Friday, 31 August 2012

Fit for a King

Although I was only in Bangkok for two days on my recent visit, I made the tough decision to relinquish a whole day there for an expedition to the ancient capital of Ayutthaya. I took the easy way out and opted for a coach trip. An added attraction was that the return trip included a river cruise along the Chaophraya, which provided a wonderful perspective of the city of Bangkok. On top of that, we also visited the beautiful Bang Pa-in Summer Palace.

The present day palace dates from the reign of Rama V, King Chulalongkorn (1868-1910). He was one of the royal children tutored by a series of European tutors, including Anna Leonowens, an episode which gave rise to the story of The King and I. He subsequently sent his own sons to be educated in Europe and made two visits there himself, the first Siamese king to do so.

The European influence can be clearly seen in the buildings that make up Bang Pa-in Palace. The literally 'palatial' building are exquisite, but I must admit I was particularly taken with the buildings on the other end of the scale  - a delightful pavilion, the royal raft, and the colonial cottage-style houses of the consorts and concubines. (King Chulalongkorn had 99 consorts and 77 children.)

It could be anywhere in the south of Europe, an Italian lake perhaps,  but this is Devara-Kunlai (the God King Goes Forth) Gate, the principal entrance to the Inner Palace.

Phra Thinang Varobas Bimarn, Residential Hall. The covered bridge to the right separated the Inner Palace from the Outer Palace and allowed the court ladies to look out without being seen themselves.

Aisawan-Dhipaya-Asana Pavilion

Beautiful pots of bougainvillea on one of the bridges.

Phra Thinang (Royal Residence) Uthayan ... 

Another view of the covered bridge and Phra Thinang Varobas Biman, Residential Hall

The Sages'  Lookout, Ho Withun Thasana

Phra Thinang (Royal Residence) Wehart Chamrun (Heavenly Light)
Two of my favourites:

The Royal Raft (just wait till you see inside) ...

And Bubpa Papas Pavilion - how gorgeous is this? 

Here is a little more of the Royal Raft. It had been opened up by the time I walked back.

How wonderful it would be to have this moored in your backyard. You could just cast off when you needed extra peace and quiet to finally start work on that novel!

Inside the raft

Here are some of the houses of the consorts and concubines. I love these little painted wooden cottages with their shutters and verandahs.

Finally, a closer look at the garden...

Potted Allamanda

Adenium, the Desert Rose, which has cropped up everywhere on my travels lately.

As a patriotic Aussie, I couldn't resist a photo of these topiary kangaroos.

Not sure of the name of this, and I hadn't realised it grew as large, but fabulous patterned leaves
(Mystery solved, thanks to Virginia C .  This is  Erythrina variegata) .

A more typically Thai subject for these topiaries and one of my favourite tropical trees, the Breadfruit, in the background.

You know - me and water features.... (love the Chinese pot and stand but hate seeing the protective chain around this.)

This seemed to be a very dainty variety of wisteria.

I have a new favourite tropical flowering tree - the Indian cork - more posts on this to come.

Finally, one of my fellow tourists, a Buddhist nun snapping away on her i-Pad.

Hope you enjoyed your visit to the Bang Pa-in Palace.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

My digs in Old Bangkok

'Position, position, position' is everything in real estate, and while the same holds true to a large extent with accommodation, there are many other important qualities needed to make a memorable stay.

I have only been to Bangkok once before and that was quite some time ago, and I attribute the fact that it wasn't a particularly great experience to having picked a bland, budget chain hotel straight from a package tour brochure. It also seemed to be a long way from everything. Over the years I have become a bit smarter in my selection process, and it has worked well again for me on this visit. 

The Old Bangkok Inn is the other end of the spectrum from my recent 'opulence on a budget' discovery, The Phoenix in Jogyakarta that I wrote about here. It is more a B&B than a hotel, but it has a charm all its own and ticks lots of my boxes.  

Unless that lotto win is forthcoming, I will always be a budget traveler, so cost is an important consideration. I also prefer 'small' (multi-storied chains are way too much like a work trip), somewhere with character (ditto re work trips), that's well located, safe and has helpful staff (really important when you are traveling solo and need advice or someone to discuss travel options with). 

Old Bangkok has ten rooms that start at just under $100, including a great breakfast. It is really well located near the Democracy Monument and the Queen's Gallery, and virtually opposite Wat Ratchanadda and the Golden Mountain.  And, I kid you not, as I was writing this, there was a tap on the door from one of the staff who had heard me coughing and brought in a hot honey and lemon juice!

I love the urn-shaped wire light fitting on the reception desk.

That's my room dead ahead (and more great wire light fittings).

There's a small courtyard through the french windows, but this room (Lemongrass) is 'cosy' - probably not ideal for two (with two suitcases)

Antiques given a contemporary twist in the bathroom

On the outside looking in,

and on the inside looking out!

I came out one morning to find this gorgeous arrangement beside the reception desk (that's the gracious owner Nantiya in the background). They looked too perfect to be real.

Closer inspection revealed them to be white lotus blooms where the outer petals had been folded inwards. Talk about attention to detail!


Sunday, 19 August 2012

Colours of Bangkok

When I first started to plan this holiday in Thailand, I imagined I would spend 3 days in Bangkok. In reality it has only been one as I arrived on Day One after 9.00 p.m., and I decided to head out of Bangkok to visit the ruins of the old capital at Ayuthaya on another day.

As I mentioned in my previous post, Jim Thompson's house was high on my list of places to visit, and the photos that follow are from the rest of that day. All have been taken within about an eight block radius from my hotel, either from my morning stroll before breakfast or on a wander on my way back from the canal boat pier after visiting Jim Thompson's, but I think they still manage to capture many of typical sights and colours of Bangkok.


Curcuma alismatifolia  'Siam Tulip' - a type of ginger.

There was a lively market along one of the canals at the back of my hotel. It would have been hard to resist the tropical fruits on display if I hadn't already ordered a platter for breakfast (served with a delicious coconut yoghurt).




Eggplant and bitter melon

As in my posts of the laneways of Jogyakarta in Indonesia, I love how the locals personalise their homes, whether through use of colour, their potted gardens, wind chimes, and decorative bird cages.

As if the colour scheme wasn't decorative enough, there are great shell wind chimes adorning this house/adjoining houses.


A spirit house

More wind chimes and, interestingly, the caged birds here were only of the painted wooden variety.

A canal-side home

and another.

Canal-side eatery

Another casual eating spot with friendly waitress

There were several significant Buddhist temples or wats nearby, including Thepthidaram Worawihan and Ratchanadda, as well as the Golden Mountain.

In the background is Loha Prasat or the 'Metal Palace" with its multiple spires and Buddha relic on the top floor.

The architectural detail on the temple buildings is exquisite and elegant.

Hope you enjoyed my eight block tour; not a huge area, but one that summarises my impressions of Bangkok: colour, mass plantings, exquisite temples, canals and colourful street life.


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