Arrived in Bangkok in a rain and lightning storm last night.
Have 24 hours here because my flight was changed.
Some small preparation and packing errors. Hotel concierge had to break into my suitcase with pliers and a screwdriver because I grabbed the wrong keys for the padlock. They were very unimpressed when I finally explained what I wanted them to do – and I felt very stupid and embarrassed (especially since I had just been down there five minutes earlier asking to change rooms). A man carrying a huge pair of pliers was eventually summoned from the basement – he looked confused but he’s clearly done it – before because with one deft twist of his hand he made a neat little bend in the padlock and popped it open. He got 50 baht for his trouble. I had unsuccessfully tried earlier with an old hairpin.
Bimbo (yes that’s me …) also had to wash her hair in something called “Indra Regent Hotel Bangkok Foaming Bath” – a stern looking bottle of orange stuff. Bimbo did not find the hotel equivalent of hair shampoo until later. Bimbo has left her own shampoo on the kitchen bench at home.
But – determined to make the most of the day in Bangkok I headed off in a pink taxi to see the place – yes hot pink – like one of Miss Piggy’s handbags. Very cute.
First stop – Jim Thompson’s house. He was an american man who settled in Bangkok after the war and made some smart investments and accumulated a fortune. He built himself a beautiful house surrounded by gardens, and set about collecting rare specimens of art and sculpture. I went on a very informative little tour and learnt alot. A storm came in with slow contented thunder and gentle rain pitter-pattering into ponds of carp and onto frangipani flowers. The house faces a canal which is almost invisible, masked by the garden and a wall, but now and then you hear a motorised barge roaring past like a small train – it seems to be quite a little thoroughfare out there on the other side of this tranquil and secluded garden. Apparently JT introduced silk to the western world – or so it is said – sales skyrocketed after he provided the silk for the costumes used in the “The King and I” musical. Downstairs is the official Jim Thompson Silk Shop where you can buy silk things.
JT was apparently born in the chinese year of the horse, like me, and I found out today that people born in the chinese year of the horse have to be careful in their 61st year. So can someone remind me of that …. 🙂
Next stop – the Kings palace. Wow. You can tell a King lives here. Apparently the word that starts with “S” (which is the name of the airport here) is also the name of the country of Thailand, and it means ‘land of gold’.
Well a lot of the gold is sitting around in the King’s Palace, beautifully crafted into the architecture and statues etc. All that gold could have been ghastly, but not so – I found it dignified and silent – glittering away despite the rain.
At the entrance to the King’s Palace I met a mother-ducky-type-middle-aged lady who was extremely worried about me walking around recklessly in the pouring rain. She tried to make me wear a poncho. I said I don’t need a poncho it is only water and I am already drenched. She told me if I get sick I will have go to the doctor and pay 6000 baht. I say I wont get sick. We repeat ourselves back and forth a few times. Eventually I ask how much for the poncho and she is amazed – and she says “no” – it is free – free for me – provided I pay her 400 baht to guide me around the palace. Alright. I had become fond of her by this stage. Quite a cheeky lady, mischievous and knowledgeable. So we trotted about the palace, after some further discussion about whether or not my dress had ‘sleeves’ or not. It does. Anyway, they turned out to be quite appropriate and I didn’t need to acquire a T-shirt.
So the palace is stunning – Mother Duck was very attentive and gave lots of information about everything. The craftsmanship, and the murals, and the ceiling decorations, are extraordinary. Everything has meaning and is not only for decoration. The grounds are spacious and very peaceful place. Mother Duck gave me a very original rendition – in 50 words or less – of the ancient Ramayana story which I learned in India as a child – her version of the story was very amusing – Hanuman the Monkey King is her version of a ‘superhero’ and she mischievously told me he was already married but wished me better luck next time! It must be one of her favorite lines because she flicked it out effortlessly.
Mother Duck has quite a fascination with the King’s guns and spears and things and I obediently trotted off after her – splashing through the rain in my free poncho – to inspect these weapons in the armoury and made an effort to appear suitably impressed. A bit creepy in there. The rest of the palace was amazing.
Mother duck gave me a beginner’s guide to Buddhism – told me over and over again that in my work it is important that i only do good otherwise bad will come to me – and something about a mango. The Buddha Temple at the palace was truly magnificent. Even though full of millions of baht worth of precious gems and gold – and original murals – and mirror inlays – it still did not seem over the top. It all blended in with the design so that you only see all the precious gems and gold if you inspected closely.
I said a fond farewell to Mother Duck and donated back her poncho so that she can use it on another duckling. She clucked and bustled me into a taxi and negotiated the price down for me. Apparently when I come again to the King’s Palace it might be sunny and the gold will glitter even more. She was a mine of information about the King – I learned his age and his current state of health and what he was doing just last week – and I have found out he is a Sagittarian because his birthday is on 5 december
I went back to hotel and had a good long massage which was just what the doctor ordered and did not cost 6000 baht.
Still figuring out internet and computer-type-things, this email has taken a couple of gos, so if you don’t hear from me don’t panic, and don’t assume I am lost. Tonight I head back to “S” airport and take a late flight to Zurich and then a connection to Barcelona. Quite a long trip so wont be talking for a bit.
17 May 2012, Bangkok Thailand
postscript – I can’t find my photos of the Kings Palace and Mother Duck. So in this post I have inserted some general photos found on google images ..