A Travellerspoint blog

Thailand

National Discovery Museum, Siam/Paragon/MBK, Royal Theatre

sunny 32 °C

Since Jeannie and Ross had to head for the airport just after noon, we decided to walk through Saranrom Park and visit the National Museum Discovery Centre not far beyond that a cross from Wat Pho. This Centre was developed about 10 years ago as a public institution for "playing-learning" about Thailand's history and place in the world. It is designed for young people, has free admission for seniors and we found lots of interesting information presented in a very engaging way! A school group "stormed" through while we were there so we can confirm that kids love this place too!

After lunch at the lovely Museum Cafe, we came back to the hotel in time for the Whites to freshen up and catch a taxi to Suvarnabhumi International Airport to begin their journey home. Since Bangkok is 15 hours ahead of Vancouver time, leaving here for a total trip of 15-20 hours means you arrive in Vancouver not long after you left!! We now realize that, since our flight leaves just before noon tomorrow, if all goes well we will get to Victoria late tomorrow afternoon!

After seeing Jeannie and Ross off in their taxi, we took another back to the major shopping mall area we had partly visited after touring Jim Thompson House a couple of days ago. The Siam Tower and Paragon are high-end shopping malls with all the international brand stores well-represented (Jim Thompson House has a retail outlet that we checked out), so we soon returned to the more mainstream MBK Centre for another walkabout before taking a taxi back downtown. With Chinese New Year and Valentine's Day both taking place this weekend the extravagant displays of red and heart motifs were something to behold!

As a final Thailand cultural experience this evening we attended the Thai Masked Dance performance of "Hanuman" at the Chalermkrung Royal Theatre. The Khon Thai dance is highly stylized with beautiful costumes and many performers acting out ancient stories like this one in which the great monkey warrior Hanuman helps Lord Rama conquer the evil giants and rescue his wife Sita who had been abducted (I'm really simplifying things here!). Narration was spoken/sung in Thai with projected English surtitles, so the actors focus on their dance and choreography. The result is a very exotic dramatic pageant, and though no photos could be taken during the show, the main actors/actresses were all there in the foyer afterward so pictures could be taken!

The theatre is just a 10-minute walk from our hotel so we headed back to finish this post and start packing - we leave for the airport right after an early breakfast tomorrow!

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Posted by alangcampbell 06:32 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Golden Mount, Queen's Gallery, Longtail Riverboat, Chinatown

sunny 32 °C

We started the day with a taxi ride to the Golden Mount, the elevated site of the Wat Saket Temple whose main Stupa begins high above the city, providing great views for those who make the climb to its base. Ascending the stairs we were pleasantly distracted by a number of beautiful statues, gardens, water features, bells and of course the amazing views!

Crossing the road after leaving the temple we passed by a whole series of woodworking shops where teak lumber was being turned into a variety of pieces used in temples and some homes. The Queen's Gallery, a high rise art gallery established and supported by Queen Sirikit, was our next treat with many beautiful works by new and established Thai artists, all displayed in air conditioned comfort!

Back out in the 32C humid air, we walked down to the Chao Phraya River again near the old fort, visited a fair trade handcraft store and found a cool spot for lunch on a side alley off the main thoroughfare. Then we boarded an express "longtail" riverboat for 15 baht and headed downriver several stops to explore an area south of Chinatown. Ross had decided to get off at the Wat Pho stop earlier so he could go to that Temple and get a massage at their traditional medicine and massage centre. The remaining 3 of us inched our way forward on the crowded boat and then back to get off at the right stop (on/off happens at the stern) - it was an exercise in managing with reduced personal space!

After walking further south first to look through a Thai home handicrafts store which wasn't terrific, we made our way back north on a series of busy roads that eventually took us through the alleys of Bangkok's Chinatown and then Little India before we recognized landmarks close to our hotel and headed there to cool down before dinner.

Our last Thai supper with Jeannie and Ross was at The Deck on the River across from Wat Arun (the stupas looked even lovelier lit up as the night descended) and then we detoured on the way home to walk through Bangkok's massive and amazing flower market area. There are loads of warehoused production shops, street vendors, trucks loading, etc all covering several city blocks - beautiful pandemonium, but all running 24/7 to get flowers, garlands and all sorts of other flowered products where they need to be each day!

Tomorrow we'll see the Whites off for the airport about midday, and then plan our own last evening and morning in Thailand before heading for the long flight home ourselves...

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Posted by alangcampbell 06:02 Archived in Thailand Comments (1)

Grand Palace, Wat Arun, Jim Thompson House, MBK Center

sunny 33 °C

Today we headed straight for the Grand Palace as soon as we finished breakfast and managed to beat the crowds into the complex that includes the Royal Monastery of the Emerald Buddha. The scale and complexity of the work involved in these statues, halls and temples is just mind-boggling to average westerners like ourselves, but the Thai people certainly seem to have the skills, will and devotion to create and maintain these amazing places everywhere! Queen Sirikit's Textile Museum was a repeat for Catriona and I today, but we knew Jeannie would love it and it is a really great terrific story very well told!

Next we took the short ferry ride across the Chao Phraya River to Wat Arun, another impressive Royal Temple complex of Stupas, Buddhas and Pagodas, some of which were being painstakingly restored in the 33C midday heat! We managed to find a restaurant with AC behind Wat Arun and restored ourselves with some Thai food and lots of icy drinks so we could make our way back across the river and take a taxi to Jim Thompson House.

Jim Thompson was an American architect who spied for the OSS and then settled in Bangkok after WW2, and was instrumental in reviving and marketing Thai silk to the West. He disappeared in mysterious circumstances while on a tip to Malaysia and his body was never found, so an air of espionage and mystery as well as Thai culture surrounds the museum created from his residential complex! We managed to find a silk merchant across the canal and Jeannie, a weaver herself, was delighted to buy some silk yarns to take home and use to create something special!

We then explored the Bangkok Arts and Culture Centre, featuring contemporary art by young artists, in a nearby modern highrise, before taking the pedestrian overpass to the MBK Center, a huge indoor shopping mall with 2000 stores on 8 levels. We checked out some of it and then saw part of a Thai kick-boxing match (the national sport) on the plaza outside as we headed for a taxi and our hotel back downtown.

There are just endless things to see and do in Bangkok! Tomorrow we plan to visit the Golden Mount and the Queen's Gallery before taking a river boat along the Chao Phraya and doing some more exploring in the central city area....

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Posted by alangcampbell 06:14 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Bangkok on Foot

sunny 32 °C

We are staying in Bangkok's central district so we can walk to many of the most amazing places in this incredible city!

Breakfast next to the Koi pool at our hotel got us going early so there weren't too many people about when we strolled through nearby Saranrom Park, which features several exercise stations complete with fitness equipment!

Next we visited Wat Pho, a huge Buddhist temple complex, famous for its large reclining Buddha among its other buildings and statues, many of which show Chinese influence. When we left Wat Pho about mid-morning the tour groups had arrived in force so by the time we arrived at the Grand Palace grounds the crowds were too large and the line-ups too long to enjoy seeing the Palace or Royal Temple themselves, so we contented ourselves with the grounds.

Then, just as we were about to exit the Grand Palace precinct, we happened upon the Textile Museum of Queen Sirikit, and had a lovely unhurried/uncrowded time exploring the silk weaving process and the resurgence of Thai silk designs spurred on by the Queen's commissioning of numerous beautiful Thai styles, which she showcased around the world in their state tours beginning in the 1960s. Naturally there was a museum store, and coffee counter, so we happily patronized both!

We followed the streets along the river, noting several ferry crossing points (@3 baht=12 cents) to temples etc on the other side, the standard river ferry (15 baht=60 cents/trip), and ended up going through the shops back to Khao San Road (not too crazy in daytime) and on back to our hotel without getting too lost or turned around! Alan bought a souvenir T-shirt with a standard Thai saying he has come to appreciate - he also got the serious giggles thinking about this with some other tour friends at our homestay village a week or so ago! Too funny!

When Jeannie and Ross White get here from Koh Phangan ~8pm tonight we'll have a bite to eat in the hotel and come up with some plans together for the next few days in Bangkok!

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Posted by alangcampbell 04:46 Archived in Thailand Comments (1)

Koh Phangan to Bangkok

sunny 31 °C

Today was a travel day as we made our way from quiet, unhurried Milky Bay on Koh Phangan Island back to the busy crowds of bustling Bangkok for our final 5 days in Thailand. We left the resort at 11 am and finally checked into the Feung Nakorn Balcony Hotel just after 8 pm, having travelled by troop transport truck, high-speed catamaran, highway bus, plane and taxi to make the journey!

They put stickers on you when you get your tickets from the islands which helps to see at a glance if you're in the wrong line-up, boat, bus etc. - it is confusing with lots of tourists going every which way and not many of us speaking any Thai! The boat was a bit slowed by wind conditions and we enjoyed quite a few little saltwater spray-washes along the way as we sat outside on the back deck to avoid nausea!

The Lomprayah high-speed catamaran called in at Koh Samui on the way, so we got a brief glimpse of that island, much more developed and populated than Koh Phangan. The island and mountain shapes are startlingly steep-sided and covered in palm trees and other tropical vegetation, so the contrast between the lush green land and the turquoise sea is quite dramatic!

The little airport on the Thai mainland where the bus took us was easy to get around, and had excellent coffee at the Doi Chaang shop, and then it took just over an hour on a Nok Air 737 to get to municipal Don Mueang Airport in Bangkok. Finding a taxi was easy since they have floor lines directing you to ranks of taxi-assigners, but our driver didn't know where our hotel was located, despite the address and little map we had in Thai, so she drove us to the general area, and then consulted a tuk-tuk driver at some length before finally taking us to the right address!

We are in more of a residential area than before, so found no restaurants open at 9 pm, until we happened across the golden arches while walking aimlessly about! Tomorrow we'll find an alternative to McThai/McDonalds, but tonight we were happy to find it!

Not many photos from the day, so I have also included one of a little sheet of Buddhist wisdom (in English and Thai) that we saw tacked to the post in out Mae Kampong homestay house - enjoy!

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Posted by alangcampbell 07:23 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

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