Saturday, July 6, 2019

Travelling Hopefully - Random Silk Merchant Edition

My Aircrash Investigations related brush with fame having been postponed for the foreseeable future I instead settled into my nice, canal adjacent, hotel in Bangkok.  Canal adjacent sounds impressive but in actual fact pretty much all of Bangkok is if not canal adjacent then at least canal pretty close by.  This is what you get when you build a city in an area where the water table is at the level of your knees.

I met a fellow tour member at the airport and with a couple of days before the tour actually starts we decided to take the opportunity to see a little of Bangkok.  Incidentally when I say I met her at the airport what I mean is she was in a car part way to the hotel when it was called back to collect me l having managed to get completely lost in the airport with the result that the car left without me.  Despite this early warning of the basic level of competence I bring to my arrangements she still agreed to go sightseeing with me.

The next day, refreshed by not enough sleep we stepped out into Bangkok for breakfast and a stroll around the neighbourhood.  We took in a local park that had an eighteenth century fort.  The former fort status was highlighted by cannon poking somewhat randomly out of the exterior.  It was probably a little more frightening in the 1700s.  The attractions of the fort being swiftly exhausted we left in search of bigger prey.  Having spent nearly an hour outdoors in Bangkok we popped back to the hotel for a complete change of clothing and to arrange a tuk tuk ride to Jim Thompson’s house.

Jim Thompson was an American, an architect by profession, who served with the US army in South East Asia during the Second World War.  Apparently he liked the place and when the war was over he settled in Bangkok and started a new career exporting Thai silk to the US.  He “built” his house by bringing in six, one room, Thai stilt houses and linking them together.  Then he went on holiday to Malaysia, wandered off into the jungle and, depending on which theory you believe, was either eaten by a tiger or murdered by the CIA.  These are apparently your only two options.  His house is now a museum showcasing his collection of regional antiquities.

The house, as mentioned, is six, one room Thai stilt houses joined together.  It’s made of teak and has Carrara marble floors which I’m prepared to bet wasn’t standard for Thai stilt houses at the time.  The house backs (or rather fronts, because this used to be the main entrance) onto a canal just across the water from the silk weaving district where Thompson did his buying.  At ground level there are lush gardens plus ponds, urns and jars all of which have fish in them (alive I should probably point out).  All of this is slap bang in the middle of Bangkok and makes for a peaceful oasis in the heart of the city.  Unfortunately you can’t take photos inside as some of the antiques are very fragile.  Apparently people were knocking them over trying to get good shots, presumably of other antiques they hadn’t destroyed yet.

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