Back at home, before moving to Thailand, we try to read all we could and all we had at hand to knowing at least a little bit, about what are the most recognizable expressions of Thai culture, which are the elements that we could identify as being Thai.
In this section we will try to present you simple elements that we see everyday so, very soon, we incorporate them in our “daily- land scape” , without realizing their relevance in Thai history and traditions. The most visible examples of this are Thai architecture and crafts, which are amazing at first sight, but with extraordinarily deep symbolism, if we are able to understand their message and meaning. The meaning of being Thai…
Based on own experience of years living in Thailand, and after doing some research, we hope this section would be helpful for your “landing” and further understanding, sometimes so useful when buying souvenirs, walking into a temple or simply, along Thai streets. Additionally, we suggest where to gather further information. In this way, we are introducing you to Thailand, so you will make your own informed decisions.
One of the best things that living in Pattaya offers, is the huge advantage of its location, just less than two hours driving from Bangkok, which means short escapades that never will be a disappointment. You will not need a long time to discover that Bangkok is a extremely charming, alluring city and one which has always something new to show and offer.
Although no one would say that is one of the best planned city in terms of urbanisation , a fact that comes very clear through its horrific traffic, nobody will deny either that it is one of the more surprising and everyday – changing place of the planet.
The first impression that you get, on your very first visit, still on the car heading to your hotel, it is of a typical modern and cosmopolitan Southeast Asian city that offers to the visitor an extraordinary arrangement of hotels, huge- tempting shopping malls, office blocks, apartment buildings, all air-conditioned, all in modern, western style.
The bustle and energy are certainly in those areas, but we can’t help asking ourselves whether this is the actual face of Thai culture and, if it is so, where are those brilliantly- decorated tiled roofs temples, that we had been told of and that we have seen during our research, or, as a second and panicking thought , if they were reduced to glass and steel.
We would like to share with you a few, and this is only a few, images of the cosmopolitan, glamorous side of Bangkok…
Going into Bangkok’s shopping malls could be a remarkable experience. You need to be prepared to find an extraordinary number of shopping malls separated by only a hundred meters, and in some cases, much less; but it is not only the number, it is the architectural design, the sizes, and the fact that you will find nearly all if not all the world’s luxurious brands and life style, at least in some of them. Simply stunning.
Please, have a look to the few pictures that we had prepared for you , and … Happy Shopping
But then, taking a closer look at the passing city-scape, when the traffic stops, what happens very often, we can see, to our surprise and delight some of the images engraved in our memory from our research at home: between the modern buildings occasional glimpses of something different, a flash of sunlight on a golden, delicate spire in the grounds of a temple, a strange but elegant-bright colored and tilled roof, or a narrow lane lined with food vendors. So, with such relief and delight , we start to realise that there are more than one Bangkok, or putting it in a different way, Bangkok has more than one side.
We have chosen some pictures that will, hopefully, show you what we mean…
After a while, paying more attention, we will see many more narrow lanes with small but repetitive examples of village -like life. Rural traditions very well alive, in Bangkok’s bowels. Glass and steel haven’t deleted completely the traditional Thai life. The fact is that Thailand is still exceptionally rural, and yes, they migrate in thousands into the big cities, but they do so bringing with them their customs and traditions.
We have seen in the first gallery of pictures, the “glamorous” side of Bangkok. Now, we will share with you, its other face, the village’s – life side, which is very much alive in this astonishing city. Two lives , two faces of the same city. We only have to know where to look…
Finding the Traditional Thai life …
Still with the image of the two ways of life smoothly blended and conniving in perfect harmony in Bangkok, there is only one way to see the traditional Thai way of life , and that is going to any village, town or city outside the capital of the kingdom. It is there where Thais still keep alive old traditions and customs that go down from generation after generation and where the chance to find a huge range of what we could call “things Thai” that are unique, still in production, still being used in daily life , is real big.
In these villages and small towns we can see that the rice basket, the farmer’s hat, the traditional hand woven fabrics or, the tube skirt, for name a few, all products of the country’s strong tradition of village crafts, are still very well alive, we only have to go and see them.
Now, we would like to share with you some images that we captured on our trips trying to learn a little bit more about this country’s history, culture , about its people and customs…looking for what means “being Thai”…Enjoy the tour…
The weaver , without missing a word of her friend, keep weaving, passing the shuttle and , as seen in this photo, holding the warp bean. Communal loom in Lampun, north of Thailand. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda
Preparing the warp. Thousands delicate and thin silk threads that should be knotted, one after one. Hard to believe that after many hours of weaving these dreads will be a cloth. Communal loom in Lampun, north of Thailand. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda
Ok, now we have seen from where comes all the hints of the traditional Thai life that we can see in the alleys of Bangkok, “the Big Mango” as locals like to name it. But, what about the stylised spires and brightly-coloured tiled roofs temples?
Looking for Thai Temples
Still with the images of those beautiful temples the we had seen during our research when we were still at home, now that you are in Thailand, well, it is time and the place to start looking for them.
There is one thing that won’t fail in Thailand: when entering any Thai Wat, ( Thai name for temple), it doesn’t matter whether it is in Bangkok ( with the exception of the Grand Palace, which is inundated by tourists at nearly any time), or in any village upcountry, or if it is one with royal status or a forest monastery, the experience would be the same: it is as entering into another world, it is leaving ours behind, where there are no mobile phones, laptops, i pads, just silence or nature’s sounds, and of course, they are full of distinctive Buddhist iconography represented in carvings, bronze castings, mural paintings, just to mention a few.
More surprisingly perhaps, for a foreigner, as we are, is that these wats are so quietly alive, not just with their community of monks, but as active places of worship and meditation for the laity. There are hardly any Thai temple that are not an integral part of normal daily life of the village or town.
If you are interested in this topic, go to visit a temple, especially one located in any city of the interior of Thailand, with enough time to spend, it is an extraordinary opportunity to observe Thai life in its most simple expression, to understand what it might mean Being Thai…
Rattanakosin island: Thai art at its highest level
Now, lets go back to the capital of the Thai Kingdom, Bangkok. There is one thing that all, and we mean it, all of us did, do and will, when first arrived to Thailand : we go to see the Grand Palace and, if our ability for absorbing so much beauty, is still capable of more, we go to visit Wat Po that houses the reclining Buddha, and take more pictures, of course. What means that we will walking in and around the original heart of the city known as Rattanakosin Island, since the times when king Rama I founded it.
This area that surrounds the royal court, is distinguished by the quality of its artifacts, crafts and architectural details, which are more refined, accomplished and more costly than those found in any temple of Thailand, yet, they are aesthetically related . It is here where and when we start to find what we were looking for, a sense, not only of history, religion, but something more…a subtle but strong sense of Being Thai .
Please, have a look at these pictures taken when walking around the Grand Palace, in Rattanakosin island, and you will see what we mean…
The Grand Palace and the sacred complex of Wat Phra Kaew ( temple of Emerald Buddha) within its precinct is considered the culmination of Thai architecture, in terms both of form and symbolism, and also, the centre of the nation, monarchy and main religion, Buddhism. High Thai art , an unique experience.
In the past, the best artisans were recruited to work for the palace and nobility, and they gradually developed a refined and highly decorative art in several different fields as drawing, engraving, sculpting, masonry, mother-of pearl inlaid, gold-resist lacquerwork, ceramics, among others. Called the “ten classic crafts”, they were practiced among guilds based on apprenticeship and inheritance.These guilds relied on royal patronage, otherwise it would have been impossible to continue through time.
We would like to share with you a gallery with only some of the thousands pictures that you can take in the grounds of the Grand Palace. It is not only the architecture, which left you repeating “I just can’t believe this”, but then, when you are able to react, the creativity, delicacy and symbolism of the buildings and its decorations will just hit you…You will understand us only when you have been there..
In this photo gallery, we will follow our way into the Grand Palace and then, through the gate, into Wat Phra Kaew ( temple of Emerald Buddha) compound itself, walking until we find at the Phaitee terrace where are located Phra Sriratana Chedi, Phra Mondop and its most important building , Prasat Phra Thep Bidorn, the Royal Pantheon, in which statues of the past sovereigns of the Chakri dynasty are enshrined …Enjoy the tour…
After staying in Thailand for a while, having had the time for going for a weekend to Bangkok to enjoy its richly cosmopolitan and glamorous life but at the same time paying a visit to its most iconic temples and if you have made time for visiting a temple in any Thai village, admiring what Thai artisans are able to accomplish, we are sure that you will coincide with us on that our quest of the real and actual sense of being Thai, well, it might be in front of our eyes, expressed through the Thai Architecture and Thai Crafts.
As we have said, the content of this page is the result of our research plus some comments of our own. We gathered and just put together interesting information that we thought it would be of help, which we had found while reading the books listed below . So, you could find all this information , and more, reading:
- “Things Thai, Crafts &Collectibles”, by Tanisha Dansiip, Michael Freeman
- “Architecture of Thailand”, by Niti Sthapitanonda , Brian Mertens
- “Unseeing Historical Sites; Unseeing Bangkok“, by Tourism Division Bangkok Metropolitan Administration
We just hope that you had enjoyed reading this page, and that we had been of help. If you have some comment, please, lets know. In this way, we could keep linking Pattaya together.