Carlyn in Thailand 2003!
Here are photos from my trip to Thailand. I had a lot of professional obligations, but found plenty of time for sight-seeing!
I've put a very large number of photos up on this page, and I realize (after some prodding) it's a bit overwhelming. For the faint of heart, or those who just aren't interested in looking at 200+ photos, here are a few of my favorites.
- The beautiful Thai-style temple of Wat Suthat and the huge Brahman swing in front of it combine to make this one of my very favorite photos.
- My favorite guards at Wat Po, and Thai friend Tum.
- A lovely restored Buddha amidst the ruins at Ayutthaya, the old capital city.
- An entry point to the ruins at Ayutthaya.
- This gorgeous Thai-style pavilion at Bang Pa-In, the Summer Palace, was a favorite of mine. Note the water access - there's no land bridge to it.
- Lookout tower and Chinese Palace at Bang Pa-In, a royal Summer Palace north of Bangkok. I was here!
- Despite the soft focus, this is probably my favorite temple interior - I love the golden aura surrounding this Buddha at Wat Benjamabopit, the Marble Temple.
- Beautiful Wat Benjamabopit, the Marble Temple.
- Lovely Wat Arun, The Temple of Dawn, one of Bangkok's most famous landmarks.
- I loved the way these caryatides seem to be holding up this golden chedi at the Grand Palace in Bangkok.
- The beautiful Chakri Maha Prasat, the throne hall at the Grand Palace.
- A traditional Thai floating market.
- Another view of the busy floating market scene.
- A floating market vendor, wearing a typical raised hat.
- Spirit houses are found outside virtually every dwelling and business in Thailand, including this restaurant.
- Elephants hamming it up at an elephant show.
- Rehearsing with the Thai National Symphony Orchestra in the beautiful National Theater.
The folks at Chintakarn Music Institute made my time in Thailand a real pleasure. Thai people normally use just their first names, so I'm doing so here.
- After my concerto performance, we had a late dinner at a riverside restaurant. Left to right, Bupavan, me, conductor Vanich Potavanich, and prominent Bangkok piano teacher Suda Phanomyong.
- I played with the Thai National Symphony. Here I am with conductor Vanich Potavanich.
- Bupavan is director of CMI. She's the one who made this trip happen. She did a wonderful job of planning, and saw to it that there was always someone to take care of me, whether it meant driving me somewhere, taking me to lunch and dinner, sightseeing, shopping, rehearsing, translating at my workshops and masterclasses, or even teaching me the finer points of bargaining at the huge open markets.
- Noporn, who has a degree in Jazz Piano from Berklee, did a magnificent job of translating for me at some of my workshops. He also took me sightseeing, and shared several meals with me.
- Tum shocked me after the first week by suddenly speaking English to me. I had thought he didn't speak the language! He did a wonderful job of navigating all over Bangkok and beyond. I don't know how he managed it without getting lost. You haven't seen difficult streets until you've seen Bangkok - it makes London look like a planned city.
- Tum, Bupavan and me at dinner in the northern suburbs of Bangkok, after workshops at Kasetsart University. This beautiful retreat restaurant was on a large property of beautiful gardens. It was raining when we arrived, but later it was a lovely evening. I remember the frogs were especially vocal.
- Carlyn with the Director of the College of Fine Arts at Mahidol University, after I gave a pedaling workshop and a masterclass.
- Carlyn with members of the piano faculty at Mahidol University. My hostess Bupavan, director of the Chintakarn Music Institute, is on the right.
The Grand Palace, Bangkok
- Chakri Maha Prasat, the Royal Throne Hall at the Grand Palace. Note the topiary in the form of a garuda.
- Part of Chakri Maha Prasat, right, and the Audience Hall, left, at the Grand Palace.
- The Pantheon at the Grand Palace, where statues of past Thai rulers are enshrined.
- A gold-covered guard outside the Pantheon.
- A five-headed snake guarding the Pantheon.
- Elephants are greatly revered in Thailand, and many statues, such as this at the Grand Palace, as well as other artworks pay tribute to their contributions to Thai history.
- These caryatides - monkeys and demons - seem to be holding up this golden chedi outside the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.
- Lotus urn at the Grand Palace.
- A Chinese-style temple building at the Grand Palace.
- Phra Mondop, a repository for sacred Buddhist scriptures inscribed on palm leaves, at the Grand Palace.
- One of many pavilions at the Grand Palace.
- A typical Thai roof design at the Grand Palace.
- Another roof detail at the Grand Palace.
- A model (at the Grand Palace) of Angkor Wat, in Cambodia, once part of Thailand.
Wat is the Thai word for temple complex, and Wats dot the landscape in cities, villages, and along riverbanks. Thailand is about 95% Buddhist, and the people really live their religion. I visited quite a few of the most famous and beautiful Wats, as you will see.
Wat Arun, The Temple of Dawn
Wat Benjamabopit, The Marble Temple
This beautiful temple was the last major temple to be constructed in Bangkok. It was completed in 1910, utilizing such western elements as Italian marble for floors and to cover the exterior of the main temple building, and stained glass windows. The beautiful golden "aura" surrounding the main Buddha image makes this one of my favorites.
The Buddha at Wat Traimit has an amazing story behind it. In the 1950s, workmen were moving the 15-foot tall plaster Buddha when the sling holding it broke, and the image crashed to the ground. The stucco craked, revealing glimpses of gold underneath. It turned out that the Buddha was solid gold, over 10,000 pounds in weight! (It's no wonder the sling broke.) This is quite an old Buddha, dating back to the 1300s or so. No one knows the whole story, but presumably it was covered in stucco when the Burmese invaded Thailand in the 1700s, to protect it from being looted. Imagine being the one to rediscover the gold underneath!
Spirit houses are found in front of nearly every dwelling and business in Thailand. They hark back to early Thai religious beliefs. They believe that countless spirits inhabit the land, and if you build something on a piece of land, you need to provide a place for the spirits to live, so that they will protect you and your property from harm. Brahman priests determine the proper size and style of spirit house for a particular location, and bless it when it is put in place. Offerings of food, flowers, toy animals and human figures (the latter to serve the spirits) are left to keep the spirits contented. Here are a few examples.
Vimanmek Palace, or Teakwood Palace, is in the heart of Bangkok, but its lovely grounds and high walls create an oasis of quiet and beauty. The palace was built by Rama V in the late 19th century. Unfortunately we weren't allowed to take pictures of the beautiful interior rooms.
- The three-wheeled tuk-tuk is a common form of transportation in Bangkok. They're noisy (the name comes from the sound of their two-stroke engines) but they're pretty quick, and cheap. Not bad if you're traveling a short distance.
- Carlyn with beautiful orchids at Jim Thompson House, Bangkok. Jim Thompson was an American who lived in Thailand after WWII. He was almost single-handedly responsible for the revival of Thai silk trade, and also did much to preserve Thai traditional architecture and artifacts. Mr. Thompson disappeared mysteriously while vacationing in Malaysia in 1967, and the case has never been solved.
- This delicate sculpture, in front of the Bangkok Governor's offices, recreates the old version of Thai shadow puppets. The puppets were fairly large, perhaps 3 or 4 feet tall, cut from water buffalo hide, then painted and gold-leafed.
- We took a long-tail boat tour through the canals on the west side of Bangkok. Here are homes along the canals of Thonburi, the portion of Bangkok on the west side of the Chao Phya River.
- Another view of homes along the canals.
- A third view along the canals. Note the Wat.
- This unusual and beautiful bridge was built quite recently. The King designed it. I wonder if that single upright will remain stable in their soft ground - hopefully they drove down far enough to lay the pilings.
- Eating lunch on the terrace at the famous Oriental Hotel, we enjoyed watching these lovely ferry boats.
- I especially liked these bird sculptures in the garden of the Oriental Hotel.
- These old tiled roofs were typical of the old commercial buildings in Chinatown.
- I thought this view, out a window of the Music building at Chulalonghorn University, was charming.
- There were many lovely streetlight designs around Bangkok. I caught just a couple of them.
- Another view of the same style.
- This lovely design was at Wat Benjamabopit, the Marble Temple.
- This elegant design was at the Grand Palace.
North of Bangkok: Bang Pa-In, a Royal Summer Palace
North of Bangkok: Ayutthaya, the old capital city
Ayutthaya was the capital city of Thailand from c. 1350 until the Burmese destroyed it in 1767. The destruction was so complete that the population dropped from over 1 million to less than 10,000 in a year's time. The king decided to move the capital to a safer location, Bangkok, and so the old capital city was never rebuilt. The ruins are picturesque and lovely. It's interesting to note that the lighter-red bricks are from restorations done in the 1600's - the original bricks were the dark red lava-stone.
- A lovely Buddha head at the ruins of Ayutthaya.
- Ruins at Ayutthaya.
- Ayutthaya - Cambodian architectural style.
- I was hanging out with another American tourist during this trip (the only American tourist, in fact, that I encountered on my entire trip) and this made both of us think of the cemetery style in New Orleans.
- Ayutthaya. I liked the tilt of this one.
- There are hundreds of headless Buddha images among the ruins. Many are lined up on walls like these.
- More Buddha remnants at the ruins of Ayutthaya.
- More Buddhas at the ruins of Ayutthaya.
- More Buddhas at the ruins of Ayutthaya.
- Here is one beautifully restored Buddha among the Ayutthaya ruins.
- Another shot of the same Buddha.
- Apparently, this Buddha head just happened to end up at the foot of this Banyan tree, and grew into the roots. The tree is now over 250 years old, so it would have been a young sprout at the time of the Burmese looting.
- Another view of this famous Buddha tree.
- This reclining Buddha, the fourth largest in Thailand, was once enclosed in a temple, but for the past 250 years has been exposed to the elements. Each year the people provide the huge lengths of saffron-colored silk to wrap it.
- Reclining Buddha, Ayutthaya - detail.
- Reclining Buddha, Ayutthaya.
- A restored temple at Ayutthaya, with a particularly lovely Buddha.
- Buddha at restored temple, Ayutthaya.
- Beautifully decorated ceiling at restored temple, Ayutthaya.
- Detail of ceiling at restored temple, Ayutthaya.
North of Bangkok: On the Chao Phraya River
From Ayutthaya we took a pleasure boat back down the Chao Phraya to Bangkok. They served us a beautiful lunch, and we had a relaxing time watching the scenery float by. I'm including too many pictures from this segment, but I enjoyed the architectural variety so much, I couldn't decide which to leave out. Of course, you don't have to look at all of them.
- Watching the world go by - houses along the river.
- Houses along the river. There's a triple-roofed Wat in the background.
- I liked the unified style of this home. The washing hung out to dry definitely means a private residence.
- They probably washed the clothes in the river - note steps leading down to the water. They rinse off dishes and cooking pots, wash clothes, go swimming, and of course access their boats. Right now the water isn't too high - at the height of rainy season the stairs will be much shorter!
- In fact, here you can easily see the high water marks on the stairs and pilings. Nice to see that they've built high enough.
- You can see a few coconut palms here. Coconuts are an integral part of Thai life. They eat the fruit, drink the juice, cook with the milk, make utensils, dishes, and other items from the wood, and burn the shells (especially when preparing satay).
- I have no idea what this globe is for, or what it signifies, but I thought it was interesting.
- An unusual golden-roofed Wat.
- I like the variety of roof styles here.
- I think this is a Wat complex, but I'm not entirely sure.
- Many different roof lines.
- A colorful Chinese-style Wat along the river.
- An unusually consistent set of roofs - appeared to be someone's house, not a Wat.
- It was interesting to see these folks working on the roof.
- A Wat along the river.
- Another Wat along the river.
- Yet another Wat along the river.
- One of many Wats along the river.
- I saw so many of these beautiful orange-flowered trees. The blooms are fairly large, a cross between a hibiscus and an orchid in both size and structure.
- We saw many large barges being pulled by little tugs like this one.
West of Bangkok: a Floating Market
- A famous floating market in a village canal. Yes, there are tourists around, but there are plenty of residents doing their regular marketing here Empty boats are waiting for shoppers to hire.
- Buying red peppers from a floating salesman. The small- and medium-sized citrus are tangerines and oranges, both of which, in Thai varieties, are green even when ripe.
- Looking up the canal. Most of the shoppers on the banks are tourists. The true traditional market is on the water.
- One of the older women I saw. She's obviously buying, not selling.
- Definitely not a tourist. The pointed-topped things in the front of her boat are coconuts which have been trimmed. Want some coconut juice? She'll hack open the top for you with her machete, stick in a straw, and presto! Juice to go.
- The big green fruit is the pomelo, som-o in Thai..
- A floating general store.
- I really liked this man's face.
- Traffic jam! The boats with large metal containers are floating restaurants - they'll cook up a bowl of rice and veggies for you in just a couple of minutes.
- I like her raised hat. The dark purple fruit is the mangosteen, my favorite fruit of all. Each fruit has to be wrapped in paper while ripening on the tree, so it won't get burned in the sun. Talk about labor-intensive! The fruit is absolutely divine, with a flavor a bit like a very special plum. The small brown fruits are lychee.
- Note how the hat has a wide headpiece which raises the body of the hat well off the head. The knobby green fruits are noi-na, custard apples. I didn't get a chance to try one, as they were just coming into season when I left.
West of Bangkok: The Rose Garden and an Elephant Show
- The Rose Garden is a lovely garden paradise about 20 miles west of Bangkok. Rose and orchid gardens, hotel, restaurants, Thai cultural shows are all nestled along a river. We had lunch looking out on the lovely, quiet river.
- This was the peaceful view from our lunch table. The little island is actually one of many clumps of plants that are growing as they float down the river.
- More floating islands on the river.
- Looks like a bit of paradise, doesn't it?
- Those islands just keep on coming. Tum couldn't understand why I found them so interesting. He was surprised to learn that our rivers don't have floating plant islands in them like this.
- This old-style Thai boat is actually being towed, as they were traditionally.
- Another look at the boat.
- This open-air dining room is actually floating on the river - it's constructed on a bamboo raft. I think Tum would have been happy to stay here all afternoon.
- We saw a very interesting elephant show. They started with a colorful procession.
- The procession continued.
- They made quick work of the snack that was offered to them.
- One elephant seemed more interested in the scent of a muddy patch of ground.
- For centuries, the Thais have tamed elephants for use as work animals. For example, they are very useful in logging operations.
- Smaller logs aren't worth the trouble of dragging.
- Tamed elephants were used in wild elephant roundups. Here the tame elephant is herding wild ones towards an enclosure.
- These elephants were accomplished acrobats.
- This guy was quite a ham. He really seemed to enjoy performing for us.
- Sitting up - no problem.
- Headstand? You bet!.
- You wanted another camera angle? Here you go!
- These elephants were so versatile. They even play a mean game of soccer!
- That shot went way too wide.
- Elephants were always an integral part of Thai culture, but they became especially revered after they helped win a war against Burmese invasion, in the 1700s.
- The enemy had elephants as well.
- The enemies face off.
- After the show, I took an elephant ride.
- My mount enjoyed some handouts from the audience.
- Quite a comfortable seat, actually. The rider gives signals with his foot, behind the elephant's ears.
West of Bangkok: Standing Buddha and Phra Pathom Chedi
- This giant Standing Buddha image is in an immaculately landscaped park-like area. On Buddha's birthday, hundreds of thousands of Thais converge to pay homage.
- A closer look at this beautifully-rendered Buddha.
- The park is large, and after the congestion of Bangkok, seems to go on forever.
- Phra Pathom Chedi, at the town of Nakhon Pathom, is the tallest Buddhist monument in the world, at 420 feet. It's also the oldest Buddhist site in the country, dating to the 3rd century B.C. It's so big, it wasn't easy to get a photo.
- I had a little better luck after moving out a couple of layers from the innermost courtyard.
- I finally got far enough away to shoot the whole structure. It's not the prettiest monument, but it's impressive.
- We found some beautiful lacquer doors, for once not covered with protective glass. I was able to take a good photo.
- A close up of the intricate lacquer work.
The Thais produce many beautiful handmade items. The Queen has been particularly interested in preserving traditional crafts, and has helped to train new generations of artisans. Most places did not allow photography, but here are a few examples of Thai workmanship in various media.
- Thailand is famous for its handwoven silks. The American Jim Thompson is almost single-handedly responsible for the revival of world interest in Thai silks. Here are some examples, in weaving styles from various parts of the country.
- One of my favorites is the beautiful carvings done from water buffalo horn. All the ones I've seen are animals; I think they do birds the best of all, though I like the tiger I brought home.
- Exquisite pewter work is another Thai specialty.
- Bencharong is the traditional 5-color Thai ceramic decorative style, still handpainted today.
- A closer look at a bencharong piece.
- Lacquerware is popular in Thailand. I prefer this black-and-gold style, though they also do a multi-color style.
- I've never seen so many varieties and colors of orchids as I did in Thailand. In the last ten years, they have perfected the art of preserving the beautiful orchid flowers, and turning them into lovely jewelry pieces such as these.
- Of course, when it comes to jewelry, it's hard to surpass Thailand for gems. They are the gem-cutting capital of the world. Sapphires and rubies are their best stones.
- This magnificent woodcarving is fashioned from the base of a treetrunk.
- Instead of bouquets, flowers are presented in the form of wreaths. The main flower is usally jasmine (quite a different-looking flower from our jasmine, though with the same heavenly scent). The center wreath is an especially fancy one, definitely a special order. These were given to me after my concerto performance.
- Another look at the fanciest flowers.
- Detail of the floral wreath. All the flowers are threaded onto thin wires or threads in these lovely designs. The colored portions are primarily rose petals.
- Another detail of the flowers.
Carlyn did do some work, too
Actually, I did a lot of work! I performed a Mozart concerto with the Thai National Symphony Orchestra, gave workshops at the five main universities around Bangkok, and a series of masterclasses (8 in all, if I'm counting correctly) at Chintakarn Music Institute. Unfortunately, I didn't often remember to get photos while I was doing the work part of my trip. Here are a few.
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Last updated 11/04. Copyright
2003-4 by Carlyn G. Morenus. Questions? Send email to email@example.com