Friday, March 16, 2012

Thailand ~ Last Day

If you're keeping up with Sarah's adventures, you know that early last Saturday she and Saleem left for their 10-country adventure. So in the wee hours of the morning, she woke me up to say a goodbye and I sent her off with the biggest hug I could muster while refraining from jumping into her backpack and tagging along. My flight out of Bangkok wasn't until 1:00am Sunday morning, so I had the day open to wander around the city solo. When traveling, I always find comfort in returning to a city I've visited before ~ you don't have to spend as much time and energy thinking about how to navigate, and can spend more time enjoying the ride. This is how I felt with my day in Bangkok, since I spent the previous Sunday there, I knew how to get around using the {lovely} Skytrain, and I knew that I definitely wanted to return to Chatuchak, the large marketplace. In addition, I wanted to swing by Lumphini Park, the city's largest green space, and then head over to Jim Thompson's house. So armed with a map and the only two Thai phrases I knew, sa-wat-dee-ka {hello} & korp jun ka {thank you}, I was off.

Quick travel tip :: Since we enjoyed it so much the first time, we stayed in the Lub.d Hostel again on Friday night. Like most hotels and hostels, Lub.d has a luggage room, so I stored my bags there on Saturday while I toured the city. In addition, as I was checking out on Saturday morning, I explained my plan {to walk around the city before catching my flight that night}, and I asked them in I could shower that evening. They were more than happy to let me use the facilities. Many hostels have towels you can rent for about a dollar, so rather than having to use and pack my own wet towel, I used theirs. I can't tell you how nice it was to be able to shower the Bangkok grit off of me knowing that I would spend the next 24 hours in planes and airports!

Rather than heading straight for the Skytrain, I decided to walk to the park and Jim Thompson's house. As I left the hostel, I was reminded of my day walking across Berlin, and how there's something so nice about taking in the city on foot with a few key destinations to guide your route.

March is kite-flying season in Lumphini Park, and I was hoping to see some of the colorful kites. Alas, the wind was nowhere to be found last Saturday, but I did meet a nice old man who was excited to share his impressive knowledge of the US. He knew all fifty states, where they were located, and their major cities. He also knew the four presidents on Mt. Rushmore! Looking back, I wish I had stayed and talked to him longer. I'm curious to know more about him and his life. Did he visit the US? Is he just a geography fanatic?

Even if you're not riding the Skytrain, it's platforms are great for getting that bird's eye view of the city streets::

Finally, I made my way to Jim Thompson's house. Thompson was an American expat who had worked for the OSS during World War II. After leaving the army, he moved to Bangkok and worked with the Thai silk industry, increasing exports of the product and developing some of the bright colors that the silk is known for today, while maintaining the cottage-based infrastructure by allowing the women to continue to work and weave the silk out of their homes. Thompson's house in Bangkok is amazing. He went around the country and had bought a number of old, traditional Thai dwellings, which he moved to Bangkok and combined to create one large, and amazing house. He then filled the house with treasures he collected from his travels around Asia. Unfortunately, Thompson mysteriously disappeared while traveling in the Cameron Highlands during Easter weekend of 1967. The following year his sister was murdered in the US. Their sudden deaths combined with his work for the OSS has lead to a variety of theories about his disappearance.

Between the architecture and the house's treasures, this site is well worth the visit! And if you love a mystery as much as I do, don't forget to stop in the gift store to pick up a copy of his biography.

Do you see the two drum-shaped pieces on either side of the table? I've noticed that these have become popular as side tables, but did you know that they were originally designed to be heaters? Hot coals would be put in the drum, and the heat would radiate out. The large wooden-block print hanging on the wall was used to print designs on fabric.
And if you zoom in on the fish's fins, you'll notice that some of them are a slightly different color and are one piece, cutting across the seams in the design. These pieces can be removed so that a different color of dye can be applied to the fins.

A Thai spirit house guarding Jim Thompson's house. You can read more about the sprit houses here.

The canal behind his house::

After visit's Thompson's house, it was off to the market! Sarah and I shopped until we dropped last weekend, and I was down to my last Baht, so rather than buy every awesome thing in site, I picked up just a couple more t-shirts and then walked for miles around every bit of the market just taking it in.

When I couldn't walk any more, I stopped for some homemade coconut ice cream {I can't wait to make a pile of ice cream this summer!}::

And I adored the soda bottles as I waited for an afternoon masala tea::

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