Only Planet

One Child, One Year, One Planet. A family of three traveling around the world...

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Sunday, October 23, 2005

Bangkok Thailand: City of flowers and serpents

We arrived Thursday October 20th in Krungthep mahanakhon amonratanakosin mahintara ayuthaya mahadilok popnopparat ratchathani burirom udomratchaniwet mahasathan amonpiman avatansathit sakkathattiya witsanukamprasit* (in English this translates to “Great City of Angels, Repository of Divine Gems, Great Land Unconquerable, Grand and Prominent Realm, Royal and Delightful Capital City full of Nine Noble Gems, Highest Royal Dwelling and Grand Palace, Divine Shelter and Living Place of Reincarnated Spirits”). The Farangs (foreigners) just call it Bangkok!

We are staying at a friend’s condo about an hour’s cab ride outside of the heart of the city, a comfortable, spacious place where we’ve been able to do something we’ve wanted to do for weeks: cook! Our first day in Thailand was noted not for the temples, the palace, or any of the sites, but for the simple fact that since we left Montana (August 10th) it was the first day we didn’t have to go out to a restaurant for food! I made some of Dylan’s favorites, tuna noodle casserole and poppy seed chicken, sans poppy seeds.

We eventually ventured out and went to the Jim Thompson House for a glimpse of Thai architecture and beautiful Thai artwork. Jim Thompson was an American who was sent over to Bangkok by the OSS (precursor to the CIA) at the close of World War II, and fell in love with Thailand, especially the hand woven silks and the Thai architecture. He bought houses from parts of Thailand and had them reassembled to create his own home, a private oasis in the heart of Bangkok. He was an avid collector of art and a true friend of the Thais. He revived the silk industry here by selling it to his friends in the west and arranging for silks to be made into costumes for the play and the movie The King and I.

We walked through the surrounding gardens and took the tour of the inside of the house, which had some incredible artwork Thompson had collected over the years. An intriguing part of his story was his untimely demise. While on vacation in the highlands of Malaysia, he disappeared during an afternoon stroll. Wild theories abound regarding his disappearance- that he was assassinated, eaten by tigers, or what seems to be the current thought: hit by a truck and hid by a frightened driver. Later we ventured into the official Jim Thompson House restaurant, which is a gorgeous modern air-conditioned haven, serving some pretty good Thai food. It was pricier than what was on the street, but for us, seemed a deal at 900 baht, or US$23, for a huge lunch.

After visiting Jim Thompson’s House we found our way to the Bangkok Doll Factory and Museum, an adventure in itself since it’s tucked away in a tiny residential alley. The “museum” consisted of two rooms where they showcased the owner’s doll collection as well as hundred’s of dolls for sale. They supply dolls to vendors all over Thailand. The owner was seated in a wheelchair, as she is quite elderly, and seemed truly curious as to how we found her factory and gave us a special deal on some dolls we bought. (We later saw the same dolls for sale for 1000 baht more at the Oriental Hotel!)

We didn’t need to go to the Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute, a/k/a snake farm, to see a slithering serpent. Going on a walk to the local Carrefour (international grocery store), we had just stepped out of the driveway to our condo and started down the sidewalk when I spotted what looked like a really long green reed. It looked like the many growing in the neighboring field. As I got closer the “reed” lifted its head to an imposing 5 inches and I, being totally terrified of snakes, yelled to Dylan “turn around and follow me now!” Dylan was close enough to step on it and I’m not sure how it is she didn’t spot it. This is where you get a picture in your mind of me running, yelling Dylan’s name and shrieking like a girly girl. She did so without question and when we were a few feet away I told her what it was. Then she joined me screaming and shaking. Andy, either being very brave, or not too bright (I’m not sure why he assumed it wasn’t a fast or poisonous snake) just stood there, so I yelled to him to get a picture. The guard was totally laughing at us and many people sitting around the complex came out to see what the commotion was about. Needless to say, we hailed a taxi—there was no way we were going to pass that way on foot again, and we’ve been replaying that traumatic moment again and again.

* I’ve been wanting an excuse to write that!


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