Sunday, March 7, 2010

Sawadee from Thailand,

There are always so many interesting things to learn everywhere we go. In Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, the Chao Phraya River runs though the city. It is a very busy river with river taxis, barges carrying goods, and long-tail boats that are a favorite with tourists. It is called a long-tail because the propeller is at the end of a long rod connected to the very large engine. A long-tail boat can go very fast. There are many canals off the Chao Phraya.

We love the Peninsula Hotel because it is on the river and we love to watch the river. The Peninsula Hotel arranged a tour for us to help us learn a little more of Thai history. We climbed into a long-tail and went up the river to the Temple of Dawn. It was built by King Rama VI. All the kings have the title of Rama. Some say it is called the Temple of Dawn because the temple faces the sunrise but our guide, Chakie, told us it is because King Rama VI landed at that site at dawn and decided that was where the temple should be. The designs on the temple are very beautiful and interesting. They are made out of pieces of China dishes that broke when being shipped from China to Thailand. We looked closely and could see that that the flowers were made from plates and in other places we could see the bottoms of cups. We thought it was a clever idea.

There are many canals off the Chao Phraya and our guide took us through one of the main canals. There are gates on the canal to control flooding so we had to wait for the gate to open. Many people live along the canal and use boats to get around. Chakie said, “Notice the houses of rich people are next to houses of poor people. It is the same with places of worship.” We saw Christian churches near Buddhist Temples near Moslem Mosques. Later he pointed to a boat, “Look that is the noodle delivery man. Everything thing they need is delivered by boat. Over there is the person delivering the meat. Even the mail comes by boat.” We thought it would be fun to live on the canal.

We also visited the Museum of the Royal Barges. The long narrow barges are very beautiful and only used on very special occasions. The museum has eight beautiful Royal Barges. Each is carved from huge pieces of teak with mythical creatures on the front. The barges are rowed by up to 50 specially trained oarsmen. It was an interesting tour.

South of Bangkok we visited the beautiful Royal Summer Palace. It was built in 1923 by King Rama VI. A series of open halls connects the various rooms. A long covered walkway led to the king’s beach where, at 5 in the morning surrounded by 40 servants to make sure nothing happened to him, he took his morning swim. A similar walkway led to a swimming area for his wife. King Rama VI was the great-grandfather of the current King. King Rama IX became king in 1950. He is much loved. People like to wear yellow clothes in honor of the king. In Thailand each day of the week has a special color. The servants in the Royal Palace all dress in the color of the day. What is your color? The colors are: Sunday-red, Monday-yellow, Tuesday-pink, Wednesday-green, Thursday-orange, Friday-blue, and Saturday’s color is purple.