Monday, September 7, 2009

Bangkok - Day 2

Well - I'm afraid today's edition of the blog won't have quite so many detailed photos . . . the two main stops on our second day in Bangkok made us lock up our cameras before entering. Well, we did our best to snap a few and here's the result.

Our first stop of the day was Vimanmek Palace. Built by Rama V as a summer home, it's nicknamed "The Teak Palace" because its almost entirely made of golden teak without a single nail. It was primarily used by the royal family in the early 1900's.

It houses many of the gifts and artifacts that were collected by Rama V including furniture, ceramics, and artwork. It also contains Thailand's first indoor bathroom. No pictures allowed inside . . . sorry.

The grounds were beautiful and most of the buildings have been turned into small museums. Our favorite was the elephant museum that was located in the retired stables. It detailed the famous elephants that were used by the king and the elaborate 'saddles' that he rode on. It had some pictures of a recent ceremony where a prized 'white elephant' was granted royal status.

After the palace, we were ready for lunch (and some air-conditioning which the teak palace obviously lacked). We decided it was a good chance to check out the 'ritzy' part of Bangkok. We were surprised - the main centre downtown was a bustling street with 6 or 7 huge, upscale malls. We're talkin' Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Hermes, Cartier . . . the works! We hit-up one of the 'hip'(a.k.a. cheaper) malls and hit the food court for some Thai food. Here's a picture of the dessert bar.

Thailand is notorious for slow traffic. The bikers seem to manage alright . . .

Walking around here it's easy to forget about the markets, long-tail boats, street food stalls, and palm trees just minutes away . . .

. . . although, tucked away down an alley behind the malls, there is a beautifully preserved old house and garden. This is the house of Jim Thompson. Thompson was a legendary American adventurer / architect / entrepreneur and an avid art collector. He is responsible for saving the art of Thai silk weaving which was dying out when he 'discovered' it. It's now a booming industry and a large export for Thailand. (Shawna bought a gorgeous silk scarf made by the Jim Thompson Silk Company - I'm sure she'll pose with it for a blog photo if you ask nicely).

Jim Thompson collected numerous pieces of art from his world travels and his house still displays everything exactly as he left it when he mysteriously disappeared in 1967 in the jungles of Malaysia. We weren't allowed to take cameras on our guided tour but we were able to snap a few later while walking the grounds.

We had to rush from the Jim Thompson house after our tour in order to catch our train to Chiang Mai. We had 14 hours in the second class sleeper car to look forward to . . .

Well, at least we didn't opt for the 3rd class . . . wooden seats . . .

Getting pumped up for the train ride. What could she be listening to??? "Getting to know you . . . getting to know all about you . . ."

Looks a bit like prison - it was alright once our fan started working. Two hours of profuse sweating to prime my bunk for the night . . . nice.

Good night - see you in Chiang Mai . . .

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