23 September 2009

Paying The Thai Royal A Visit

Upon reaching Bangkok, the first thing that really caught my attention was the presence of pictures of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej Rama IX, the King of Thailand. His pictures seem to be put up just about everywhere – in coffee shops, restaurants, hotel lobbies, everywhere. The people of Thailand really really love their King.

But somehow, it was the picture of Her Majesty the Queen of Thailand that dominated the billboards all over Bangkok during my visit. Whether born in early August was the cause of celebration, I had no idea. But there is no question that the Thai people are devoted to the Royal Family.
So much so that when the day that I had planned to pay them a visit had come, I was more than excited. OK, it wasn’t exactly like I was paying them a visit, but at least I was coming to WHERE THEY WERE STAYING – The Grand Palace, the Thai Royal residence.
Taking a tuk-tuk from the hotel to The Grand Palace, I had to brace myself from getting thrown out of the seat because the tuk-tuk driver roamed the busy traffic of Bangkok like he was playing some racing game in a player station. I had tried to be as casual as possible by using a pair of knee pants. After all, I was a tourist.
Mistake. I forgot it was the Royal Residence I was visiting. Proper dressing is mandatory. Somehow, some people were making money out of it. But of course, I was too smart to fall for it. I always believe in the ‘what if’ thinking concept. The only problem was to find a room to change into my long pants. After roaming around looking for a public toilet and without success, we decided it was time for lunch. I had a good time changing into my long pants inside the toilet.

Ehhh... Why the kid can..?

Later, we were in the Grand Palace compound. On the welcoming portion of the palace – and probably the most outstanding one is The Upper Terrace. It is where the famous Phra Siratana Chedi is located. Glittering under the sun, the golden chedi looks like the god of all gold.
After being told that the outer layer of the whole chedi is actually pure gold, I had to resist myself against the idea of scrapping a small chunk off and bringing back to Malaysia as a souvenir. I wonder if The King would have minded. And of course, standing next to the golden chedi is another mesmerizing structure – the Phra Mondop. It was so architecturally detailed I could spend the whole day looking and getting mesmerized by its beauty.
It really is a masterpiece of art and architectural superiority. But of course, I had to move on.

Ohh, and I didn’t know that Bangkok had their own Angkor Wat.
The Grand Palace is full of wall painting and murals – mostly depicting on Buddhism belief and images. Most of them are fading with time but they have their own painters to keep the murals as they are.
We didn’t let a downpour that came up later to spoil our good time at the palace. I still had time to get funny. And some of the tourists tried to be as funny as I was.. I even tried to be romantically connected to one of the Buddha lady statues..She didn’t seem to be impressed.. Having enough of being funny, we headed off towards The Chakri Group building. Completed in 1882, only the reception areas are now used. The Chakri Group building consists of the Central Throne Hall and the two wings. The Central Throne Hall now serves many purposes, most notably as the venue for the presentation of credentials to foreign ambassadors.

Somewhere inside the building is some kind of a museum hall. Dropping inside the hall had been worthwhile. But somehow I felt it was misplaced because it was full of Japanese war tools and armors. Unfortunately, no photos were allowed to be taken inside the hall so I don’t have anything to show you. I couldn’t even take the photo of the lady janitor who was slumped in her chair, soundly asleep like Mr Bean when he was asked to look after the paintings in the London Museum in Mr. Bean Goes to Hollywood.
The British Royal Guards at the Buckingham Palace in London are probably the most pictured guards in the world – making the high black furry hat which is supposed to look funny doesn’t look funny anymore. In case you wonder how the Thai Royal Guards look like, here’s how they look like..
I am sure there were still a lot to see in the Grand Palace but we knew we didn’t have enough time to check everything out. We decided to say good bye to the royal and walked off to another Bangkok attraction – the Wat Pho. There are 9 Royal Temples all over the city of Bangkok. Wat Pho is one of the most well-known ones. It is also one of the biggest and the oldest.

Being a Christian my whole life, I couldn’t see the significance of the strange-looking yet mesmerizingly detailed structures of Wat Pho in Buddhism belief but still, I was very impressed by everything there was to see. ‘Complexity’ is the word that I had in mind while I was strolling around in the temple compound. I wonder how long it did take to complete everything as it is now.
Some of the chedis are so tall that it takes a little bit of acrobatic posture to get a good picture of them.
Wat Pho is probably best known for housing one of the most prominent Buddishism landmarks of Thailand – the Mother of Pearl, also known as The Reclining Buddha. I had had an early recollection of the Reclining Buddha as being the fighting background of Sagat – one of the fighter characters in the Street Fighter, my favourite video game when I was a kid. In fact, it was the only thing that I knew of Thailand back then. Only in real the statue is not located anywhere in a street. Placed inside a gigantic temple building whose space inside is almost wholly occupied by the statue itself, it was impossible to take a picture of the whole thing. This is the best I could take. And there was a long series of metal pots placed next to one another – I didn’t miss out on the opportunity of putting in small coins into each of them as I made my wish. Whatever the wish was, I’d rather keep it to myself ;-) After saying goodbye to the Mother of Pearl, I made my way out and walked off towards the river bank of Chao Phraya River where I found a public jetty. I then took a ferry to the other side of the river where another Royal Temple - the Wat Arun is located. Mind to tell you, it is such a stupid idea to get a taxi or a tuk tuk to take you to the Temple Arun which is just across the river from Wat Pho. Believe me, it is so long a distance it’d cost you a fortune. Getting across the river by ferry only cost you 3 cents! Popularly known as the Temple of the Dawn, I could simply see why. With its concentrical structure and the central prang (Khmer-style tower) pointing up to the sky, it makes the whole structure seems so beautifully connected to the sky, or probably heaven if you like to look it that way. For some reason, the top terrace of the temple is closed for public. But even getting to the middle terrace is not that easy. With stairs are so steep it’d take some physical effort and courage to the middle platform. If you’re afraid of height, you better forget it. But then, it’s very easy to get mesmerized by the view of the Chao Phraya meandering across the city of Bangkok like a lifeline to its 6 million inhabitants.
And of course the river is much older than the city itself. That makes the river so sacred and so significant to the existence of Bangkok itself. The river that had seen it all. If you look closely, you'd realize that the prangs are are actually decorated by seashells and bits of porcelain, which make the temple even more special. They are said to have been previously used as ballast by boats coming to Bangkok from China.
After taking photos in just about every corner of Wat Arun, we decided to call it a day. Again, we got on a ferry to return to the other side of the river from where we took a tuk tuk back to the hotel.

Unlike most of its neighboring countries, Thailand has never been colonized by any western country in the past. That makes Thailand such a proud country and despite its internal political turmoil that has been going on over the years, Thailand remains a safe country to visit.

Bangkok really is a city with so many places of interest it is impossible to visit every one of them within such a short period of time. Due to time constraint, I had to spare seeing the view of Bangkok from the Sirocco Sky Bar and also the Floating Market for some other visit.
I’ll just hope Air Asia would still be there by then.


chegu carol said...

I went there in Aug too and Bangkok was swarmed with LOTS of the Majesty and His Queen's pictures. Besar2 lagi tu suma. Hotels, siring jalan, shopping complexes, office complexes...semua lah.

Itu mural painter bah, bila sa tingu tu gmbar trus sa teringat the picture of them i took when i was there...and my sister in law said, 'punya besar ni dinding durang mau re-paint. baru sini durang paint, di sana sdh start fade balik.' LOL!

Jipp said...

hehe. ya Carol. Durg betul2 mendewa dewakan raja durang. sbb tu sgt berat hukuman kalo menghina raja durg sna.

Ya, sa rasa itu painters semua terpaksa kerja round the clock. sa tingu durg rata2 pakai earphone. sgt oblivious to the surrounding. hehe. tapi sa tingu ramai jg durg tu. kalo satu urg mangkali mmg sengsara la.


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