Monthly Archives: March 2007

The Twelve Giants

At the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, you will find six pairs of giant demons that stand guard at each of the entrances. They are facing inwards towards the ubosot as if they were protecting the Emerald Buddha. These giants were built during the reign of King Rama III and each represent an important character in the Ramakian story. If you look closely, you will see that each one has its own characteristics.

On the eastern side there are two entrances. The first one is guarded by Indrajit, who has a green face, and Suryapop, who has a red face. They both have a bamboo shoot as their crown.

The second door is oppoite the ubosot. It is guarded by Mangkorngun, with a green face, and Virunhok, with a purple face. Their crowns are topped with nagas. Notice that their right hand is at the top unlike the previous two. Also, the left hand has a ring.

On the southern side, where you exit to go to the Grand Palace, you will see two unusual Giants. These are Totkirijun, who has a red face, and Totkritorn, who has a green face. Both of their crowns are topped with bamboo shoots. However, take a look at their noses. They have elephant trunks instead of regular noses.

The western side has three doors. This first one is where you come in. It is guarded by Chakrawat, who is white and has four heads and eight arms. Standing beside him is Asakornmarsa, who is dark purple and has a double tier of hands. Their crowns are topped by cockerel’s tails.

The second door is near the golden chedi. The white giant Sahasadeja has one thousand heads arranged in five tiers and two thousand arms (not shown in picture). His buddy is Tosakanth who is green and has three tiers of three heads and one on top. This one is the demon king.

The final door is again near the golden chedi but further north. These giants have cockerel’s tails. They are Virunchambang and Mayarap.

Vimanmek Teak Mansion


Abhisek Dusit Throne Hall

On Sunday, we were back in Bangkok for day two of our tour. On the first day we had visited The Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew), The Grand Palace, a tour of the Thonburi canals, The Temple of Dawn (Wat Arun), The Reclining Buddha (Wat Pho), Jim Thompson’s House and  finally the Erawan Shrine for some free Thai dancing. The highlight for my brother was the Grand Palace complex and the canal ride. It was a hot day and the fast boat ride was a good way to cool down. However, make sure that you put on sun cream as it is very easy to get a sunburn. He said that he felt a little “templed out” by the end, but I think that the three temples and one shrine we did visit offered a nice variety. My task for the second day was to give him even more of that variety.

I did discuss with him some different options to see what kind of things he would enjoy. I suggested first the National Museum which is back in the Grand Palace area. This is open Wednesday to Sunday and gives you a nice introduction to the history of Thailand and the region. But, he wasn’t so interested. As it was the weekend, I suggested that we should visit the large JJ Market which is an excellent place to pick up some Thailand souvenirs. He agreed and that is where we went first. If your hotel is on the sky train or metro route, then just head for Mo Chit/Chatuchak Park stations. Very easy. We spent about two hours there. Shopaholics might want more time. If you bought a lot of things then you will have to head back to your hotel to deposit your shopping. I had parked my car in the adjacent car park (there is a free bus shuttle) and so we were ready for our next destination.

When you visit the Grand Palace you are given a free ticket for Dusit Palace which includes Vimanmek Mansion and the Ananda Samakhom Throne Hall. This large area is north-east of the Grand Palace and next door to Dusit Zoo. From JJ Market it would be about 80 baht in a meter taxi. Maybe 60 baht from the Grand Palace. The free ticket is valid for seven days. Make sure that you use it. If you have to pay, then it is 100 baht for Vimanmek Mansion and adjacent buildings (75 baht for Thai) and 50 baht for the Ananda Samakhom Throne Hall (20 baht for Thai). The two price system here is not really that objectionable. Actually I think it is the only place I have visited where they put the two prices in both Thai and English. No disguising the fact here that there are two prices. Good for them. I wish more tourist attractions were as honest. I was hoping to show my brother the Thai classical dancing demonstrations which the guidebook said took place twice a day. Unfortunately, a sign at the ticket office said that this had now been discontinued.


Vimanmek Teak Mansion

Tours of Vimanmek take place every half hour from 9.45 a.m. to 3.15 p.m. You first enter a small building where security checks your bags. They are now far stricter than my last visit. You are not allowed to take beyond this point any bags, mobile phones and cameras. Lockers are provided though I felt it was a bit below the belt that they charged us 20 baht for using the locker. If it wasn’t compulsory to use the locker than I would understand. But, now they were making us pay another 20 baht even though we might only be depositing a mobile phone. It felt like a scam. Why couldn’t they just include this with the 100 baht entrance fee? I was also disappointed that from the back door of this building we were no longer allowed to take pictures of the front of Vimanmek Mansion. What was worse, after the tour had finished, I walked around the back and couldn’t find any clear view of the mansion. In the past you were allowed to wander around the gardens to watch the classical dancing. I got some good pictures of the mansion before. However, this time I only got some glimpses through the trees.

By the end of the 19th Century, the Grand Palace was starting to become too crowded with new buildings springing up all the time to house the ever extending royal family. As King Rama V was starting to find it too hot and uncomfortable staying here, he decided to move to a new location on what was then the outskirts of the city. He called this area Suan Duist which means Celestial Garden. The first permanent building was the Vimanmek Mansion. This is reputedly the largest teak mansion in the world. Apparently only wooden pegs were used to join the pieces of timber. The mansion was originally used as a summer palace on the island of Koh Si Chang (click here to read the report of my trip to this island last year). But King Rama V order it to be relocated to Dusit Palace.  This was then completed in 1901. King Rama V lived here for five years until th completion of the nearby Amporn Satarn Villa in 1906. The king remained there until he died four years later.


The Hor Pavilion

Before you join the compulsory guided tours, you have to take off your shoes. Also, make sure that you are dressed politely as this is a royal palace. Our guide informed us that the house is an interesting blend of Thai and Western architectural styles. The building has two right angle wings with an octagonal building at one end which served as the residence for the king. Altogether there are 31 exhibition rooms containing collected art work and personal effects of the royal family. You can even visit his bed chamber. I enjoyed the tour though we were moved along at a rather fast pace. I would highly recommend people to visit the mansion as it gives you a unique glimpse into the world of a Thai king of the past. It is a shame that we weren’t allowed to take picture both inside and outside of the house. Once the tour had finished, and we had collected our bags and shoes, we then continued exploring the grounds of Dusit Palace. Most people only come for the mansion and are then whisked away on tour coaches. But, there is more to see.

Scattered around the grounds are a number of smaller buildings which were used as residences for various members of the royal family. Some of these have been turned into museums. These hold collections such as photographs, clocks, fabrics etc. Of particular interest to me were the photographs of royal ceremonies and also pictures taken by the present King. There was also an exhibition in the elephant stables. For all these buildings you weren’t allowed to take in cameras, mobile phones and bags. Like before we were provided with lockers to use. However, this time they were free. Maybe this is because hardly anyone visits these buildings and if people had to keep paying an extra 20 baht then they wouldn’t bother. The last major building we visited using the Vimanmek Mansion ticket was the Abhisek Dusit Throne Hall. This beautiful building was completed in 1904 and served as the throne hall for the palace. Inside is an exhibition of art and craft.


Ananda Samakhom Throne Hall

Our final stop was the magnificent Ananda Samakhom Throne Hall. This is situated at the southern end of Dusit Palace. On the other side of this domed building is the Royal Plaza and the statue of King Rama V on a horse. This was where countless thousands of Thai people wearing yellow shirts greeted His Majesty on the balcony last year. Today the place was practically deserted. It seemed like most people were just coming for the mansion. It is a shame as they missed a treat. Strangely, you are not allowed to take pictures of this building from the lawn. Nor inside. However, they did allow me to take this picture from the gateway before I entered the grounds. If you want a better chance to look around, then you should come on Children’s Day (the second Saturday in January) as the grounds are more open to the public at that time. Also, the nearby Parliament House.

King Rama V ordered for this grand reception hall to be built near his new palace. It took eight years and wasn’t complete until 1915, after he had already passed away. The hall was constructed in the Italian Renaissance and Neo Classic style of architecture. The exterior is decorated with marble from Carrara, Italy. The building is about 112 metres long and 49 metres wide. It is topped with a large dome in the center which is surrounded by six smaller domes. The outside is beautiful. The interior can only be described as breathtaking. I only wish we were allowed to take pictures. But, as usual, we had to deposit our cameras and bags in some free lockers. Before I forget, one interesting aspect is that women MUST wear skirts. So, if you go there wearing trousers then they will lend you a wraparound. There is no tour of the building which is great as you can really take your time. On the interior of the domes there are some painting depicting the history of the Chakri dynasty. If you want to see some pictures then please visit our sister blog at

By the time we had finished we had been in the grounds of Dusit Palace for nearly three hours. I think most people spend less than one hour here. We were hot and tired. There is more to see in this area of Bangkok but we already had enough. I think when the weather is so hot you don’t want to cram too much into your day. But, if you want more in this immediate area then you could consider Dusit Zoo or the nearby Marble Temple. I told you about this one not long ago. I would have taken my brother there but he had already seen enough temples. I can personally visit temples all day. Another location in this immediate area is the Suan Pakkad Palace. However, as the main attraction are the traditional Thai houses, and as we had already seen Jim Thompson’s House the day before, we decided to give that a miss too. However, I had actually gone there myself last weekend and I will be telling you about that visit soon. I finished our tour by driving around the Royal Plaza to show my brother the statue of King Rama V. As usual, there were many Thai people paying their respects at the foot of the statue. I think that this day had been another good day. The last day of his three day visit will be in my home province. I will tell you about that soon.

Old Patong: Kin Kow

Thai hospitality starts with two words KIN KOW!

Literally meaning “eat rice”, you hear these words daily all over the Kingdom!

Pee Nai Kin Kow? Where you go, to eat? Chatting with most Thais, these happy phrases quickly tell you that you are with friends.

The foods of Thailand make it the richest culinary nation of all South East Asia.

From apples in the northern provinces to exceptional seafood from the south, eating in any area of Thailand is a guarantee to delicious food, fixed with loving care, designed exquistely and served with humility.

The way a Thai person hands you anyway, with two hands, the left hand under the right wrist, backed by the famed “Thai smile”,inviting you to take your share, their generosity is second to none.

If you’re eating in a Thai house, you’ll see that little basket on the table that holds prix nam pla, chopped peanuts, red chili sauce and soi sauce.

Additional containers of sliced cucumber, meenow[chopped lime]and various chilis with different veggies are only a hint of what is to come.

Having eaten in many Thai friends homes in Old Patong, Patong Patty and I would watch carefully, Patty often taking notes on how certain Thai dishes are really accomplished and helping with things to get the meal out.

Often, leaving our little house by the waterfall in Baan Nam Sai Yen, our neighbor across the street, Khun Dak, the local refrigeration/electronics tech, would yell out “Kin Kow”? a big grin on his face as we waved and buzzed by on the Spirit Of Patong.

Sometimes, we’d not even make it the short 2 kilometers to the beach before some friend would flag us down, invite us in, and we’d be eating foods we’d never seen before, prepared in ways we’d try to find out about and enjoying an afternoon or evening that was far from planned!

Our village was not big and most of the streets were dirt, but the feeling there was unlike any place we’d ever lived, driving by, Mothers would proudly hold up their babies and the children would giggle and clap when they’d see a glimpse of The Spirit Of Patong.

We knew it couldn’t get any better and that greener pastures were for the tourists that would visit 4 cities in 4 days.

In Old Patong, as in most of Thailand, at the time, for us, a Paradise found.

A Bangkok Tour

Bangkok tour

The Grand Palace

Many people who visit are looking for ideas for their next holiday to Thailand. For most people, their holidays always start and end in Bangkok. Some people like to get out of the city as quick as they can. However, the city has a lot to offer. What I am going to briefly describe for you today is a basic one day tour that you can easily do yourself. No need to pay for tour guides or rent a driver for the day. My brother is in Bangkok for the weekend. It is his first time in Thailand. This is my summary of a good introduction to Bangkok for day one.

We started our tour at Siam Square. It is a good central area with plenty of shopping malls and hotels. When I stay in Bangkok I quite often stay at the Asia Hotel (see as it has a direct link to the sky train. It is only one stop away from Siam Square. From here our first destination was the Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. Traffic was light and we made good progress by taxi. Whenever taking a taxi in Bangkok, always make sure that he turns on the meter. This should start at 35 baht. The Thai word for meter is the same so just say “bert meter” if he hasn’t turned it on. Our trip only cost 65 baht (present exchange rate is 35 baht for one US dollar). Don’t take a tuk tuk. They will try and cheat you.

It was about 10.30 a.m. when we arrived at the Grand Palace. The taxi dropped us off at the main entrance. Make sure you are dressed suitably which means long trousers and shoes with a closed heal. If you are wearing shorts you can borrow a wraparound at the entrance. The entrance fee for the Grand Palace is 250 baht. It is free if you are Thai. We first went into the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew). This place is simply stunning and should be a must if you are visiting Bangkok. As some of you may know, this was my second visit this month. I could easily go again. Next door to the temple is the Grand Palace. The King no longer lives here but you can admire the architecture and watch the changing of the guard. We were just over an hour here though during my previous visit I was there more than two hours.

Bangkok tour

A long-tailed boat on the Thonburi canals

We then exited the Grand Palace and turned left walking towards the river and Chang Pier. Our intention was to rent a long-tailed boat for an hour to explore the Thonburi canals on the other side of the river. Even before we reached the pier we were met by touts who wanted to sell their tours. The last time I had done a boat tour must have been four years ago and it cost 400 boat to rent a boat. The first tout wanted 800 baht each! I told him we weren’t interested and kept walking. We eventually found the counter for the tour boats. Unfortunately, even though he was cheaper, he still wanted 900 baht for the two of us. I told him I wasn’t interested as it was way too expensive. As we were walking out, one of the earlier touts came running up to us and said 600 baht for the two of us. Still a bit expensive but this is the price the Bangkok Tourist office had told me that they now charge.

Bangkok used to be known as the Venice of the East. Unfortunately most of the canals have been filled in now to create new roads. However, on the opposite side of the river, in Thonburi, there is still an opportunity to see how Bangkok people have lived for generations. The boat we rented was a long-tailed boat much like the one pictured above. We started on the mighty Chao Phraya River and soon entered the much quieter canals on the other side. In less than ten minutes, we had left the city and were literally in a jungle. All of the houses were single stories and either side were banana trees and palm trees. There aren’t any roads here and the postman and other essential services all come by boat. Along the way you will see river life in action as well as some real floating markets. Our tour was about one hour. You can choose to take longer tours. There are a number of places that you can stop at along the way such as the Royal Barges Museum. For myself, one hour is more than enough.

Bangkok tour

The Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho

Before we left on our boat tour, I told them that we wanted to finish at Wat Arun (The Temple of  Dawn) which is on the opposite side of the river to the Grand Palace and a bit further south. This saved us on fees for transport to our next stop. As this had a private landing, we had to pay a fee of 20 baht for the boat to stop here. I have talked about Wat Arun before. This is a 82 metre high prang which is decorated with broken Chinese porcelain. This was quite common at the time as the Chinese used it as ballast in their trading junks. For their return journey there was no need for the ballast. Other unwanted ballast included the statues which can be found at many of the Bangkok temples. When we arrived at the temple we walked to the far end first where there is a small market. We walked through this for a while until we found a small entrance. Temples are free for Thai people and Buddhist to visit. This one is 20 baht for foreigners or free if you use the same entrance as we did. There are donation boxes if you want to help with the renovation of the temple. I think the last time it was covered in scaffolding was about five years ago. It is badly in need of a face lift again.

From the public pier, we used the ferry to cross the river to the opposite bank. This was only 3 baht each. Looking back we had some fine views of Wat Arun so don’t forget to take some pictures. Once we arrived on the other side we walked straight out to the main road. To our left was the boundary wall of the Grand Palace. To our right was the buildings belonging to Wat Pho. We used the nearest entrance and as soon as we were inside the temple we turned right. To our left was the big building which housed the Reclining Buddha. But, I wanted to leave that to last as it is the highlight. I first wanted to explore the other areas. Wat Pho is considered the center of traditional Thai massage. Indeed, the temple is also known as Thailand’s first university. Instruction was given by paintings on the wall and the statues of different yoga positions. In one of the cloisters you will find a large collection of Buddha images. The three large chedis commemorate the first three Chakri kings. This temple is actually much older than them as it predates the founding of Bangkok. The temple dates back more than 300 years. In one of the temples, the ashes of King Rama I are kept under the main Buddha image. I forgot to say before that the ashes of King Rama II are under the principle Buddha image at Wat Arun.

The Reclining Buddha is of course the highlight of any visit to this temple. That is why we decided to save it for last. As we were going into this building, I noticed a side entrance where people were charging foreigners 50 baht to enter. Again, we had mistakenly come in through the wrong entrance. Never mind, there are donation boxes where you can help with the upkeep of the temple. The Reclining Buddha is absolutely stunning. You really need a wide angle lens to get it all in your picture. The length is 43 meters and the feet are covered in mother of pearl. Some guidebooks call this the longest Reclining Buddha in Thailand. But, it is the third longest that I have seen. The longest one is in Bang Phli in Samut Prakan. However, I think there will be longer one in the future in Suphan Buri. Before you leave this building, you can make a donation to buy a bowl of pennies. You then drop these into a long row of bowls for good luck.

Bangkok tour

Jim Thompson’s House

By this time it was already after two o’clock and we were in need of a break and some lunch. Don’t forget, with the heat in Thailand you not only need to use sun protection, but also drink plenty of water. If you don’t you will regret it later.  Bottled water should be about 10 baht but they might charge you more in tourist areas. We decided to catch a taxi back to our starting point and have a late lunch at the MBK shopping mall. The taxi ride was 80 baht this time. The shopping mall is air-conditioned and so it was a welcome relief form the heat. It is a good idea to spend the middle of the day in one of the shopping malls. On the 6th floor of MBK you will find the large food court. You have to buy coupons first. We bought 100 baht of coupons which was just enough. It doesn’t matter if you buy too much as you can get them refunded after the meal. We bought a choice of two curries on rice for 40 baht. Water was 10 baht per bottle.

Our next destination was Jim Thompson’s House. This is within easy walking distance of MBK. We took the exit to the National Stadium sky train station and crossed to the other side of the road. Here we turned left and kept waking to the far end of the sky train station. Near here we saw a sign that directed us to turn right down a small lane. The house is at the far end just before a canal. For people who don’t know, Jim Thomposn is largely responsible for the revival of the Thai silk industry and for propelling it onto the international stage. But, we didn’t come here for the silk. Jim lived in a group of Thai traditional houses which today is opened as a museum containing many of his art collections. If you want to see traditional Thai houses then this is a good place for you to come. The cost is only 100 baht per person. You have to join the tours that take you around the garden and through the house. You are allowed to take pictures outside but not inside the house.


The Erawan Shrine

By this time it was starting to be a long day for us. We were hot and our feet were beginning to ache. But, we had one more stop. We walked back to the main road where we rode an escalator up to the sky train platform above the road. We wanted to do one final stop. This was the Erawan Shrine near Chit Lom station. From the National Stadium we had to go one stop to Siam and then change tracks and then go one more stop to Chit Lom. This is the station for several big shopping malls including Central World. The Erawan Shrine was full of local and foreign merit makers. People come here to wish for good luck. If their wish comes true then they offer the spirit things like wooden elephants and food. They also pay for traditional Thai dancers to perform for the spirits. This is a great place to sit and watch the activity for a while. It is also a great place to enjoy Thai dancing for free!

Well, that was the end of our day long tour. I don’t think you would want to do much more than that. Maybe spend the rest of the day in one of the local shopping malls like Central World or Siam Paragon. Maybe even watch a movie. If  you are up to it, you could go and watch Muay Thai at one of the boxing stadiums.  Over the coming weeks I will give you some more ideas of places you can visit in Bangkok. But, I think today is a good tour of some of the highlights.


Sadly to say that living in Betong for years, I have become inured to the insurgency in Southern Thailand. They are considered as “accidents” instead of real threats. The riots in the Southern provinces seem to have little influence on Betong. Betong, known as the “Town of Sparrows” and “City of Midst-Beautiful Flower”, is always praised for its cool weather, its greeneries, its harmonious multi-racial and multi-cultural society and its peacefulness.

In the midst of the insurgency in the area, Betong is developing well in its own pace and attracted tourists from all walks of life. Visitors came to Betong not only for the entertainment, but also for its historical and cultural attractions. In the past three years, the Chinese International Education Center project alone had attracted thousands of visitors from various Chinese clan associations, educational organizations and press media from the neighbouring area and other countries.

Two weeks ago, there was an anniversary procession of temple sculptures organized by the highest Chinese Authority in Betong – the Chong Fa Foudation. It was filled with sound of crackers, joy and hope for a prosperous Chinese lunar year.

Today, there was a procession too. A procession filled with sadness, anger and roaring.

The tragedy of insurgent ambush on a shuttle bus (from Betong heading to Hadyai) in Yaha district had shaken the peacefulness in this town. Eight innocent civilians had been killed, including three students accompanied by parents on their way to take their examination in Hadyai.

The tragedy indicates that the unsafe zone in Southern provinces is slowly expanding and its effects and threats are spreading, should the situation not be controlled. It is not only the problem of Southern provinces, it is the concern of everybody who lives in this land, who loves and find hope in this land.

(What did the students do wrong? Why did they have to be murdered?)

Betong is a small town, news and word spread fast, be it good or bad, true or fake. These last two days, the basically tolerant and submissive Thai started to speak out…

Why don’t the government focus on current problems instead of digging mistakes of the past? Why was the government spending time and effort in finding faults of the ousted PM instead of channeling the manpower and resources to help solve the many problems in this country?

Why don’t the government come out with solid plans to help the 500 redundancies caused by the rubber factory burning down in Yala district? Someone from Chiang Mai was also saying that people in the North were suffering as their OTOP products have no more market. They will soon rush to the big city to find a living… These are all sources of potential social problems…

I hope that their voices were loud enough to be heard and strong enough to move the relevant parties to take appropriate actions.

Left (How can we live together? We can’t go on with our daily life.)
Right (What is the government doing? What is more important than preserving our homeland?)

Left (What is the government doing – the land will be depleted.
Right (These bastards kill even children and women.)