Sunday, January 24, 2010
Chatuchak Weekend Market
On our last day in Thailand we caught the hotels shuttle service to the Chatuchak Weekend Market. I had my tour book in hand, my mental wish list, and the sections I knew we wanted to hit marked off. We arrived early – 9:30 – just as many of the vendors were starting to set up. It’s a perfect time to arrive, there are no crowds, it’s not beastly hot yet and you can take your time to look at the endless variety of goods being offered. There was eye-candy everywhere. This is the mother of all markets with over 15,000 vendors catering to the hundreds of thousands of visitors who hit the market each weekend. Our first stop was an information center where we picked up the Chatuchak Weekend Market map.
With our navigator leading the way we arrived at Section 1 which houses antiques and collectibles. We were in search of some gift items and as well as some interesting Thai hammered silverware. Score! As they were unwrapping their wares, I hovered outside of P. Rangsan’s Stainless Steel shop – spying a number of items that were “must haves.” Surprisingly, even Jeff was onboard with all the purchases … although he did hustle me out of there when I started asking about the silverware sets, declaring “no more! Besides, how are you going to get that on the plane?” I would highly recommend stopping by this shop if you are in the market for some Thai stainless steel – check out their website at www.prangsan.com or contact them by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Mr. Rangsan (see photo) and his son were delightful and their English was excellent.
We stopped in Suleeya’s silver shop (see photo), also in Section 1. She has a nice variety of silver boxes. I found myself a beautiful box with twin elephants on top, as well as some gifts. She was lovely to deal with and I’d recommend a stop by her shop. You can contact her at email@example.com if you need a more specific shop address.
Our last sections to hit were 26/25/22 – I found some beautiful Thai silk scarves, saw some beautiful fabric that I wished I could have ditched the family and just submersed myself in. Wrenn was on a quest to find her lucky elephant – she had been holding out and finally found the perfect one. The man we purchased it from was actually sitting in front of his stall carving items that he sold – and when I asked him if he’d carved the elephant he smiled and said he’d carved everything in the shop. Tourist trick? Perhaps, but I like the idea of buying straight from the artist – and so I asked to take his photo, we paid for the elephant and called it a morning. It had become quite steamy under the awnings and we were all desperate to get out and breathe some fresh air. Of course that term in Bangkok is relative – the aroma wafting through the streets is a mixture of incense, rotting food, sewers – quite overpowering at times to our western noses.
Jim Thompson House
After a day going up to Kancnanaburi to satisfy the WWII history buffs in my family – today was my day to counter that with a different type of Thai history and culture. Our next stop after the Chatuchak Market was the Jim Thompson House. This was easy to get to using Bangkok’s rapid rail system – that seemed to be filled with more westerners than native Thai’s.
Jim Thompson was an American who was stationed in Bangkok during WWII, who worked for OSS. He fell in love with Thailand and rediscovered the Thai Silk Industry. He purchased a number of traditional style Thai houses and had them brought to a site in Bangkok where he had them joined together to form his home and office. The Asian artifacts he collected while living in Southeast Asia are on display throughout the home. His life is surrounded in mystery following his disappearance while out for a walk in the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia. No clue to what happened to him has ever turned up.
There is a lovely restaurant on the premises that was doing a hopping business while we were there. We decided to stop in after our tour. Our food was good and the air conditioning even better – it was a nice way to end the day. For more information on Jim Thompson and his home visit http://www.jimthompsonhouse.org/. Photos are only allowed on the grounds and since I had the wrong lens attached to my camera, and at this point in my trip was suffering from camera fatigue, the only photo I took was of the Spirit House.
So that was it. Our trip to Thailand was over. We headed back to our hotel via the rapid transit and waited for our airport pickup later that night. There were some good things about our trip – most of our disappointments had more to do with our tour package – what was “promised” vs. what was delivered. If anyone wants the low-down on where not to stay in both Phuket and Bangkok or if you want to know which elephant trek to avoid or any other tourist traps to avoid in Phuket please feel free to post a comment and I’ll be happy to share.
One final note: on our way from the Skytrain to the Jim Thompson house, two British ladies asked if they could follow us since they were for the moment apparently lost. As we were walking we struck up a conversation and it turns out one of the ladies has been living in Bangkok for the last 5 years teaching school there. She asked what were my impressions of Bangkok and I tried to be somewhat diplomatic but honest and said that it wasn’t what we were expecting. “How so?” was the response. And I mentioned we were all struck by the amount of poverty we saw, the streets being so dirty. She asked where we were living and I said Japan and she said “Isn’t it very rigid there?” I laughed and thought to myself “I suppose … but only in a very good way! And thank God. I couldn’t wait to get back – and if rigid means clean streets and order and efficient waiters and polite friendly service and not having to worry about pick-pockets and taxi's not taking you where you want to go – then I couldn’t wait to get back to my host country. There’s no place like home."
Till next time, sayonara.
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