The strange experience of being told to bugger off by a fish

It’s been another very mellow, balmy day riding round the island on a loan bike from the hotel today. I headed out with Landry’s map again, and found my way to a large government-subsidised park area with tranquil lakes, a wooded area, a bird-watching tower and a very small area of formal gardens. Wildlife seen included another kingfisher, a huge monitor lizard, lots of beautiful monarch butterflies, a couple of water hens and a very cool, stripy millipede.

Lots of thai families were dotted around the edges of these park lakes having lazy picnics.

Greeted by the king at the park entrance – the Thais reeeeally love their king. So much so that: you can be arrested for dissing him; you have to treat money respectfully because his face is on it; and there is daily royal news footage so that fans can follow him and his family’s every move. No joke.

Apart from a minor wobble, where I realised I’d lost my camera, it was very peaceful at the park, and the subsequent re-finding of my camera at the side of the path next to a rather large speed-bump where it must have fallen out the basket, only helped with my happy mood – all was right with the world. Well, apart from the size of my bike – it was very much a child’s bike, even down to the power-rangers cartoons on the side. My knees practically hit my nose on each pedal stroke, and I felt really creaky by the end of the ride (getting old, clearly). Unfortunately no picture of it, but here’s a photo of me on yesterday’s rickety and gearless, yet far superior, bike, to put things in context.

I also happened upon a ‘siamese fighting fish’ park on my meanderings, which was a rather strange affair. It was another fairly big park, but this time with numerous pagoda-like structures, each one housing a large number of glass jars, each containing a single, small siamese fighting fish – odd. There was no one else about, so it had a very surreal Alice in Wonderland feel to it as I wandered about on my own. The weird piscean behaviour didn’t help alleviate the surrealism either – every time I put my face close-up to a jar, the fish inside would cease its aimless swimming and turn to face me, staying still as if regarding me closely, with just the merest twitches of its feathery, ornate fins and tail. It was all rather creepy. So much so that I failed to take photos of the weird siamese fighting fish.

I also learnt that siamese fighting fish are the products of a long and continuing history of genetic engineering to achieve both beauty and beastly aggression in the fish. There were  some giant betta fish at the park, also housed individually, but thankfully in larger tanks. This species is used to genetically breed larger fighting fish. Here’s a photo of one, which also exhibited the freaky behaviour of staring me out. I had a strange feeling of not being very welcome there…

Freaky fish.

Mysterious topiary at the fish farm. I imagine it read: ‘Dear Becky, Go away. You are not welcome here. From, the fish.’

This was a novel idea – one of the pagodas (without any fish in it) had natural curtains, formed by trailing roots from the green roof. I liked. (Aaagh, facebook speak is invading my writing!)

I ended my day out at the locals’ market (think League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: ‘a local market for local people’). The set-up and mood was very different from the weekend market I’d been to yesterday. Yesterday’s market clearly catered for outsiders wanting a fun experience on the island, and to sample novel foodstuffs. Today was much more functional and ‘real’. No tourists whatsoever, apart from me – just locals doing their regular weekly shop. There was the usual tat that will always be found at any market, as well as butchers, bakers, grocers, seafood stores – you name it. It was very busy – a constantly shifting crowd milled through the narrow aisles, and mopeds jammed-up the road outside. I bought myself some rice stir-fried with shrimp paste, veggies and spicy sausage from a very smiley lady, who I’d been told to look out for by Alisa, and finished the meal off with another variant of the gelatinous coconut-based thai dessert.

I’ll (almost) leave you with a sunset photo taken from my rooftop terrace this evening.

I will be sad to leave this beautiful place; it’s been a real tonic and I would definitely recommend a stay here to anyone who comes to Bangkok. They even write you a lovely note on a palm leaf and leave it on your pillow along with a small, thoughtful gift each day. So far my messages and pressies have been:

Dear khun Becky – a gift for you. A natural planter for you to grow any seed. Have a green stay with us this eve. (Present: a beautiful large seed taken from one of the water-loving palms that grow here at the hotel – photo below.)

Dear khun Becky, A homemade tea-bag with local flavors so you can take the Bangkok Tree House home to share with neighbors (Present: a tea-bag of the gorgeous herbal tea they make here, which I have been raving about to the staff.)

Dear khun Becky, Thank you for being such a wonderful guest. We are highly appreciated your stay at Bangkok Tree House. Enjoy Chiang Mei! (Present: a really cute, embroidered elephant keyring.)

I could definitely get used to this, but had better not, sigh…

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