Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Unusual signpost

Wandering around the Rattanakosin area of Bangkok I came across the fascinating signpost shown above.

Phra Mae Thorani Twisting Her Hair! What is that all about? Following the sign led me to a statue of a woman twisting her incredibly long hair. It occurred to me that I had seen many similar such representations of the same statue in my travels around Thailand but I had not paid too much attention.

Research led me to discover that Mae Thorani is a Thai and Laotian Buddhist Goddess. To paraphrase Wikipedia: She is recognized as The Goddess of the Earth who is often shown wringing the cool waters of detachment out of her hair. The water drowns the forces of temptation sent by the demon Mara to distract the Buddha as he meditated under the Bohdi tree.

Apparently this bodaciously evil dude sent his three daughters, whose Anglicized names translate into the delightfully named Thirst, Desire and Delight, to seduce the Buddha and stop him from attaining enlightenment. They failed and, rumour has it, all three are now working in the bars of Patpong.

Wikipedia goes on to say: ' A statue of Mae Thorani protecting Buddha will be found in every Thai and Lao temple, sometimes beside or in front of the main Buddha image on the altar, or outside the viharn.' I have certainly seen many such statues, but I do not recollect seeing them in every temple in Thailand and Laos and I have visited scores of them. However I am not always the most observant person when it comes to noticing the smaller details, so can anyone verify the veracity of that statement?

Thai Connoisseur

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Suan Luang King Rama IX Royal Park, Bangkok

In my blog post My Top 5 Green Spots in Bangkok, I briefly mentioned Suan Luang King Rama IX Royal Park, and felt it deserved a fuller blog post of its own. It rarely gets a mention in the better known guide books, whether that is because it is a bit outside the tourist area of Bangkok, or because it is not considered a tourist attraction, I do not know. Certainly it is a rather Thai-oriented place, but there is absolutely no reason why tourists or resident expats should not go there. I enjoyed my visit there, despite visiting on a brutally hot day in late March.

The park is divided into 6 main sections:
i) Homage to His Majesty
In my earlier post I referred to this section as the Commemoration Hall, which is technically incorrect as the Commemoration Hall is only the main structural edifice of the area referred to as ‘Homage to His Majesty’. The Commemoration Hall is a large nine-sided structure which is home to an exhibition detailing the life and projects of the King, such as his various economic and social infrastructure projects, and touching on such things as his musical and photographic prowess. Surrounding gardens also form part of this area.
ii) The Sanan Rasdra
This is a large open area ( a field really) where concerts, performances, sporting events and recreational activities are held. 

iii) The Botanical Garden
This is a really pleasant aspect of the park. There are numerous little areas representing gardens and flora from different areas of the world, including a very pleasant recreation of a British garden which provided a shady retreat from the steamy heat. We also came across a greenhouse housing spectacular looking Cacti plants, but it was so hot I could only last about two minutes there.

iv)   Rommaniya Garden
This is the section dedicated to Thailand’s regions and is landscaped accordingly, to reflect the mountains, waterfalls, forests and other landscapes of Thailand. Native plants  showcase the diversity of Thailand flora.

v) The Water Garden
The Water Garden is a charmingly lush area of shallow canals and semi forest abundant with aquatic plants, fish, ducks and other birds. 

vi) The Reservoir
This is an artificial lake also known as  Prapang Kaew Keb Nam. It serves more than a recreational purpose as it is also designed as a catchment area to hold water back before releasing it into the Chao  Phraya river. This helps to lessen the flood risks in Bangkok’s eastern suburbs. I did not investigate the recreational facilities on the lake when I was there, but, as far as I know, small boats and paddle boats can be rented.
Tip: I went on a weekday morning when the park was very quiet. For some that is ideal, but on my next visit I will go on the weekend in the late afternoon to catch more of the atmosphere of Thai families enjoying a day out and to experience the park as dusk falls.

Location: Sukhumvit Road 103 (Udomsuk) Nongbon Pravej, Bangkok, 10260.
To get there by public transport I would suggest a taxi, or, BTS to On Nut and a taxi from there. Buses do run there, but as I have conflicting information over specific bus routes, I will not post that info.
Have a good time there......

Thai Connoisseur

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Explore the Rattanakosin Era

A new high-tech, interactive museum called Nitas Rattanakosin has opened in Bangkok, according to  CNNgo

As the name implies, it explores the Rattanakosin period which lasted from 1782 to 1932. It looks like an interesting visit. 

Location: 100 Ratchadamnoen Klang Road, on Rattanakosin Island.

Thai Connoisseur

Sunday, July 11, 2010

My Top 5 Green spots in Bangkok

Amidst the madness, surrealism and chaos of teeming, steamy, exciting Bangkok, lie jewels of greenery, some small, some large, but all offer a place of peace, quiet, reflection and a chance to sit in the shade under a tree. I have listed my top 5 favourite spots. The first four are all conveniently reached on the BTS or metro, the 5th one requires a bus or taxi ride, but, believe me, it is worth the effort.

1. Lumphini Park

Despite recent events, which turned Lumphini Park into a battleground, this large green oasis is once more a haven of tranquility. It serves multiple roles; the lungs of Bangkok, a large inner-city refuge and a social meeting point for Bangkokians from all walks of life. Early morning and evening are the best times to go when the park is alive with joggers, walkers, mass aerobics classes, and groups of people gathering together to enjoy the open air and to do what groups of Thais do best, eat! Sometimes you can catch a free concert at the bandstand. I, by chance, came across a great classical music concert there last February which was well appreciated by the largely Thai audience. There is a large artificial lake where you can hire small paddle or row boats. Often you can catch a glimpse of the huge Water Monitor Lizards that call the park home. I love seeing those guys. The park is named after Buddha’s birthplace in Nepal, according to a plaque you can find at the northern end of the park.
Skytrain: Sala Daeng, subway: Lumphini

2. Benjasiri Park

This small, pleasant park lies right on Sukhumvit Road, next to the Emporium shopping center, and right by the Phrong Phom BTS station. It was built in the 1990’s to commemorate the 60th birthday of Queen Sirikit. There is an ornamental lake as the focal point of the park. For me, the main attraction of the park, apart from its convenient location on hustling Sukhumvit Road, are the Thai sculptures that dot the park. In front of the park there is a lively community of street food vendors.  

3. Chatuchak Park

Anyone who has ever been to the world famous Chatuchak weekend market will undoubtedly have seen, passed through, or spent a bit of time in the adjoining Chatuchak Park, next to the Mo Chit BTS 
station. After the steambath of the market, a respite in the park with an ice cold bottle of water is just what the doctor ordered. Having said that, depending on the time of the day, shady spots can be hard to come by. Nontheless, the park is very popular with families and groups of friends, who rent mats from the numerous mat vendors, sit on the grass and, surprise, surprise, eat!

4. Chuvit Park

This tiny little park has a rather controversial history connected with the sometimes murky world of Bangkok politics. It is located near Soi 8 Sukhumvit, close to Nana BTS station. I have only given this place a rather cursory inspection, attracted primarily by its convenient location. If you are in the vicinity it is a place to sit down, catch your breath and chill. I will have to give it a fuller inspection to discover if there is something more to the place than just a quiet spot to sit.

5. Suang Luang King Rama IX Park

This park is a little further outside the central area of Bangkok than the 4 mentioned above, and a taxi may be necessary if you don’t have your own transport. This is the only park of the 5 mentioned which charges an entrance fee, but this is very low, I think 20 bht for non-Thais and 10 bht for Thais. The park was built for the present King Rama IX upon his 60th birthday in 1987.   It is divided into 6 main areas: the Commemoration Hall, the Botanical Gardens, the Resevoir, Rommaniya Garden, the Sanan Rasdara and the Water Garden. This one probably deserves its own blog post so I will write more about this at a later date. RJZS2RUXW6PK