I really did wake up ridiculously early yesterday. Fortunately my body seems to have done a rapid time clock change and after a fabulous night of sleep last night I feel in tune with local time! We started our day with breakfast at the hotel, then headed out on foot up the street to walk to the train ticket agent.
Stella had only just turned 7 years old last time we visited, and she really doesn’t remember anything much about it at all, whereas Clare has some quite good memories and even recognised one of the cafes we went to on a food tour. She was 11 last visit. We all enjoyed the walk, taking in the change in shops and buildings from jewellery stores and tailors to tile shops and providers of building materials. Stella was rather fascinated by the multiplicity of wires and cables stringing the streets. I reflected on how quickly you start not to notice those sorts of things as much when you’ve visited the country before.
As always, I am constantly fascinated by the juxtaposition of building types along the streets and the canals. Differences in height and construction types, differences in maintenance levels, differences in usage. The canal we walked along was pretty smelly, yet had bushes sculpted into animal shapes lining it.
We are of course struck by the impact of the death of the highly respected and much loved King Bhumibol late last year. There are pictures honouring him everywhere, and the Thai people are clearly still in mourning. Yet at the same time life is also continuing on here as usual. One street vendor we spoke to last night said that for high season, it is considerably quieter than usual. She was concerned that people had cancelled their visits to Thailand since the King’s death as they considered the potential impact of the mourning period on their holidays. It always makes me aware of how vital tourism is for countries like this, and the effect that it has when it drops off.
After collecting our train tickets for the next day, we took a tuk tuk (much to Stella’s great delight) to the Snake Farm at the Queen Saovhaba Memorial Institute. The institute houses The Red Cross Thailand, and the Snake Farm breeds snakes for the production of antivenom and other therapeutic purposes. We arrived just in time to watch a demonstration of snake milking.
It was rather fascinating watching the handlers with these highly venomous snakes. I was surprised at how much venom was collected. We were then able to inspect a number of other snakes.
There is also an excellent museum with all sorts of information about snakes and their life cycle, their biology and their history. I was slightly embarassed to realise that despite having once been a secondary science/biology teacher, I was incredibly ignorant about snakes! They’re rather fascinating – so much housed inside those long smooth bodies.
Stella spent ages watching to see if this snake was going to eat its lunch or not….
One of the displays detailed King Bhumibol’s theory for sufficiency economy. Makes complete sense, I think!
One of the things that I always enjoy in new places is the detail. Yes, looking at the big picture is always fascinating, but so is zooming in to look at details. Even the packaging of food and drink; the graphics on the containers and the swirls of foreign (to me) scripts.
Our next stop was the Jim Thompson House. Jim Thompson was an American architect who fell in love with Thailand and moved here after WWII. He was clearly enamoured with the country and its history and lifestyle, and built a beautiful traditionally styled residence in Bangkok and filled it with antiques.
We were treated to a highly informative tour of the house and gardens. I’m out of time to type more in this blog post at the moment, but there is more on the website here and I’ll leave you with more photos. Hopefully I’ll have a chance to update this later!
Jim Thompson was responsible for introducing Thai Silk to the western world, and there were demonstrations and displays related to this. I’ll update with more information later!