Out and about in the big smoke

Trip Start Sep 21, 2011
Trip End Mar 21, 2012

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A liesurely breakfast at the guest house this morning.  At 9am we take a taxi to the Dusit Palace and more precisely to Vimanmek Mansion.  Jai pays 75bht and the farang pays 100bht.  Originally built and located on Ko Si Chang island, King Rama V had the whole plkace dissambled and rebuilt in its present position in 1900/1901.  It is the worlds largest golden teakwood building and photos I have seen of it make the place look beautiful.  It has now been painted in a strange shade of green that do nothing for its look although it still has a certain charm.  Surely 'golden teakwood' should at least be a little bit golden ?  The house is now a museum displaying the artefacts collected by Rama V.  We are the first people into the house this morning and manage to get ahead of the tour groups and have the place to ourselves.  There are beautiful latticework verandahs all around the place which must have been great for air circulation in the hot season.  The verandahs overlook manicured gardens.  All ofthe buildings in the complex have now been converted in museums and display rooms and we make our way around, staying ahead of the groups.  The style of the Abhisek Throne Room looks decidely Islamic to me and now contains examples of traditional Thai arts and crafts.  We walked on through the gardens to the large Ananda Samakhom Throne Hall but discover that although it is pictured on the plan of the site that we given upon entry it is not included with the ticket that we have bought.  We decline to pay again and retrace our steps. We visit an exhibition talking about the various ethnic groups that now live in Thailand which describes the people who live in our part of the country as Phu Tai and says that they came here through Laos from China generations ago where they are still known as Zhouang. This sort of agrees with what Jai knows of her great grandparents but I will persue this on the internet as some time.  We also visited a display of pottery that has been unearthed at the prehistoric site of Ban Chiang near Udon Thani but this was a bit dull for my tsastes.  Visited a few other dull displays but Jai enjoyed seeing the photos and portaits of the royal family that are liberally displayed everywhere here.  We missed the old Royal white elephant stables and couldnt be bothered to go back and the Royal carriage display that I fancied seeing is now 'permanently closed'.  We had thought about visiting the zoo that is almost next door by time was ticking on so we taxied back to the guest house with food in mind.  Our Chinese noodle shop is closed today so we end up at a Vietnamese noodle shop a little further along the same road.  Food was OK but more water and less meat seemed evident so we will be returning to our usual place in the future.  Back to the guest house for a rest.  It is cloudy today so not too hot but we both have sore feet.  Neither of us are used to wearing anything on our feet for any length of time let alone walking as well and it is taking its toll.  This afternoon Jai decides that she will come out for a walk with me but she doesnt sound convinced.  We walk to Sanam Luang park but then it starts; too may people over there, men are working along there, the sun is too strong when there are no trees, I can smell paint and dont like it ...  We return to the guest house and en-route Jai nearly falls over whilst trying to watch the TV at a street food store as we are passing !!  Grab a coffee from 7/11 and back to room.  Get a phone call from friends Phill and Sangwan who are also in Bangkok this afternoon en-route to the airport where Phill flies back to England tonight.  I go back out for a walk on my own.  Head down the narrow back alleys that flank Khao San Road and pass the Democracy Monument then head towards Wat Suthat.  I pass a car park that has lots of boats stacked up at one end no doubt still not cleared away since the floods.  I spot a small shrine in a courtyard besides a busy junction and go to investigate.  Turns out to be a Dhevasathan Brahmin Shrine dating back to 1784 when King Rama 1 ordered it built for the practise of Brahmin rites.  Ladies were in the courtyard decorating the shrine in flowers.  I took off my shoes to go inside the building but just as I was entering I heared a voice in perfect English asking me not to enter whilst they were preparing the hall.  This lady turned out to be Thai but had ben educated at a convent school in Billinghurst and later London.  A catholic schooled Thai decorating a Brahmin shrine ?  I stayed and chatted to her for a while.  At the busy intersection outside of the shrine are the red painted teak columns of the Sao Ching Cha or Giant Swing.  This was used for many years in Brahmin ceremonies to mark Siva's annual visit to earth.  4 men would stand on the seat, that is no longer present, and swing up to 25m high to claim a bag of gold between their teeth,  Accidents were common - surprisingly enough ! - and the ceremony was stopped in the 1930s.  Behind the swing is Wat Suthat with Bangkoks tallest viharn.  I returned towards the Democracy Monument and walk along lottery street where dozens of stalls are trying to tempt passers by with lottery tickets for the next draw.  People here do not need much tempting !  I reach the memorial of 14th February 1973.  ("Dozens of people have been killed in the Thai capital of Bangkok in street battles between government troops and demonstrators. Most of the victims were students from Thammasat University, who had gathered in large numbers for a second day of protests against the Thai military regime. Violence broke out when several thousand students took to the streets demanding the military government step down. They are also calling for an early introduction of a constitution").   There are enlarged copies of contemporary newspaper reports and giant photos along with pictures of the injured showing off their war wounds.  There is also a column which I assume carries the names of those killed.  Time is getting on so I return to the guest house for a shower and to pack up before we check out at 18:00.  Eat at the guest house and then taxi through the heavy traffic back to Mo Chit.  Jai receives a phone call from Sangwan who has left Phill at the airport and is now also at Mo Chit to get a bus back to her home in Prasat.  She comes and finds us and I leave them chatting, chatting and chatting.  Time soon passes and we go to board our 'special bus'.  It was different to the usual buses having larger seats and more leg room but was it worth the extra ? - maybe.  We depart Bangkok on the dot of 20:30 arriving at Khorat just before midnight having slept a little.
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