We spent most of today sightseeing around Bangkok. By the way, we will be doing plenty of performing and teaching on this tour, but our concerts and master classes will take place later in the week. Although in some respects it would have been nice to perform first and sightsee later, for the most part I am extremely glad that we have had several days to acclimate to both the weather and the time zone here.
We began the day by taking a water taxi on the Chao Phraya River, which runs through Bangkok. Here’s a view from the taxi.
From the taxi we took an elevated train to the Grand Palace, which is a massive complex occupying several acres in the city. I wish I could post all of the 150+ photos I took of the amazing architecture and Buddhist icons, but hopefully these few will give you at least an idea of the scope of what we saw. Many of the structures and artwork are several hundred years old, dating back to 1782. The panorama below is only a small part of a mural which surrounds the entire complex.
And now for the buildings themselves. Our tour guide presented more information than I could possibly retain, but the general idea is that each of the main buildings serves a specific religious and/or cultural purpose, usually tied to the Royal family of Thailand. Entrance to some of the buildings is only permitted a few times a year, and in some cases not at all.
Being surrounded by these intricate and beautiful artifacts was definitely awe-inspiring, as was our next stop, the Reclining Buddha located at Wat Pho. Here’s a picture.
Our last stop of the day was the Jim Thompson House, a museum dedicated to James H.W. Thompson, an American businessman who is credited with building the silk industry in Thailand into an international enterprise. After serving in WWII, Thompson permanently moved to Bangkok and devoted much of his time and efforts to promoting and preserving Thai culture. He mysteriously disappeared in 1967 while on vacation in Malaysia, and what actually happened to him is still unknown. Our tour guide was extremely knowledgeable about Thompson’s life as well as the numerous pieces of art and furniture located in the museum. It was a great way to end our sightseeing journey! Here’s a picture from the exterior of the house, which is modeled after a traditional Thai home but with many Western amenities such as indoor plumbing.
After concluding our tours for the day we spent a few minutes shopping for souvenirs at a nearby shopping mall. This six story building was packed with enough retailers to fill several American malls, and the variety of goods available was mind boggling.
Tomorrow will be a little slower because it is a national holiday in Thailand, and many businesses will be closed. Our trio will be rehearsing and resting up for our series of performances here, which kicks off on Tuesday. More to come!