Today I don’t feel like moving very fast and so we have a late start. Ella goes to the pool terrace for 45 minutes whilst I make a very leisurely start to the day.
We decide to visit the Grand Palace that was just closing when we first visited.
With the help of google maps we work out a route that is only one kilometre from the hotel, so decide to walk. There are several eight lane roads to cross, some with signal controlled crossings and a couple of zebra crossings with no traffic lights, which are very hairy. However we soon have the palace in our sights.
When we are close some Thai gentlemen approach us and tell us that the palace is closed for a religious ceremony. They are very pleasant and speak good English. They make several suggestions for alternative visits we can make and whilst I am politely listening to them, Ella walks away and beckons me to follow her, so I excuse myself and catch up with her.
She tells me she has read about this scam whereby tourists are told that an attraction is closed and are then encouraged to take a conveniently situated tuktuk to a different venue. I feel very gullible when I notice that from the position where I was talking to these very plausible guys I could actually see a line of visitors queueing at the palace gate.
The palace is a totally amazing place, so full of colour and sparkle, with huge temples in every direction, all with different decoration, and wonderful statues of demon guards and warriors. Much of the decoration is made from jewel coloured glass mosaic, with row upon row of towering columns and gold spires.
The palace grounds occupy a large area and although it is very busy with tourists from every nation it is actually quite peaceful, particularly considering that it is, in effect, situated on a traffic island with eight-lane highways running along all four sides outside the high palace walls.
It is a lovely day with a beautiful clear blue sky and it is pure joy to amble around and take in all the splendour.
Between the temples are beautifully manicured gardens and there are two museums.
The Emerald Temple museum is full of artefacts showing the construction materials of the buildings, being wooden or metal framework with plaster finish.
There is also the Queen’s textile museum which is really interesting for both of us, showing outfits worn by the Queen over the 60+ years of the monarch’s reign, ranging from the very petite garments from the beginning of the reign, and spanning a variety of sizes to quite plump in recent years.
We learn that during the period from the mid 1800’s to 1940 the royal family had been wearing increasingly western style dress, and in 1941 the government decreed that all citizens should wear only western clothes. As a result when the new king took the throne there was no traditional Thai costume and many crafts had been lost. The queen has worked hard to reverse this trend and all her ceremonial outfits are made of Thai silk, mostly in traditional style.
There are video demonstrations of the different styles of traditional dress and also a film about the making of Thai silk, from the breeding of the silk worms through spinning, dyeing and weaving. As you can tell, my love of fabric has not diminished and we both find this exhibition entirely engrossing.
We both have to wear most unflattering men’s shirts to cover our shoulders during our visit, and although a deposit was required, this is repaid when we return them.
We leave the palace as it closes at 16:00 and retrace our steps to the hotel, once again having to negotiate the eight lanes of traffic, which I find particularly fraught, having been used to village life for so long.
We pick up some street food to eat in our room, have a snooze, make a start on packing, and go out to eat for the last time.
I set the alarm for 03:15, giving us two hours of sleep, before setting off to the airport for our 07:00 flight to Sri Lanka.
I have been very impressed with Bangkok. The Thais are totally charming, even when they are trying to rip you off, and try really hard to make conversation in English, always asking where we are from. They seem to work very hard, are always polite, and we encountered very few beggars. Although the buildings in the city all look rather grimy, probably from the traffic pollution, the streets are kept clean at all times. The food is delicious and available at any time of the day or night, at ridiculously low prices. Although we visited at the start of the rainy season, the rain was not a problem, never lasting very long, and often falling at night.
All in all a wonderful experience, and one that I would very happily repeat if the opportunity ever arose.