As anybody who's visited this country should be acutely aware of, Thailand is still a kingdom. A constitutional monarchy, to be precise: much like Great Britain's setup, where the king (or queen) is still technically the head of state, but where said king / queen actually retains very little power. In Thailand, however — unlike in most other surviving 12st-century monarchies — it's virtually impossible to not notice the fact that they have a king. They absolutely ADORE him! The king's photo is on every street corner, framed in gold and lit-up like a superstar. Speaking ill against the king is highly inadvisable: not only is it illegal; it also has about a 99% chance of pi$$ing off any local that you may encounter. All hail the king: he's pretty hot stuff around here.
After 10 nights here, I couldn't just leave Ko Tao empty-handed — I had to walk away with at least something to remember it by. Found these souvenir t-shirts this evening, while perusing the souvenir shops and knock-off boutique stores that line the streets of Mae Hat. Cute little reminders of this wonderful place. And no, neither of them is for me: I'm generally not a big fan of either pink or of aqua! I think they'll make good presents for the folks back home, when I return in a few weeks' time.
While Marie, Claire and myself were perusing the Pai night market this evening, I couldn't help but notice these little fellas. Sitting in neat rows in one of the souvenir stalls, they smiled back up at me with their jet-black knitted faces, all garbed in the African colours of red, yellow and green. When I saw them, I couldn't help but smile back, and think: "holy crap, it's a bunch of Starvin' Marvins!" Sweeeet.
There's one little eccentricity that I've not been able to help but notice, everywhere I've been so far in Germany. In Berlin and elsewhere, German people seem to have a uniquely large amount of patience and respect when crossing the road. The pedestrian traffic lights here in Germany enjoy taking their time: after the vehicle lights have completed their (also-slow) transition from yellow to red, the pedestrian lights take a further 4 or 5 seconds to register green. What with all this traffic-light sluggishness, you'd think that the poor pedestrians would tire of waiting for — well, for nothing — and would simply walk. But no: not Germans. Every single time, without exception, they wait the several seconds for the vehicle lights to turn red; and then they keep waiting another several seconds for the pedestrian lights to turn green; and only then do they cross the road. In Deutschland, ve vait until it is time to cross — ve must not break ze rules, ja!
This morning, we began our jungle tour with a visit to a farm-slash-tourist-retreat just outside Pilcopata. The farm is home not only to a very nice family of humans, but also to a large and varied family of animals. As well as our friend the monito, they also have a few other monkeys, some dogs, some macaws, some ant-eaters, some tortoises, and some tadpoles. And we got to meet and greet 'em all. A very colourful start to our time in Manú.
We had lots of fun with the monito that we met this morning in Pilcopata. And he had lots of fun with us, too. Little bugger couldn't help but show off his acrobatic skills, by swinging through the branches of his favourite tree. Luckily, we got him on video. Check it out.
The real part of our jungle tour began this morning, with a visit to a farm and tourist retreat just outside Pilcopata. There, we met the most gorgeous monito ("little monkey") you ever saw. Don't know what his name was; but all he wanted to do was climb up all of us, wrap himself around our necks, and cuddle up to our heads forever. He took a particular liking to me (because of all my hair, I guess — something of a jungle growing on my head), which unfortunately didn't turn out so well for me later tonight. Also very fond of bananas, of course.
I saw a stall full of ludo sets at the Pisac markets this morning; and being the avid ludo fan that I am, I couldn't resist purchasing one. It's a beautifully designed little wooden set, with a decorated board and animal-sculpted pieces. Unfortunately, one of the llama heads has already snapped off — but a bit of superglue should be able to fix that. The board has already been christened with two games — of myself against Jesus — and so far the score is 1-all.
Chocco is a small and impoverished town, that lies about 20 mins out of Cusco (by taxi). This afternoon, my friend Wil invited me to come with him and a group of his friends from Hampy, to go to Chocco for an informal tour of the town, of the kids there, and of the volunteer work that's being done there to help them. It ended up being a fun, social, and intriguing afternoon. It also resulted in me (most likely) becoming a part of the volunteer effort that is Hampy, for at least some of the time that I have left here in Cusco.
When I arrived in Mollepata this morning (starting point of the Salkantay hike), there was a little girl running around inside the restaurant there. I asked her: "¿Como te llamas, chica pocita?" (lit: "What's your name, little girl?"); and she replied without hesitation: "Jasmine America". Oh-kay, whatever! Jasmine was eager to show me her puppies (in the back yard), and her set of barbie dolls. Very sweet girl — she reminded me of my little sisters back home. But, oy: if that's her real name, she's gonna score a few laughs in her lifetime!