Monday, April 23, 2007

Pattaya: Part Two

I'm afraid I have fallen behind in the posting of these blogs, since my computer in Pattaya only allowed me to access our site in Thai, and the Vietnamese had blocked me out completely. It was too interesting in Luang Prabang to write, and two hot in Vientiane. But they will all be online soon. In the meanwhile, here's a bit more about Pattaya and environs.Pattaya is a second tier city, famous for Sex Tourism and golf courses. I have a lot of friends who might like it for these very reasons. Tony and Isabel live about 15 minutes south of the city. Like so much of Thailand, the area is full of contrasts. There are some incredible temples, and large modern apartments; but there are also a lot of very run down areas.

I am deeply troubled by the amount of garbage strewn about, and what appears to be a lack of personal pride in the surroundings. Apparently the government did try a “magic eyes” program, to convince people that they were being watched and should therefore not litter. But it didn’t work for very long!

In Australia, there is a National Clean-up Day. It was started by the efforts of one person who initiated a clean up of the parks in his own neighbourhood. Today, it has become a national event when most Australians devote some time to cleaning up their neighbourhood, the parks and the environment. Thailand needs someone to start the same thing here. Coincidentally, one person has made a big difference in this country. His name is Mechai Viravaidya, and his mission was to teach Thais how to control population and disease through the use of condoms. Today, he has two restaurants, “Cabbages and Condoms” in Bangkok and Pattaya, that are popular, high profile destinations. The Pattaya restaurant is part of the “Birds and the Bees” Resort Complex. All of the profits from the restaurants are contributed to education, environmental protection and population reduction in rural Thailand. This man has truly made a difference, and become a well known personality in the country. Now the country needs someone to do the same for garbage pickup!

Two of the highlights of our stay with Tony and Isabel were a tour of a Chinese Museum and nearby botanical gardens. While the Museum a private undertaking was very impressive, I have never seen anything quite like the gardens. They were also created by a private individual, and cover hundreds of hectares. As the photos will hopefully show, they are, as Bill VanderZalm, the former owner of Fantasy Gardens would say, FANTASTIC. There’s no other word for it. There are a variety of gardens throughout the area, and the French Gardens are as impressive as many of the grand gardens around the chateaux in the Loire Valley. They are almost as impressive as the gardens Shahram Malek built at Burnaby’s City in the Park!

Not quite as impressive is the city of Pattaya, especially on a rainy day. The city was made even wetter during our visit as a result of the New Year’s celebrations. At the Thai New Year, and in surrounding countries, it is customary for people to soak one another with water during the week long festivities. Adults and children alike stand by the roadside with hoses and water guns trying to strike unsuspecting passersby. Others drive around in trucks, spraying water. If you venture onto the streets, you have to be prepared to be soaked. The rationale is that the water ‘cleanses’ you for the New Year. I prefer the singing of Auld Lang Syne.


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