Our last few weeks in Bangkok, January 2016

  Bangkok, you’ve been good to us! Homeschool community, easy transport to beaches and Cambodia, some income, a nice apartment, excellent field trips. I’m not sure what comes next, but it will be hard to beat the past few months. Anyway, here are our last few Bangkok weeks.

We spent a nice afternoon at the Bangkok Arts and Cultural Center, right off the Siam BTS station. The building is so sleek, all white and modern, and there is so much natural light. You can walk up a spiraling ramp to the top floor! 


The admission was free for all of us, and we saw the two large exhibits in the galleries (photography by the popular Thai HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn and Thai abstract artist Ithipol Thangcholok) well as a hallway exhibit of adorable Czech children’s book art. The kids spent most of their time coloring beautiful coloring pages in a nice area set up for just that. 


We ended up at the Museum of Siam kind of by mistake. A tuk tuk driver brought us there despite our  request to “turn RIGHT!” in two languages several streets before. It was so hot and the museum had been on our radar anyway, so we went with it. It is an interactive museum about Thai history and identity. Only 200 baht each for us parents, the kids were free.  

   It is housed in a beautiful 19th century building that used to be the Ministry of Commerce. The exhibits seemed very modern and possibly even recently installed. There is an introductory video with several silly, engaging characters that reappear in monitors as one tours the museum. I think we learned a lot!  I especially liked this exhibit on the diversity of ships and people that shaped Ayutthaya, the ex-Thai capital whose ruins we visited last month.

 The kids liked the 19th century dress up clothes mixing European and traditional Thai styles. 


We went back to the vegan food court, took DH this time, and spent some time at the boisterous Chatuchak weekend market again, with its 15,000 vendors. It was very hot and crowded but we knew we didn’t have many more chances to go. Afterwards, I could persuade only Cleverly to continue adventuring with me, and we went to the Thailand Tourism Festival at Lumpini Park.  

 I am so glad we went! It is a 5-day festival in which they make the park into a mini Thailand, with 5 areas representing different regions of the country. There are even little roads to direct you among the regions.

 We saw traditional dancers that brought to mind the apsara dancers carved on Angkor temple walls. They moved slowly and posed with precise hand and foot movements to recorded traditional music.


We also saw a performance of all men dancers accompanied by live music including a choir! They had elaborate costumes and performed in front of a traditional style house erected for the festival.

 It was wonderful to watch, and the music was haunting. It was all in Thai so we didn’t understand the story. At one point, there was a king riding a golden elephant. 

 Aside from the performances, there was so much else to see. We saw a ‘floating market’ on land with traditional boats housing the vendors. 


There were also modern rock’n’roll musicians, regional crafts like fabric art, and a lot more things we didn’t see.

A few weeks ago was Children’s Day! We had heard about one in Japan years ago and the kids felt ripped off. “Why don’t we have that here???”. The standard adult response of ‘every day of children’s day’ is not very satisfying. Anyway, in Thailand it meant kids riding free on the BTS, free entry and special activities at some government buildings, and Ponies at the mall:

 And we also went to the teak mansion Vimanmek Palace on Children’s Day. It was built in 1900 by King Rama V, used for such diverse purposes as royal residents and storage until 1982, then renovated that year by the current Thai Queen Sirikit. These are not my photos; we had to check our bags and photos are not permitted on many places so I don’t have any of my own. It was a gorgeous building.


I had a day by myself and I went to the National Museum. I’m glad I didn’t bring the kids so I could geek out on all the artifacts at my own pace. It’s not interactive or very modern, in fact it’s almost shabby in places and had a dusty forgotten feel at times, which only made me love it more. I did not take a ton of pictures but I couldn’t resist taking some of the funeral chariots. There have been used in very elaborate processions going back centuries and even current times, see photos and video from a 2012 funeral here

The place had maybe 15 buildings, some under renovation during my visit. The artifacts go back to prehistory and through different manifestations of Buddhist culture such as Lopburi, Sukhothai, Bagan, and the Khmer of Angkor Wat fame. I became interested in Buddha footprints, which we had seen at shrines here.

 New to me was the Wheel of Law, which often had a sitting deer statue nearby.  The deer represents the location of the Buddhas first sermon at a deer park.

 They had a nice stone Ganesh, flanked by two smaller ones. 

And there were smaller statues of various other  dieties, like the 12th century Kali goddess below. A statue I saw of a kneeling Buddha statue looked so lifelike, I kept looking over my shoulder to make sure it hadn’t moved. 


This post is getting long, more to come in part 2!

Bangkok and day trips, December 2015

Artist house 

The Artist House is a beautiful workshop and performance space housed in a centuries-old wooden house on a canal in Bangkok. ‘The Venice of Thailand’, by the way, has an extensive canal network with bus-like public transport boats. At the Artist House, hey perform puppet shows in the traditional style almost as if they are ceremonies. There is a 400 year old stupa, religious stone tower, behind the stage. 


We got there early so we could see the art gallery and explore a little. 

There are statues by the canal, and also a place to feed the hungry fish and birds. 

 Each puppet had three puppeteers who wore all black with masks and moved together. It was like a graceful prayer dance.  It could get silly, too, as the puppets came into the audience at one point. 



This was a short day trip that was disappointing in that we didn’t see any dolphins, but it was still interesting and close enough that we had time afterwards to go to the street fair (see below). This is not a popular tourist attraction, so it was a bit tricky to figure out. Several dolphin species, notably the strange-looking irawiddy, enter the Bang Pakong River from the Gulf of Thailand in November to February each year. We went to the town of Chachoengsao to look for them ourselves. We thought they came upriver to that town, but it was recommended to us by a local to go further south to where the river meets the gulf. We took a minivan for the 20-minute trip, then found a dolphin-themed pier with a few fishermen sitting there but no boats. We eventually found a bodega owner who called a friend with a boat, then drove us to the pier. We took a two-hour ride in a colorful wooden boat around the river and gulf and saw some neat silver fish jumping in the water, but no dolphins.  


Bangkok street fair 

This event took place in Lumpini Park and went on for several days. We went twice! Lumpini Park is a beautiful quiet green space in this boisterous bustling city. I walked through it once on my own. Oh, and there are alligator-looking ‘monitor lizards’ there!

So the Bangkok street show takes place here. There are street performers from all over the world.  

We saw some amazing performers, and I loved the fact that many were different from what I have seen in the past. Many were Asian, no surprise there, but they were so humble and almost prayer-like about their acts. Like the puppet show at the Artist House, performers often faced away from the audience and kneeled for a quiet moment before the show. It wasn’t done as part of the act, or done ostentatiously at all, it seemed quite genuine to me. Despite the zaniness of the shows themselves, performers bowed to the audience at the start and finish of their show and when I could understand them, they thanked the audience and said they felt honored to perform. There was a lack of sarcasm and attitude that I really appreciated.  Here’s Truly onstage with the Twin Dragons – twin brothers with a comical martial arts act, and Cleverly with one of her favorite performers:

Also the monitor lizards and free cotton candy were big hits! 


 Many people were wearing yellow to commemorate the birthday of the King of Thailand. Thais really love their King, who was crowned over 60 years ago and brought honor to the monarchy, which had had hard times, and a level of stability to the country. His birthday is also National Day and Thai Father’s Day, so you can see December 5th is a day of celebration here. They call him ‘Dad’ and we saw numerous signs in English proclaiming ‘we love our Dad’. There was also a bike ride called ‘Bike for Dad’ that took place a week later with tens of thousands of participants throughout the country, and in fact in other countries as well! So you may notice a lot of yellow shirts in the street show pictures. Similar to our experience in China during their mid-autumn festival, the crowds were happy and peaceful.

Jim Thompson farm 

 This trip was organized by the Bangkok homeschoolers group we have been lucky enough to get to know. We had visited the Jim Thompson House in Bangkok and learned of his revitalization of Thai silk work in the 1950s-60s, and now we were to see the farm and silk works he had established before his mysterious disappearance in 1967.  


  The farm is about 3-4 hours from Bangkok and is only open for about a month once a year. There are fields and fields of flowers, a ‘village’ with traditional houses, and buildings with people working on looms. It is large-scale agrotainment, with all the tourist shops and accoutrements you would imagine, but with interesting Thai and silk components. We moved among the areas in brightly painted busses, some that looked like watermelons and silk worms. 


There were rice harvest and threshing implements: 

 And the teak buildings on stilts, similar to the ones Jim Thompson had moved to Bangkok for his home. 

 The silk looms and raw silk were lovely to look at and so soft to the touch!


Just some more random photos from a photogenic place: 


That’s the update for now!