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Thursday, December 2, 2021

Of Cowgirls and a Skyhotel...


.. and plenty of shopping. TSI checks into Bangkok
N ASOKAN | Issue Dated: January 22, 2012, New Delhi
Tags : thailand | bangkok | silk | buddha | chok chai | cowgirls | sky hotels |

December 2011 was a good time to be in Bangkok. Around the 84th birthday of their beloved king, the Thai capital was a swarm of yellow. The Thai people have a lucky colour assigned to each day of the week. And for this occasion, yellow it was. Steeping out of the majestic Suvarnabhumi Airport, I was instantly dwarfed by the enviable infrastructural spread and the high rises.

Flowing Traffic

In the wake of the devastating floods, the Chao Phraya River running through the city looked cleaner. Various kinds of river taxis are available for commuting, and there are designated stops. “This river is like konga (Ganga) of your country India," my Thai guide tried reminding me. As I corrected the pronunciation, I noticed mud sacks piled on the banks. They were brought in during flood time, she tells me. Someone had even created a Christmas tree out of it! As one cruise along, you could see all famous landmarks and Buddhist temples of the city including the Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) and the Grand Palace. Along the way tourists can feed fishes; you can also shop at the small floating stalls. There are options of luxury dining cruises and river boats for rent where you can dine and wine and enjoy music. The suggested time for exploring the klongs (canals) is around sunset.

Not to be missed

Since 1782, the Royal Grand Palace has been the residence of the Thai monarchs. After they moved out to a new residence, this palace has been reserved for official events. Inside is the temple of the Emerald Buddha. By the way, at the entrance is the statue of India’s most celebrated physician – Jivaka. In front of him is a grinding stone. Thai people believe in offering prayers to him for quick recovery. Built in classic Thai style, the temple’s many pagodas and colourful monkey statues are a treat to watch, as are the Thai Ramayana murals on its walls. It has even a small replica of Ankor Wat. The Emerald Buddha sits on a raised platform; you have to try hard to resist taking photographs since it’s not allowed. Numerous devotees sit in silent prayer. The Buddha's robes are changed according to the season and it’s done only by the king.

The temple of Reclining Buddha or Wat Pho is near the Grand Palace and it is the largest Buddha temple in Bangkok. The Reclining Buddha is 46 meters long and is decorated with gold leaf. Crossing statues of curious looking guards with long beards, we removed our shoes and entered the hall where relaxes Buddha. Most of the people present (including us) found themselves kneeling in awe of the august pose. Taking a snap of this massive Buddha is a challenge too.

Soon after, we were at the Baiyoke Sky Hotel for dinner at Bangkok's tallest building, Baiyoke Tower. After dinner at the 75th floor, we took the elevator to the 86th floor, the topmost – revolving – level. The sight of the clear sky at hand and the flashy Bangkok skyline yonder was surreal.
Ayutthaya, the former capital of the land, back in the times when it was known as Siam, is just north of Bangkok, reachable by road or river. After it was burnt down and occupied by Burmese forces in the war, Bangkok was the new royal haunt. In the recent floods, many splendid remains of the Thai culture were submerged, but thankfully restored now. We can still see water marks on the brick walls and pagodas in Ayutthaya.
Farm Chokchai

ChokChai is a two-hour-drive from Bangkok – a private animal farm designed along the lines of ranches in Hollywood wild westerns! For 320 Thai Bahts, it sounded like wholesome adventure. Ushered in by dashing cowboys and beautiful cowgirls, our tour of the farm started in a truck after an audio visual introduction. The stopovers were at the milking machine (Holstein-Friesian cattle numbering around 5000; cows are milked thrice a day), and the ice cream making points. Herds of cows and heifers moved around in their barricaded spaces. After crossing grass fields, hay stacks, and rows of dragon fruit plants, we stop at the main attraction – the Cowboy Show!

The place was right out of a Hollywood western, with streets and shops and placards looking just like in the movies. After a bell rings indicating the start to the show, a door opens and a cowgirl appears with typical wild-wild-west music playing in the background. She spoke sweetly in that sweet Thai dialect which we could not understand, but frankly who cared. Later magnificent horses and guns were on display, as some bravehearts demonstrated their jaw-dropping lassoing and gun-wielding skills! It was so cool that even Rajinikanth jokes would have to wait.

Next we were privy to some excellently trained dogs actively herding sheep onto a truck for transport. One could also indulge in feeding deer, calves, camels; milk bottles and vegetables were also available for tourists. Also on was an amusing animal show with dogs and monkeys, running full house to kids. Following lunch at ChokChai Steakhouse – designed in Hollywood style with dim lights and bovine skulls on the walls – it was time to retrace our steps. But boy, did we get our money’s worth...

Destination Dossier

STEERING THE COURSE – Thai Airways runs flight services to Bangkok. Depending on the city of boarding, it takes 3 and a half to 5 hours.
COSY CORNERS – Number of good hotels in the city; for every price range. Good idea to stay in and around Ploenchit road in Ratchaprasong district for access to Skytrain and shopping malls. 
THE ‘SEASON’ ED TRAVELLER GOES NOW – Any time of the year. Weather slightly cool from November to February. 
‘SAVOUR’ FAIRE – Authentic Thai cuisine; vegetarians may have to manage with tofu, mushrooms and salads.
GET TO WORK – Get to work without any further ado in this shoppers’ paradise. But don’t miss the historic landmarks.
WHAT’S THE WORD – Speak slowly in English, and you’ll do just fine.
KEEPSAKE COURTESIES – Thai silk and Batik print clothing.

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017