Wednesday, September 8, 2010
I woke up early today and walked over to the National Museum, a titanic treasure trove of Thai culture. Divided up into several different buildings, it contains a seemingly endless amount of displays that range from old and dusty to lively and modern. The Thai History Gallery greets newcomers out front with an extensive and detailed look at how this tropical kingdom came into being and grew into the gold-plated beast it is today. A multitude of other galleries boast a cornucopia of exquisite "fruit of the labor" of Thai artisans, including Buddha images, carved elephant tusks, ceramic bowls, coins, jewelry, masks, musical instruments, puppets, royal regalia, sculptures, textiles, weapons, wood and stone carvings and way more. The highlight of the whole shebang came near the beginning of my visit when I walked over toward the Hall of Royal Funeral Chariots.
Based on the title, I didn't expect the world, but once I stepped inside, I was completely bowled over. These 19th century chariots were the tallest, most over-the-top, gold-covered, jewelled, dragon-festooned, bad-ass wagons ever to attack my eyeballs. They simply filled me with a snickering awe, and were a million times more impressive than the one pictured at the top of this post. Of course, there was a "no photos" sign up on the wall, but I tried to sneak one anyway and instantly got scolded by an eagle eye security guard. I had to raise my voice and throw out my hands to convince him that I had not and would not take any photos. I even showed him my camera. I didn't see what the big deal was. It couldn't hurt anything with the flash off. The National Gallery, like all museums in Southeast Asia, closes at 4:00 p.m., so I was stoked that I completed a quick walk-through and got to see everything.
After I left the museum around 4:00 pm, I stopped for lunch at a tiny cafe. Right after I finished eating and walked out, a couple of policemen on a motorcycle pulled up alongside me, got off, and without a word, gave me a head-to-toe patdown. They even took out my wallet and rifled through it. Even though I was really angry, I never said anything the whole time. After a minute, when they were done, one of them said thank you, then they climbed back on their motorcycle and took off. I had read that Thai police conduct random drug searches on tourists, but this was the first time it ever happened to me. I could understand if I was standing with someone in a deserted back alley and they saw money change hands, but I was just strolling down a street in the middle of the day near the tourist zone. You would think the Thai authorities would treat tourists better than that, so the tourists would want to return for another visit someday. But, no, they have to pull stunts like this.
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All words and photos ©2010 Arcane Candy.