January 09, 2005

Bangkok, Thailand: A place of color and contrast

The wats and shrines of Bangkok are peppered throughout the cityscape, and their glittering, vividly-hued roofs and towers present a visual feast when the sun sets them aglow. Bangkok is a place of contrasts, its teeming, kinetic industriousness balanced by gentle spirituality and deep-rooted Buddhist calm. Parts of Bangkok are squalid, other parts sparkle. Orange and green tiles, and golden eaves, and doors and windows framed with bits of colored, mirrored glass move the eye up and away from the brown Chao Praya, busy with boat traffic.

Uniformed kids whoop and play at recess, chasing one another round and round the lotus-positioned Buddha who sits guard in the middle of the schoolyard; a silent trio of monks in saffron- and cantaloupe-colored robes negotiates the close quarters of “Temple Supply Street” and stops to consider a display of incense burners; nearby, “Orchid Street,” Plumbing Supply Street” and “Sewing Machine Street,” choked with three-wheel taxis and pedestrians, offer wares organized for maximum shopping efficiency; two masons, squatting before a line-up of 15 gold-leafed Buddhas, go to work on one of them, cleaning the stone pedestal with chisels and brushes; the caretaker at a temple complex arrives at work with his toddler, a boy no more than two, and father and son, dipping into matching aluminum pails of freshly mixed concrete, go about the important business of repairing the temple walkways. They wear the same contented smile as they work; the king’s birthday approaches, and ceremonies will include a royal ride down the Chao Praya. Specially chosen members of the Royal Thai Navy practice rowing the colossal golden-prowed royal barges down the muddy river.

(A grandson of Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej was a victim of the Asian tsunamis)

For an indefinite period, Lori is donating proceeds from her book to tsunami relief. Details in Jan. 2 post