The Land of Smiles

7 Jun 2010 – Siam/Thailand

Thailand, formerly Siam is a kingdom and a constitutional monarchy with their 9th King Bhumibol Adulyadej who has reigned since 1946. The king is officially titled Head of State and the Head of the Armed Forces. With an app area of 512,000sqkm (198,000sqmi) and app 64mill people, the country’s official language is Thai and the primary religion is Buddhism, which is practiced by around 95% of all Thais. Bangkok, the capital is also the country’s center of political, commercial, industrial and cultural activities. After the 2006 coup d’état and the recent Red Shirt protesters, The Land of Smiles is certainly not so smiley.

Snowy Beer*** seafood restaurant. Thanks for a delicious dinner, Michael & Sharon. Great to meet Eddy again.

Night Flower Market: the selections for the roses are colourful and prices reasonable… a 2 dozen bunch from app 50THB onwards. Orchids are rather limited here but enough for a non-expert orchid person like myself!

Farmers’ Market has the biggest lichees and longans I have ever seen and they tasted as good as they looked. There was a woman making some interesting dessert with a sweet tasting batter in very thin strips fried in a pan and quickly rolled. Quite tasty, especially when fresh. The other desserts look pretty but there was no space in the stomach for tasting!

Chatuchak, the popular weekend market in the north of the city is where many people head for cheap, used and high quality products. In an area of 27 acres, there is app 15,000 booths selling goods from every part of Thailand.

Amphawa Floating Market is located in the province of Samut Songkhram. Amphawa Canal is occupied by vendors who pack their boats with food and drinks during the weekends and this area was packed with people when we arrived in the late afternoon. The evening fireflies boat cruise was relaxing and refreshing (sat in front and got light sprays of water). The twinkle and sparkles of the fireflies never fail to fascinate me where ever they appear.

Elephants have played an important part in Thailand’s history and today the Thai elephant remains as an enduring symbol of Thailand. In bygone eras they were used in warfare, but more recently elephants were used as a beast of burden, particularly in the logging industry. The elephant also has special spiritual significance with its association with Buddhist and Hindu beliefs.

Erawan Museum/พิพิธภัณฑ์ช้างเอราวัณ is in Samut Prakan. It is well-known for its giant three-headed elephant art display. The three storeys inside the elephant contain antiquities and priceless collections of ancient religious objects belonging to Khun Lek Viriyapant who is the museum owner.

Thai Buddhism has incorporated elements of Hindu beliefs and shrines to Hindu gods and deities can be seen throughout Thailand. Amongst these, Ganesh (the Hindu god with an elephant’s head) and Erawan* (the elephant mount of Indra) are particularly common. *(Erawan is the Thai name for Airavata). In Buddhist legend it is believed that Queen Maya, mother of Buddha was only able to conceive after having a dream that a white elephant entered inside her. Thus, white elephant is highly auspicious and enjoys royal status in Thailand.

The question is, are we happy to suppose that our grandchildren may never be able to see an elephant except in a picture book – David Attenborough

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