Sunday, March 11, 2007

One Day in Bangkok - The Grand Palace

This update will have some more pictures from a stop in Bangkok. Specifically, the Grand Palace, one of the tourist highlights of the city. It's the former primary residence of the royal family.

This is the rather spectacular view I had from my approach. Strangely, I was followed by a few touts, trying to sell me pants! I was wearing shorts, which isn't allowed inside the palace. I ignored them of course, ultimately there's a service near the entrance that lends visitors a free pair of purple sweat pants.

There's a Buddhist temple integrated with the palace grounds. The Buddhist areas are unbelievably grand and ornate, gilded in gold and with detailed statues and carvings all around. It contains an Emerald Buddha which is supposedly the national symbol of Thailand, although I admit I didn't pay much attention about it when I was there,and pictures aren't allowed. Here's a picture of the surroundings:

And here's a large stupa in the center of the structure:

There's also a number of impressive statues. Tibetan Buddhism is a form of Hinayana Buddhism, which nominally is monk-based with less mysticism than Chinese Buddhism, but also incorporates a lot of gods from Hinduism. Honestly a lot of it is a mystery to me, but these statues definitely look Hindu-ish to me.

And this is one of many of similar figures, standing side-by-side:

There were also murals along the wall, depicting moments of religious import, they were getting restored when I was there.

The Palace structure wasn't as impressive. The buildings were in a European style, big wooden caverns with Thai-styled roofs on top. The insides had small museum displays, such as a collection of old Thai weapons.

While I'm at it, the strangest thing about Thailand is the hero-worship of the king. I can't claim to be expert, but what I know: He's made himself one of the richest people in the world, off the resources of a rather small third world nation. And while he's constitutionally not allowed to meddle with politics, he's been closely associated with the recent military coup. Pointing this out is illegal though - criticizing the king is a criminal offense, even by innuendo.

It gets a lot more strange than that. His picture is everywhere around Bangkok, there's no getting around it. Supposedly, most of Thailand wears yellow on Mondays, it's the official color of his reign. The English-language events magazine I read gushed on and on about his skills as a pop musician, of all things, and it was just one of several king-themed articles. People I talked to even casually, in non-king contexts, would volunteer that they really loved the king.

No comments: