People have different impressions of Thailand, and even some of the people planning visits seem to have no idea what it's like here. More general comment references about developing countries / "the third world" combine everywhere that's not the US and Europe (or Canada and Australia) into one type of place, where people probably have it bad. Some do, but the rest of the world varies a lot.
This post won't clear it all up about varying cultures and levels of development but it does cover part of what is here in Thailand: water parks. To summarize, we visited three water parks in three weekend outings to Rayong, Thailand, about a three or four hour drive from Bangkok, depending on traffic. There isn't much in this about tea. I'll start with that part and explain why not, and anyone only interested in that subject can stop reading after the next section.
Cartoon Network Amazone park, one of two slide areas
The part about tea
tea bottle (black tea version in this)
It worked well to control infusion time, to use longish 5 minute steeps and drain it out into a hotel glass, or to wait and drink it after a little cooling, still mixed with the leaves, truly prepared in that style. There's more on which types work well made that way in this post. As always it's really just my take, since it came up in a recent discussion pu'er drinkers will prepare sheng that way, which I don't like (I checked).
The next two weekends I decided to not bring tea, to take a break from it. I've been writing posts about caffeine and fluoride as potential risks but it wasn't really about that. The main risk related to those seems to be pushing it for high daily intake, drinking two liters of tea every day, or going through three or more infusion cycles. All the same it seems a reasonable idea to "go off it" once in awhile, and travel served as a good time for that.
It was partly about renewing my love for tea by taking a few days away. As a wise friend once said: a true stoner takes a day off weed once in awhile. I guess that recent post about people quitting tea blogging (only one of whom also let a tea habit drop) got me thinking about preference related to overdoing it, and a post in The Tea Addict's Journal referring to periodic stepping down in consumption to limit caffeine intake was also an inspiration.
that white tea bar; good for travel, quite compact
messing around with an "unchee" hair style
The first day off tea I went cold turkey and suffered the typical headache. I ended up drinking soda to self-medicate in a water park at mid-day, which only helps so much. The next day I drank a small coffee to start the day and that worked better. Even with drinking a little coffee this third weekend, a cup in the morning, I still ended up feeling hazy, and did afternoon naps. It's as if the withdrawal doesn't just relate to caffeine, or maybe it's that dropping the caffeine intake level to very little only goes so far towards offsetting the symptoms.
It remains to be seen if I've really cleared my system somehow, or if it does help me reconnect more with tea. I never stopped liking it, but some of the habit did become a bit mundane, partly about maintenance. The aged shou mei I had with breakfast that first morning back I did seem to appreciate a little more for the time away.
local Thai market (not close to any themes here, but from one trip)
Three water parks
I'll say a little more about different types of culture and levels of society at the end in conclusions but this post isn't about all that. The experiences at the parks tells that story more than I actually explain it.
The first trip was planned to see the Cartoon Network Amazone theme water park outside Pattaya, visiting Rayong instead for a change, a local town further South East of there. We've been to Pattaya a dozen times or so and it's really a nightlife theme resort area, of sorts, so we decided to go somewhere else for a change, after visiting Korat in another direction for a few weekend outings last year. On that first visit my daughter became sick so we visited the local park with my son instead.
Pattaya's main walking street area (credit)
Rayong Adventure Park (FB page link)
This place was different. The slides and such here were all the "bouncy castle" type of equipment, a sort of rubber coated canvas, a bit lower end than the higher cost and quality infrastructure we were planning on experiencing in the Cartoon Network location. I could imagine someone being turned off by that right away but I was open to seeing how it worked out, and it did go well.
at Rayong Adventure Park; big enough
The main drawback related to the equipment type wasn't necessarily size, about the sliding experience, or safety, but related to that material scuffing your skin a little if you rubbed on it the wrong way. All three of us came out of it with one or more mild abrasions (my daughter did join later in the day, and we went again during the next weekend when we finally did make it to Cartoon Network). Of course entrance cost a lot less than the amusement-park scale versions, as I recall on the order of 250 baht for admission ($8 or so). Food options were very limited; kind of a given.
Cartoon Network Amazone water park (between Pattaya and Rayong)
After years of planning to go to this and one last delay due to that illness we finally made it. My first impression was that the place was really small; there were a lot of slides there, but packed into two dense structures over a small park space. My plan was for my wife to help watch one of the kids while I went with the other so both could do different levels of slides, but that never did really work out. She drifted into messing with food and gear most of the day so my son kind of went on his own (he's 8, fine for that, but having a partner makes him bolder to try bigger slide versions). There wasn't much for young children; my daughter went on three or four different slides all day, I think, and only one a lot of times.
wave simulator and water volleyball pool
the Power Puff girls were freaking out Kalani a little
Food options were broader, in between inexpensive local food options and the gouging that goes on in places like Disneyland, with lower cost local food versions helping them strike a nice balance.
The guests / visitors there were mixed, Thai and foreigners. Standard entrance cost something like 1200 baht, I think it was, maybe around $40, so not bad as Disneyland pricing goes but high for local attractions of the type. It seemed fair; the equipment was modern and extensive, and staffing and support was adequate. At one point when looking for a shaded place to grab a nap (related to the caffeine withdrawal) it seemed that seating was limited, but I did find more options off to the far side of the larger slide area.
Ramayana water park (site link)
Both the Cartoon Network park and this place are recent offerings, with Cartoon Network a few years old and Ramayana only a year old now. We've visited two water parks in Bangkok (my kids love water parks; the Pororo park is their favorite there), and versions in zoos in Korat and Kohn Kaen, and there's another modern, more extensive alternative in Hua Hin, so water parks do seem to be popular in Thailand. They should be; it's hot.
one of three slide areas
Being the last place we visited I couldn't help but judge this park according to the others, and it stood up well to that. It seemed like where Cartoon Network had designed a park around including a lot of extensive water slide infrastructure--the main component--Ramayana designed the park space and then decided what slide equipment would go with that. The park itself was at least double the size of the Cartoon Network park space, but with the exception of children's area and slides the equipment may have been comparable.
Ramayana included a separate younger kid's area, with a space that even toddlers could walk around in and experience, and a slide area designed for kids under 10. My daughter is 3 so it made a big difference for her. Since my son is 8 he could do intermediate level slides, or almost all the biggest versions, but it helped him to play a bit there first and ramp up to the larger versions.
In terms of cost the places are about the same, in the 1200 baht / $40 dollar range for admission, not so bad. Both places run specials, so there would be options to drop that, like visiting on the Thai Mother's day, as we just did. I suppose that could still add up for frequent visitors, or price out some locals, but for someone visiting on a vacation it seemed quite reasonable. That is one odd part though; families typically wouldn't visit Pattaya (some do, but it's generally not for that), and the beach areas where people would stay in Rayong are an hour's drive away, as we also were in the town center. It takes 45 minutes to visit a different part of Bangkok due to traffic so that just seems normal for us.
kids' slide area (closed; they shut down a bit early)
They had a bit more going on for food offerings but the place still seemed to be growing into maturity for selling random stuff, which was probably as well. Due to the large size and different areas there seemed to be a lot more seating (maybe also partly due to there being more seats). Both places, here and Cartoon Network, rented small tent-like areas as an add-on, more comfortable enclosure seating. It makes sense; if spending a bit over $100 (US) for family entrance seems trivial to a guest they should offer a value-add upsell, but using a pool-style recliner chair under an umbrella would probably be fine. They worked for naps, at least.
Both places had wave pools (this one's wasn't quite as intense; kind of a shame), and "lazy rivers," and I think Ramayana had more space for just playing in a pool, if doing that would somehow make sense. I guess adding more options works well for one happening to click with some child, like Cartoon Network having a water volleyball section, or Ramayana a sand-theme play area.
We worked out the division of parent supervision better this time, which related to me going down almost every large slide in this park. I guess I liked that part. I really loved the time with my son; it's nice doing things with them one at a time sometimes. I think I was taking the caffeine withdrawal better the second time so I didn't mind climbing 100 floors worth of stairs so much, and a few of those slides really were exciting, helping me stay energized.
It's hard to say which park is better, and I think that would be different for different people. For having a three year old I'd go with Ramayana, due to them having more equipment for younger children, but in another year with her getting more bold about slides that might balance out. The larger park space there felt nicer to me too but there was a drawback to that, a good bit of added walking around.
what they do to get by between water park visits
This ended up a lot like a really long Trip Advisor review, didn't it? Sort of tied to that, my wife also mentioned that safety seemed more closely controlled at Ramayana, that there were more monitoring staff, and I guess that was right. I think safety matters more related to comparison with that local place, Rayong Adventure Park, where if you didn't monitor your own kids there conceivably could be some risk exposure (there were less people keeping an eye on things there). I played with mine when they were in the larger slide area and obstacle course zones but I get it why people might tend to just let their kids go; chasing them step for step doesn't work well.
I'm reminded of my own childhood, of visiting an amusement park in the summers just across the Ohio border, the Conneaut Lake Park (which I guess is still there). For some reason we were never into the water park area as kids, completely focused on roller coasters and such. My parents wouldn't have turned me loose as a three year old but I do remember venturing out in that large park without adult supervision at a relatively young age; it was a different world then. There was nothing at any of these water parks that seemed overly dangerous but part of the monitoring function is to protect kids from themselves, to help stop them from doing anything too stupid, which can come up.
there is a beach at Rayong, the Gulf of Thailand, just not great beaches
I had different vague ideas about what to conclude from this related to culture, or level of economic development. I guess it already implies that the "third world" might not be so different than the US, or the rest. People live different types of lives here, but then that's true of every country. The average Thai family can visit these places, the expense would just be more of a burden to some, so that people in the bottom half of the income range might be less likely to. Around 8000 baht per month serves as a minimum wage for Thailand (15,000 for those with college degrees), and a single entrance costs 1200 baht; it doesn't work out.
I'm not trying to claim that Thailand has everything the US has, or judge one place against another. There are countless small differences. Some aspects compare favorably, others don't, and some are just about regional differences, not about development level.
An example: we stopped and picked up a good bit of tropical fruit on the way home, from a roadside vendor, at a guess 3 kilos of mangosteen, 5 of pineapple, 1 of longon, and 2 of rambutan, along with 6 kilos of Thai pumpkin. Of course those things cost a lot less here (around 500 baht / $15 for all that), but beyond that value issue you couldn't find that range and quality of tropical fruit in most places in the US, regardless of what you wanted to pay for it. It would be crazy to live somewhere just for the fruit, but it's only meant as an example. It's not difficult or expensive to eat better than Americans tend to here, although it's not necessarily a given that someone would.
It's tropical here too; trading seasons and a winter for hot weather year round is different. That comes in handy if you are really obsessive about water parks, more relevant for my kids than for most.
Eight fresh pineapples for $3; a pretty good deal. Those are Thai pumpkins, a different type.
As a parent play areas come up but issues related to schools and medical care are more important. Those seem to work out, but it's all too complicated to get into in a post about water parks.
To switch back to just a little Trip Advisor mode in closing, we visited two play areas in the Passione mall in Rayong this weekend too, with both well worth checking out. Sometimes it seems like it's those two kids' world, and I'm just living in it, but I do love experiencing the joy they take in lots of things.
sushi bar at the Kidzoona play area (so it's pretend green tea, not my favorite)