Thailand

Wednesday, 9 August 2017 17:48
strange_complex: (One walking)
[personal profile] strange_complex
As explained in an earlier post, I am trying to capture my recent trip to Forn Parts here on DW / LJ by replicating and linking to the FB posts I made at the time, but also adding supplementary photos and text for anything I feel deserves better documentation. BTW, if you are reading this on DW / LJ and we're not already FB friends, I'm very happy for that to change. Here's my profile; please leave a note saying who you are on DW / LJ if you think I'm unlikely to recognise the name you go by on FB. Stuff about Thailand follows below, with material already posted on FB under the cu-tags, and additional DW / LJ-only material at the bottom.


29th June: first evening's impressions

Bangkok so far. I'm staying in the Chinese quarter.

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30th June: a day in Bangkok

Bangkok, day two. Went onna boat, went inna temple, met a cat, went inna tuk-tuk, ate pad thai. Not pictured - got two massages, went to the Grand Palace (I took pics there, but only on my Proper Camera), ate mango with sticky rice. It's pretty good here.

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1st July: summer palace, Ayutthaya, river cruise

It's the end of my last day in Thailand, and already I'm at the airport waiting to fly on to Brisbane. It's been fascinating and a pleasure. Each photo has a caption to explain what's going on. Not pictured: getting holy water sprinkled on me by a Buddhist monk (for once, a good thing I am not actually a vampire), drinking / eating a fresh coconut, checking out of my hotel by torchlight as the electricity had gone!

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The summer palace of the kings of Thailand, built in the 19th century. It turns out that just as Europeans of the same era indulged in Chinoiserie, Thais were meanwhile practising Europeanoiserie of their own.

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Ruined temples at Ayutthaya, which was the capital of Thailand until the Burmese destroyed it in the late 18th century.

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Evidently Thai dogs were as naughty as Roman dogs when bricks were lying out to dry!

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Another boat tour.

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A commemorative shrine in the airport to king Rama IX, who died last October after a 70-year reign. Thais are obviously genuinely grief-stricken at his loss - there are tributes like this all over the place, black ribbon on buildings and people, and our guide told us 70,000 people A DAY are filing respectfully past his body to pay their respects before his cremation this October.


1st July: anniversary of Mum's death

For the record, today is actually also one year to the day since Mum died. Was a bit weird carrying that knowledge around with me, and noting when the exact moment came round (allowing for time-zones), while in Thailand on a tour surrounded by (very nice) perfect strangers. But I went round both Hong Kong and Japan with Mum, and I know she would have been delighted for me that I was exploring another Far Eastern country today. I even know exactly what little local customs and peculiarities she would have found charming, fascinating or amusing. So she is in some way still with me.


That covers the main outlines pretty well, but I tended to use my Proper Camera when going round the temples and palaces, and photos from that aren't so easy to upload instantly to FB. Now that I've downloaded and sorted them all, here are a few for the record, under headings naming the locations:

Grand Palace, Bangkok

This is both a temple complex and the main royal palace, but the palace is largely closed off to tourists at the moment so that thousands of mourners can pay their respects to the recently-deceased king, so the pictures are all of the temple section.

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Wat Pho temple, Bangkok

This temple is famous for its very long gilded reclining Buddha.

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It also has a long history as a centre of medical study and practice, as reflected in these labelled diagrams on the walls. Today, there is a large massage clinic within the temple complex, where I had a traditional Thai massage. This differs from a typical western massage, in that it doesn't involve oil or moving hands over the body. Instead, you wear loose clothes and they lift, stretch and press your limbs and muscles, pushing rather than rubbing the tension out of them. The guy who did mine clearly really knew what he was about, and I left suffused with a wonderful sense of looseness and well-being.

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And this is something I remember very much from Japan - cats curled up in quiet niches amongst the temple's decorative scheme.

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Bang Pa-In Summer Palace, near Ayutthaya

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Temples of Ayutthaya

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Ayutthaya was the old capital of Thailand before Bangkok, and hence was packed full of splendid temples (just as Bangkok is today). But in the 18th century, it was attacked by the Burmese, who amongst other things decapitated most of the Buddha statues within the temple complexes. Most of the heads are now gone, but one particular temple is famous for the way one of the remaining heads has become tangled up in the roots of a Banyan fig, in such a way that the face still looks outwards.

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Another reclining Buddha, but this time without the surrounding temple building or the gilding.

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There are live temples there too, and this one is where we had holy water sprinkled on us and string tied around our wrists. The string symbolically ties us to the Buddha, who holds the end of all the pieces.

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Tributes to the deceased king

For all the beuatiful buildings and delicious food, though, I think the thing I found most fascinating and striking about Thailand was the commemoration of and collective mourning for their recently-deceased king. All over Bangkok there were black-and-white banners in his honour, posters about him and little shrines like the one at the airport in my FB pictures above.

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I also visited a little exhibition about him in the Grand Palace complex, which emphasised the extent of his personal dedication to the Thai people. There is an iconic picture of him with a drop of sweat on the end of his nose which is taken as symbolic of how hard and selflessly he worked for them, and the widespread Thai response to his death shows that it worked. Yet we also learnt in the Summer Palace that representatives of other nations were expected to prostrate themselves before him unless they were kings of an equivalent status, while of course the Wikipedia article about him reveals a history of supporting his position through violence and oppression which the exhibition politely ignored. All in all, he is a spectacular example of successful political self-fashioning, whom I can easily imagine swapping notes with Augustus in some kind of afterlife. It was fascinating and a little terrifying to see it live in action in the present day.

Date: Thursday, 10 August 2017 00:25 (UTC)
thanatos_kalos: (Default)
From: [personal profile] thanatos_kalos
I'm glad you had such a good & fascinating time! :)

Date: Saturday, 12 August 2017 14:45 (UTC)
armiphlage: (Default)
From: [personal profile] armiphlage
beautiful pictures!

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