Travel to Bangkok, Small-Time in the Big City
Songkran is seen as a replacement begin, requiring the previous year’s mud to be symbolically washed away.
For three hot days in April, Thailand’s affinity for water boils over. It’s a national holiday celebrating Thai year, Songkran, and it's a really wet affair: the country’s streets square measure swamped – and at some purpose abundant of its population drenched.
Songkran is seen as a replacement begin, requiring the previous year’s mud to be symbolically washed away. historically this was achieved with a cup of water gently poured over the scruff of a neck or patted onto a recipient’s cheeks.
Travel to Bangkok, Small-Time in the Big City
Nowadays much quantities of water splash through Thailand’s streets. Entire districts of national capital become a 72-hour-long soggy street party wherever water is thrown in bucketloads, unemployed from water pistols or hosed from the rear of trucks.
It’s all smart fun – and there is no probability that any residue of the last year remains.
The rest of the time, things square measure alittle drier – nonetheless, water continues to pump through the workings of Thai lifestyle.
Rice paddies square measure steeped in it; flip-flopped feet square measure rinsed with it; streetside iced-tea sellers chisel away at frozen slabs of it; markets float on it; Buddha pictures square measure gently cleaned with it.
SMOOTH AS SILK
Water. Bangkok runs on the stuff. Hard to believe, perhaps, if you’re log-jammed in rush- hour tra‹c, but the capital has a network of canals – or khlongs – that are as essential for moving people around as the ubiquitous tuk-tuks that buzz between snarled-up buses and taxis.
Bangkok’s khlongs not only help link districts; they also help delineate them.Thanks to the canal system and also the freeway-sized avenues that crisscross the capital, Bangkok might be thought of as a patchwork of villages.
Some of these villages are recently formed, while others are historic communities that have stood their ground since the capital was founded some 230 years ago.
Baan Khrua means ‘Muslim family village’, and its inhabitants – originally Cham people from Cambodia – were given the land by royal decree in the 1780s as thanks for their help in protecting the former capital.
They were one of several ‘overseas’ communities that settled here after the fall of Ayutthaya to the invading Burmese – Indian and Chinese (and even Portuguese) villages are easily identified today.
Like them, Baan Khrua was originally at the edge of town – nowadays, however, it’s overlooked by the central business and shopping districts.
The clamor of the city doesn’t penetrate this muddle of alleys and tin-roofed houses though: the only noise here is the occasional passing khlong boat and the repetitive clank of wooden looms. These villagers have long been renowned for their silk weaving.
NOW AND THEN
In the late Forties, Jim Thompson was a rather important person within the tiny lake people expats living in port.
The entrepreneur saw the potential of Baan Khrua silk and within five years his Thai Silk Company famously turned around a cottage industry that had been in serious decline.
Thompson had enjoyed such a close relationship with the weavers – crossing the Maha Nag Canal most days to visit them – that he bought a plot of land on the same khlong.
In 1959 he built his home here, interlinking six traditional stilted dwellings that he decorated with an elegant mix of Asian and Western furniture and artifacts.
Politicians and personalities were Thompson’s guests in the 1960s, but today the house’s antique doors open for all of us.
The interior and lush garden are exquisite and exotic…and stuff used with a serenity that is only occasionally shaken by the growl of a passing canal bus.
Boats heading west from here leave behind the nearby luxury boutiques and shopping malls and carry passengers back to where old Bangkok began: Rattanakosin Island.
Formed by the Chao Phraya River on one side and defensive moat-like canals along the others, this ‘island’ safeguards the Royal Palace and some of Thailand’s most precious religious sites.
THE HEART OF A NATION
Khlong boats finish their run at Phan solfa syllable Lilat pier, near a remaining section of the previous town wall. From here it’s a brief walk to the ‘monk’s bowl village’ – Baan Baat – wherever some of artisans use Associate in Nursing antique technique to forge ancient almsgiving bowls.
There’s forever somebody around to require passers-by on a tour of the lanes and workshops – reciprocally for a tip or many minutes spent trying within the very little look.
Rattanakosin’s showpieces – notably Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha) and adjacent Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha) – are just a tuk-tuk ride away, as are Maharat market, for badge-sized Buddhist amulets, and Pak Khlong fruit and flower market.
From dawn till dusk, river buses pull alongside piers next to these markets, while cross-river ferries shunt back and forth like shuttles in a loom. Pak Khlong’s pier links with Santa Cruz Church (site of the historic Portuguese village) on the opposite side.
While Tha Tien pier – located one stop north – carries monks and tourists between Wat Pho and iconic Wat Arun on the west bank.
Wat Arun translates as ‘Temple of Dawn’, but it’s equally stunning at dusk. It has stood here in one form or other since the days when Ayutthaya was capital and Bangkok was just a trading post on the river.
Everything may have changed, but nothing changes. The Chao Phraya waters still flow through historic Ayutthaya as they do the heart of modern Bangkok.