Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Our 13 days trip to Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand
Part - 3
On day 9 Saturday March 30th after breakfast, we took flight to Bangkok, capital city of Thailand.  By the time we reached the Hotel it was afternoon.  The guide told us that we need to leave for dinner by 5:15 and there is going to be “Apsara” dance show too.
We just wandered around the hotel and got ready for the show.  The show is quite attractive, but doesn’t convey the drama clearly, because most of them are dance dramas.

Grand Royal Palace: On March 31st we started early for city tour.  Our first visit was to the Grand Royal Palace, the official residence of the King since 1782.  The present King is from Chakri dynasty and even though they have other names, they are officially called Rama I etc.
The present king is the Rama IX.  It is interesting for people who saw the classic movie “King and I” (Yul Brynner) was Rama IV!  The Grand Palace is divided into four main courts, separated by numerous walls and gates: the Outer Court, the Middle Court, the Inner Court and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.  Each court is used for a definite purpose.  Now a days the King doesn’t reside there, but some of the official ceremonies, some offices are conducted in there.  Some of the outer corridors were decorated with gold leaf frescos of the story of Ramayana. 
The Emarald Budha:  Originally the Emerald Buddha was made in India in 43 BC and over the years moved all over Sri Lanka, Cambodia, and different localities in Thailand.  King Rama I of Thailand, moved the Emerald Buddha with great ceremony to its current home in Wat Phra Kaew on 22 March 1784. It is now kept in the main building of the temple.  The figurine is of the sitting Buddha, made of green jadeite (rather than emerald), clothed in gold, and about 45 cm tall.
Reclining Buddha: The next two days were leisure to explore on our own. We booked the same guide to show us around and asked him to take us to see Reclining Budha and market.  The temple of reclining Buddha is directly adjacent to Grand Palace.  The image of reclining Buddha is 15 m high and 43 m long with his right arm supporting the head with tight curls on two box-pillows of blue, richly encrusted with glass mosaics. Buddha’s eyes and the 3 m high and 4.5 m long foot of Buddha displays are inlaid with mother-of-pearl. The feet are divided into 108 arranged panels, displaying the auspicious symbols by which Buddha can be identified like flowers, dancers, white elephants, tigers and altar accessories. Over the statue is a seven tiered umbrella representing the authority of Thailand. The whole body is decorated with gold leaf. 

We also went around the canals by boat to visit markets, Wat Arun and other places.
On April 2nd, we booked a tour to see the floating market, Elephant camp.  The floating market is spread over a large area over the back waters of Bangkok and it took us more than half an hour to reach there by boat.  It was very interesting and colorful.  On the way to floating market we visited elephant camp where the Mahouts with the help of Government raise and take care of the Elephants.  We had a ride on the Elephant!

Another interesting thing we saw was making of Coconut Sugar.  I heard about making “tadi” from coconuts in Sri Lanka, but never heard of this.  When the Coconut trees flower, and the flowers are in full bloom, they cut them out and collect sap from the tree by bamboo stems.  You get lot of liquid.  They keep boil the liquid until it becomes like paste.  They take that paste and dry on cloth into small molds (like round soap size) to harden.  It is very interesting and the sugar just looked and tasted like jaggery.
Officially the tour ended by that day, but we stayed one extra day and visited Ayuthya, the old capital of Thailand.  On the way there, we also visited Royal Summer Palace.
Royal Summer Palace: The Summer Palace [Bang Pa-In Palace ] is located 30 kilometers south of Ayutthaya on route to Ayutthaya and is on a small island called Bang Pa-In in the Chao Phraya River. The Palace was commissioned in 1632 Even though the construction started in 16th century but abandoned for many years, before it was revived by Chakri dynasty king Rama IV, but most of the present day buildings were constructed by his son King Rama V.  The Palace is a collection of different styles of buildings set in a landscape and water setting. The mansions reflect Chinese, Swiss, Khmer, Thai and general European styles of architecture. As with other Thai Royal palaces this compound is divided into two sections, the Inner Palace and the Outer Palace. The Palace grounds are significant in that the mixture of styles reflects the era of transformation, influences and later westernization of the period.  You can clearly see how the King was influenced by Western culture! Each building has its own identity in architecture, style, collection of furnishings and magnificent intricate works on the walls and ceilings.
Ayuthya: is the capital of Ayutthaya province in Thailand. In 1700s it was considered one of the largest capitals in the world. In 1767, the city was destroyed by the Burmese army, resulting in the collapse of the kingdom. The Ayutthaya historical park is the ruins of the former capital of the Kingdom of Siam.  It is recognized internationally as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city was rebuilt a few kilometers to the east. The city is sometimes called "Venice of the East”..   By the by Bangkok is also called Venice of the East along with other cities like Udaipur, Alppey, Srinagar etc.  Its remains, characterized by the prang (reliquary towers) and gigantic monasteries, give an idea of its past splendor. Once an important center of global diplomacy and commerce, Ayutthaya is now an archaeological ruin, characterized by the remains of tall prang (reliquary towers) and Buddhist monasteries of monumental proportions, which give an idea of the city’s past size and the splendor of its architecture.
To conclude, all in all it was a wonderful experience to visit these 3 countries, to know the historic significance, the grander of the old Kingdoms, to know how the Hindu religion and Buddhism interlinked by the rulers, how the present government and UNESCO trying to revive and save these historic sites! The people are warm and their motto was “you work and you earn”, no free bees for lazy people.  For locals the cost of living is quite high like in India and many times, the experiences reminded of us India.
One thing that was worth mentioning, and why they don’t make in India, is whenever we visited the places, and came back to the tour bus, we were offered cold “refreshing wet towels” in a plastic cover and cold water from bottles stored in ice chest.  What a relief after walking in the 100degrees heat and 85% humidity!!  The main purpose of writing this detailed account is to create some kind of interest and enthusiasm to visit these places since they are not too far from India.

Sailaja Somayajula (Damerla)

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