After noticing purple, yellow and orange flags with every national Thai flag, I asked about the significance of the colored flags. In Thailand, each day of the week is assigned a color and each person’s birthday carries that color with them. The Queen was born on Saturday; purple. The King, on a Monday; yellow. The princess currently celebrating her third cycle (a Thai ‘cycle’ is a 12-year increment; 12 because of the number of Zodiac signs) birthday (36 years; rather special) was born on a Thursday; Orange. Therefore, many different-color flags flanking the red, white and blue-striped Thailand flag. The birthday celebration for the princess had the Grand Palace closed for a day and the Royal area of town decorated with orange bunting and plenty of flower arrangements with orange as the primary color. Several of the temples in the area had orange flags, bunting or flowers as well. The full list of colors for the week are: Monday-yellow, Tuesday-pink, Wednesday-green, Thursday-orange, Friday-blue, Saturday-purple and Sunday-red.
The weather treated us to an overcast and cool-for-Bangkok 80 degrees Fahrenheit day. We began our morning climbing up Wat Traimit to see the 5.5 ton gold seated Buddha. For more than 200 years the statue was covered with a layer of stucco and colored glass to conceal its true value. When the statue was moved to its current location, a man-made hill known as the Golden Mount, Buddha was returned to his original golden glory. He is 12 feet tall and 15 feet wide and is the largest seated Buddha in the world.
In order to mix up the day, we shifted gears from Buddhas and temples and headed to The Jim Thompson House. This museum holds the impressive Southeast Asian art collection of American businessman Jim Thompson, the man credited for saving Thailand’s silk industry in the 1960s. There is a shop on the grounds and a brief history of Thai silk, too. Part of what makes the Jim Thompson House fascinating is his disappearance. Jim Thompson disappeared while out on a walk in Malaysia in 1967. His body was never found and it remains a mystery to this day.
We spent a little time wandering through Chinatown which was filled with delicious smells and knock-off designer bags.
We headed to the outskirts of the city to see a floating market. Bangkok has an gigantic network of canals that can be an efficient way to get around if you don’t have a car. We wandered through a local market to get to the canal’s edge. Here were vendors cooking up everything you could imagine and selling it from their boats. We boarded a long tail boat and toured the area, passing an orchid farm, beautiful and not so beautiful homes and a few more small markets. Our guide helped navigate the best snack options and we had a fun picnic of floating market treats.
Sated and relaxed, we headed to Wat Arun, often called The Temple of Dawn. It is a remarkable landmark on the Chao Phraya River. The Khmer-style tower is almost 350 feet tall and it is decorated with bits of porcelain that was used as ballast by boats coming from China. Up close, it really looks like flowers made from broken plates. It is surrounded by four smaller towers also covered in porcelain. Many tourists rent costumes to be photographed on the steps of the tower. I don’t understand why, but it’s adorable. It is easy to get carried away and take photos of it all from dawn to after dark.
A quick ferry ride across the river and we were steps from another great temple in Bangkok’s Royal district, Wat Pho. This imposing temple has nearly 400 gilded Buddha images, none more impressive than the giant reclining Buddha measuring 50 feet tall and 150 feet long. This is one giant piece; the temple was built around this massive Buddha. Wat Pho was the country’s first public university and considered the birthplace of traditional Thai massage. (that’s on tomorrows agenda).
After all those Buddhas it was time for a Thai iced tea (cha yen) and a visit to another market…beautiful flowers.
A long and very full day covering Bangkok on land and in the water. The princess will celebrate tonight and we will sleep soundly.