Wednesday was another free day. We got up early (5am for me and 7am for Lewis), and got ready for the day. We were heading out early because I had talked Lewis into a side tour that was being offered for the low price of $20. For the money they were going to take us to The Big Buddha (brand new being built), the shopping district, the old town district to see the old buildings, and to a Chinese temple.
We set out for our early morning breakfast of croissants, eggs, and juice. We had to meet at the front of the hotel by 9am to get picked up. Right on time we head out to the van and there is another couple there who totally remembered us from the trip the day before to ride the elephants. Apparently we spoke on the ride and they were so glad that we were going to be on this trip with them too. Lewis and I were speechless. Neither one of us could remember their names. We didn't even remember introducing ourselves to them. Oops. Well they ended up being fabulous tour buddies for sure. There were only 8 of us total on the trip.
First up we went to a local Chinese Buddhist Temple. It was very cool. We were able to ask any questions that we could think of. The guide was very helpful and informative. This is the outside of the temple:
Inside the temple were hundreds of Buddhas. When I heard the word Buddha, I always thought of the chubby, happy Buddha. Well Buddha really means 'God'. So there are actually hundreds of different Buddhas.
There is a month once a year where the Thai people have a cleansing time. They eat only fruits and vegetables. This cleanses their bodies of all of the non organic things and helps them to become closer with their gods. During this time they go to the temples and light firecrackers and throw them into this:
It represents the letting go of problems and conflict in their daily lives.
When we left we headed through old town for a short walking tour of the old buildings. For some reason I did not take even one picture. I don't know why but they were almost like the rows of town-homes in Georgetown, Washington DC but with a very southern feel. Almost like a plantation town-home. Anyway we were swooped up pretty quickly to drive all the way up to the top of the island to see this guy:
I was very excited because this is the reason that I wanted to go on the trip in the first place. I wanted to see The Big Buddha. When we got there I was given a shawl to cover my shoulders. I happened to be wearing a strapless dress that day. Since the whole area where the Big Buddha sits is considered a Temple I had to cover my shoulders. Men can go in shirtless but for women the shoulders are just an extension of the breasts. Showing your shoulders is like walking around with your breasts hanging out. Interesting huh? Nobody was judging though. Most of the people, including the Thai women, were wearing the shawls because of tank tops or strapless shirts.
The whole place was open air. The "building" was actually a 3 sided building with a material roof. Very open. The windows and doors were just holes in the building. Monkeys wandered around everywhere and have "Funkytown" (you get it if you watch Parenthood) all over the Temple. They are welcome to come and go as they please.
While all of the other people were busy watching the monkeys, Lewis and I sat on the mat with the Monks and looked around.
When we were done we got back into the van and headed down the mountain. We were all set for a shopping trip. They took us into the parking downtown and we were told that we had an hour and a half. As soon as we headed upstairs we knew we were in trouble. We saw a Gymboree and an Office Depot. They had taken us to the MALL!!!!! 2 people from the group had disappeared so the rest of us walked and got more and more irritated as the time went on. When the time was up we went back to meet our guide and we were told that the missing 2 people had split the second we got there. They went back to the hotel! We told him that we wanted to go to shop in town where the Thai people shop and he kept insisting that we were at the best shopping in town. What he didn't get was that we wanted the crappy shopping in town. We wanted the dollar store equivalent. We wanted souvenirs and crap to take home to the kids! So he told us that the van was on the way back and that it would be taking us to the Gem store so that we could shop there. The Gem what? I am not going to go to any gem store where they try and sucker me out of $5000 worth of jewelry. No way. The other couples wanted nothing to do with it either so I was elected to tell the guy that we weren't going. That was fun. He kept arguing and telling me that we had to go. I finally convinced him that the only thing I had to do was get back to the resort for a 3pm appointment. He finally agreed and we got into the van. The guide and the driver would not speak to any of us the whole ride back. They were pissed because they get a commission based on the amount of people that they bring into the shop. Little did they know that they were dealing with me and I am not going anywhere that I do not want to be. Especially in another country with strange men, who may or may not be Sawatay-Ha's (men that dress as women at night and perform shows for tourists).
Here I am after the tour. I had a good time despite the short argument with the guide. We had good company and finally found Diet Coke at the mall of all places :)