Unseen in Thailand

New look – same good quality
Have you guys noticed the new look of the blogs? Now every blogger is represented by a unique color, which is cool. The main page has its own color scheme as well. Also Richard helped me to figure out how to change my pic, so I will do that every now and then. But now let’s get to the topic of today’s blog!

Unseen (in) Thailand – Everyone knows about the TAT-slogan that I chose to be the title of this blog entry. When I first saw their initiative, I excitedly checked it out, hoping to find out secret aspects of local life yet unknown to visitors. It was somewhat disappointing to see that the purpose behind the illustrious title was merely to increase the popularity of lesser-known tourist attractions. Same old, same old.

As they say, if you don’t like the way it’s done, do it yourself. My version of “Unseen in Thailand” will be a collection of weird, quirky and unusual things that tourists and regular visitors won’t get to see unless they venture beyond the usual venues and ways of life reserved for them.

Today let’s start with something that could be a bit shocking for some…

The Displaced King
King Chulalongkorn, Rama V, the Reformer. Arguably the most famous ruler in Thai history. Thais revere him unconditionally and they expect visitors to do the same. His image is found in nearly every household throughout the Kingdom. Some guidebooks even refer to this reverence as “the Rama V cult” (although that’s a bit strong wording in my opinion). Any questionable comments or attitude towards this historical figure undoubtedly would bring the wrath of a million Thais to the careless observer.

You can imagine my surprise then, when one day I noticed the familiar statue near a small soi – on the top of a trash heap! I couldn’t believe my eyes. Overcoming the nauseating stench, I stepped a bit closer to investigate. Yes, the characteristic mustache, and the pose… no mistake, it’s the King himself. The small statue was in appropriate company, surrounded by a couple of Buddha images. The fact that both were decapitated somewhat decreased the reverent mood though…

So there I stood, in front of His Majesty on a pile of roadside trash; the accumulated puddle of water by his feet was full of mosquito larvas; roaches and rats scurried through the rotting jasmine garlands cooking in the midday heat.

Rama V and Buddha

This is definitely something that textbooks and guidebooks won’t tell you about, and as far as I know, completely contradicting everything written about Thai reverence and respect to the images representing the monarchy and Buddhism.

There is an explanation, although it just brings up more questions and makes the whole matter more confusing. Richard wrote about this in one of his earlier blogs; see if you can find it! Perhaps our Thai friends will immediately come up with the same answer too.

If you have an idea that could solve this apparent contradiction between my observation and the well-known tradition of Thai respect, please let us know by commenting on this blog. I will write about it later too.

Thanks, and have a nice day! 🙂

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