5:30 AM – Alarm goes off.
6:00 AM – Phone rings, a wake up call.
6:20 AM – Arrive downstairs for breakfast.
6:30 AM – Sit down for breakfast.
7:00 AM – Board the bus for the floating market.
Above is the schedule for the first hour and a half of our morning. As many of you know, some of the ‘herd’ have been having a little bit of trouble arriving at breakfast on time. The schedule above posed a daunting challenge for those of us who battle to get out of bed in the mornings. Thankfully, through team work and motivation we all managed to be ready on time and board the bus on time.
Our destination, as mentioned in yesterday’s blog, was the floating market situated near the bridge on the river Kwai where the famous film of the same name was made many years ago. The early start got the better of us on the bus as most of us were sleeping within the first 20 minutes of our journey. For those of us who managed to stay awake we were treated to a very insightful explanation and description of the vast scenery and buildings that we passed along the way by our tour guide, Kit. It is fascinating to learn new things about a country and Kit helped to make the learning experience fun and enjoyable for all.
We did not travel directly to the floating market, we made a stop at a coconut farm at approximately the half distance mark of our journey. Kit showed us how local farmers extract syrup from the coconut trees. We learned how coconuts are chopped open to reveal the tasty coconut juice inside it. Kit explained how the coconuts and the coconut syrup are used to create coconut sweets that taste very much like peanut brittle. A type of fudge is also made from the syrup that is very tasty, albeit that the flavour is very strong so no more than a couple of pieces can be consumed in one sitting.
We hopped back onto the bus and headed for the floating market. If you are wondering what a floating market is, the description is very much as the name suggests. The markets are situated in rural areas that are only accessible by boat using canals. There are numerous floating markets scattered all over Thailand. The locals created these markets since the swamp areas in and around Bangkok are too wet to attempt to travel through on a regular basis. Making use of a boat simplifies transport and the infrastucture required to get to the markets. Only 6 people are able to travel on each boat at a time so we split up and enjoyed our boat trip along the canal. The driver of one of the boats that our group was ravelling on must have been trying to impress somebody at work or perhaps somebody on the boat since he was ‘zooming’ along the canal at a much faster pace than every other boat.
A short while later we passed a stationary boat, which we realised was once the high-speed-trying-to-impress-everybody boat. Gavin reported seeing smoke coming from the turbo and then the motor lost all power. The driver had blown the turbo on the motor. The drivers of the boats which he had zipped past earlier were now reluctant to help because if his antics. Fortunately other boats felt sorry for us and we were soon rescued and taken to the main market floor of the market. Here we all pottered around for a while, practising the invaluable skills of bartering. Our tour guide Kit tells us that bartering is a way of life as far as purchases are concerned in Thailand so we mus not be afraid to barter for the best price possible. We have discovered that thus far Amo is the best barterer we have, Sergio is running a close second.
Once we had our fill of shopping around the market, Kit led us back to the bus to begin our return journey to Bangkok. We stopped at a service station along the way for a top-up of fuel for the bus. At the same time Kit disappeared so we wondered whether there was possibly a problem. Much to our surprise, Kit appeared with a basket of ice cold bottled waters for each of us and at the same time sharing his fried banana with us. Most were reluctant to try it but in general, we all really liked it. Kit refers to us as his ‘family’ when addressing us over the PA system on the bus and made today’s journey a real pleasure. It wasn’t long before most of us were fast asleep once again – it seems that bus rides turn us into sloth-like creatures (more than usual anyway).
There was little time for sleeping unfortunately since Kit was dropping us off at a 9 floor shopping complex. Bangkok consists of several shopping centers and malls, all of which are very different. The MBK shopping center was chaotic and very busy so it made shopping around more time-consuming and frustrating than it has been for us over the past few days. The weekends are definitely busier at the shopping malls, much like in SA. We won’t be doing much shopping for the next few days since the WSC kicks off tomorrow so we’ll be placing all of our focus on the competition.
We need to be at the Convention Center at 9:00 tomorrow morning for the Opening Ceremony. Thereafter we will be participating in a scavenger hunt where we will be split into teams of 12, mixed with others from 11 different countries and we have to work as a team to win the scavenger hunt. In the evening is the Scholar’s Social where we will be able to speak with and get to know more about the scholars that we will be participating against. We have already met a few of the participating teams in passing and everyone is very friendly and keen to get going.
Tomorrow should be a great day!