Thursday, March 25, 2021

Thailand: Part 16 - Back to Bangkok

 Back to Bangkok:  

Traditional Arts, a Golden Buddha, Chinatown, the Jim Moore House of Silk, and a Final Cruise on the Chao Phraya River

December 9 - 10, 2015

The scariest thing about our entire trip to Thailand? The taxi ride to the airport for our flight home. Our driver must have thought he was Mario Andretti as he zipped through the crazy Bangkok traffic. Sometimes he drove right down the center lane as he decided which lane was going to go faster. When we got to the big slow down to merge into the lane leading to the freeway to the airport, he zoomed past all the people waiting in the correct lane and just wormed his way into the airport lane at the very last minute. He passed up every single other taxi we encountered. Oh...and no seat belts! Well, I must say, he got us to the airport in record time...and the cost was half of what we paid to get to our hotel when we arrived because it ran for such a short time!

Back to Bangkok traffic - and their cute pink taxis!

But I'm getting ahead of myself!  Let's back up. The last two days of this wonderful trip were spent back in Bangkok and included many sights we had not already seen. Tuesday afternoon and evening, six of us signed up for an optional event...a visit to the Arts of the Kingdom exhibit in the Dusit Palace, and it was one of the most impressive art exhibits I have ever seen. All of the artwork was created by poor Thais who were selected for their raw talent and trained in the various arts under a special program established by Queen Sirikit, who was concerned that the traditional arts of Thailand were dying out.  You can read more about her efforts here:  HM Queen Sirikit's love for Thai crafts a boon to the nation

Dusit Palace

Summerhouse at the Palace

Tour friends

The artwork was exquisite: gold replicas of the thrones of the ancient kings, huge panels of teak wood worked in three dimensional carvings that told the stories of the mythology of the country, enormous "paintings" stitched in silk thread that were so detailed they were almost photographic.  
 Since our visit, this exhibit has been moved from Dusit Palace to The Arts of the Palace Museum in Ayutthaya.  Sadly, no photos were allowed, but you can find photos of some of the items here:

Arts of the Kingdom Collection

The afternoon visit was followed by dinner at Siam Niramit, a spectacular show with dance, song, and special effects - including a water-filled river across the stage - that highlighted various historical periods in Thailand's history. 

Before the big show, there was a colorful pre-show outdoors with musicans, graceful Thai dancers, demons, and angels.  Some of us visitors got pulled in to be "volunteer" dancers! My Thai dance partner and I whirled around for about 5 minutes, with him showing me how to hold my hands and do the simple steps. 

Our final day in Bangkok was a busy one!  In the morning, we visited Wat Traimit, a beautiful temple housing a five ton Buddha statue made of solid gold!  And what a history this statue has had!  It was built during the Sukhothai period, sometime in the 13th to 14th century.  At some point prior to the 1700s, it was covered completely by stucco and colored bits of glass to conceal its true value and was moved from Sukhothai to the new capital of Ayutthaya.  The disguised statue remained in the ruins of Ayutthaya after the destruction of the city by Burma in 1767.  

In 1801, King Rama I established the new capital in Bangkok and ordered that Buddha statues from ruined temples around the kingdom be moved to the new temples in Bangkok.  The still-covered statue was housed in Wat Chotanaram, a minor temple, with no one recognizing what a treasure they had.  Then in 1954, the statue was moved for the last time to the new Wat Traimit.  In the process of moving the five ton statue, the ropes broke and the statue fell, chipping some of the stucco coating and allowing the gold to shine through!  This Buddha now sits in a fitting temple of gold leaf, surrounded by large vases of bright flowers.



After paying our respects in the temple, we walked through nearby Chinatown gaping at the market offerings of black chicken, dried squid, chicken feet, pink dumplings, and various other unrecognizable foods. I wasn't brave enough to try most samples there, but the roasted bananas were delicious!

Chicken - including the feet!

Pink pork chops?

Roast ducks

Roasted Bananas - one of the few foods I recognized at the Chinese marketplace

Beautiful displays of fruits and vegetables.

Next, we visited a nearby Chinese dragon-festooned temple.

We ended the afternoon at the Jim Thompson House. After World War II, Jim Thompson, an American businessman, fell in love with Bangkok and brought several old wooden houses to Bangkok where he had them re-built into a beautiful teak home that he furnished with ancient statues, paintings, and other Thai artwork. He is best known for reviving the Thai silk industry, and became world-renowned.  In 1967, he disappeared on a trip to Malaysia's Cameron Highlands and was never found.

Weavers and craftspeople demonstrated the cultivation of silk worms and the spinning of the silk threads, and dancers entertained us in the flower-filled courtyard.  Of course, we had to buy some of their beautiful silk scarves!

The white and yellow silk are natural colors

Soaking the cocoons to loosen the silk threads

Spinning the silk threads

We spent our last evening on a beautiful dinner cruise down the Chao Phraya River with the lights of the city and the other boats sparkling on the water.  The Royal Palace and other temples glowed in the darkness.

The Royal Palace

Temples glowing on the waters of Chao Phraya

Since our tour had started the day after Loy Krathong, Yo provded each of us with a lotus flower krathong. We lit the candles and incense sticks and set them floating down the river with a wish to return to this beautiful country again some day.

We bid farewell to Thailand - a beautiful country