I just love those little buggers so much that they got their own section. However, I do also adore the large variety of other kinds of animals here in Thailand. From elephants, street dogs and cats, variety of monkeys, flying squirrels, regular squirrels, lizards, birds, the diversity is so rich! You just never know what you are going to find! The sea life is also beautifully diverse and lush! From corals to sting rays, sharks, nudibranchs, sea cucumbers, and a huge variety of fish, it’s amazingly impressive!
#5: Kind & Honest People
The people are generous and kind, patient and welcoming. I have yet to run into a rude local here and though I’ve heard from other fellow travelers that it all depends on where you go, in my opinion and experience the people have been nothing but kind. In addition to the generous and kind nature of the people here, they are also very honest. In particular when it comes to money. I’ve been other places where I’ve handed over too much money (from being tired or just not thinking the correct exchange rate) and they’ve gone on their way with the extra money in hand. Here, there have been several occasions where I’ve handed over too much and they immediately return whatever over I’ve paid, even if it’s just a single baht! I’ve gotten so comfortable with their honesty that there have also been several times when my mind wasn’t working properly to understand how much I owed in Thai that I’ve simply held a bunch of bills and let them pick what they needed. I love that kind of honesty as it makes one feel more comfortable in their surroundings!! Now, that’s not to say some people won’t try to overcharge you for something (cab ride, etc) but if you ask upfront what something will cost, they stick by it.
#6: No sleazy men
Traveling in Latin American countries, one thing I had to get used to that also really annoyed me at times, but just had to learn to ignore, was the cat calls, whistles, stares and hissing sounds (they literally sounded like snakes to be honest) men would constantly make toward any female as you walked by. Here, no such behavior exists! The men are much more respectful in that way and even to the point where I sometimes wondered why I wasn’t getting any looks from locals, and it simply is because their culture, unlike others, is to not display emotions of affection in any way in public. Hence, no cat calls, uncomfortable stares or hissing sounds!
#7: Packaging with plastic bags
This one I personally struggle with from the environmental perspective and really wish they would cut back on their use of plastic bags, but I do also find it interesting and entertaining how they package to-go food or drink items. Coffee, sodas, rice, soups, and more are packaged in a plastic bag tied off with a rubber band for take away. Other items like rice and pad thai are put in styrofoam containers, so it’s one evil for the environment versus the other… While I can understand the simplicity and ease of using plastic bags, I wish in general they would cut back because they insist in using a ton of bags for very few items. I’m always refusing bags (as I generally bring my own or just don’t need one) but you really have to be on the ball to say you don’t want a bag as they are very quick to snatch one out. The straws also drive me nuts (though technically from the hygienic perspective it’s better) as they will give you one for each can or bottle purchased (including for beers) so if I walked in and bought 2 bottles of water and a soda they would put in 3 straws!
#8: Built to last
Another thing that really impresses me about Thailand is the construction of their homes and buildings. Yes, there are several homes that are made entirely from bamboo and other wood (though bamboo is a very highly resilient wood to begin with!) but many homes, stores and general buildings are built to a very high quality standard and are built to last! It’s amazing watching them construct a home or other building because their scaffolding is simply rickety looking pieces of wood that you wouldn’t think would hold people walking or working around them, yet the finished product is brick and concrete with tile throughout.
#9: Muay Thai
Whether it’s enjoying an evening out watching fights or joining in training yourself, Muay Thai is entertaining, engaging and a real real-kicker! Granted not all fights are created equal as some are much more entertaining or gruesome than others, but all the fighters have a real sportsmanship about them that isn’t as easily found in countless other sports. What I love the most is the fights where it’s evident that the competitors are friends. They encourage each other between fighting rounds but when the bell goes off, all bets are off and “may the best fighter win” kicks in. Another thing I love about Muay Thai is the sense of tradition and culture. The fighters respect the ring, the judges, their opponent and their God. The more I train in Muay Thai, the more I understand the fights as I watch and questions I had before while watching fights are now answered because of my own training. I won’t go into that here, but will in a future post for sure!