Wednesday, November 25, 2009

teak talk

Abhisek Dusit Throne Hall

The Dusit Palace was the destination for yesterday's tourist outing. Before I hit the streets I joined my friends Mike and Bon for a thai breakfast. They treated me to "Jok". This Thai version of congee, is a rice porridge mixed with ginger root slivers, pork sausage and spring onions. You can customize your bowl with crunchy crackers or toppings of youtiao (salty chinese donut), pickled pepper, or soy sauce. You can further beef up the breakfast by stirring in a raw egg which cooks in the hot broth like an egg drop soup.

The palace is actually a compound of several royal residences which are now used to showcase thai artifacts and royal memorabilia. The artifacts were not well edited or classified which made me feel like "the royal collection of knick-knacks" was a more appropriate title. Some buildings were piled with bunches of unrelated and unlabeled stuff, everything from rare ming vases to a royal sony clock radio. Each item stored and ready to be pulled off the shelf in case old uncle Pong dropped around for a visit.

The highlight is the Vinmanmek Palace, the largest golden teakwood mansion in the world. King Chulalongkorn (son of Mongkut, the ruler in the King & I) had the building dismantled and rebuilt on this site in 1900. It is described as having been built in European Style but the interpretive signage and tours were scant on details. The buildings are decorated in ornate carved gingerbread and are painted in candy colours which gives them a victorian feel. I think if it was unpainted it would look more like a traditional thai teak building. The photo ops were few and far between as they demanded that bags and cameras be locked in cabinets before entering each and every exhibit. Armed guards kept an eye out for rule breaker types so I kept my camera under wraps for most of my visit. I was disappointed to find out that there were no royal white elephants in the elephant stable. Bummer. You can go on a virtual tour here.

And I was dying for some background on the royal collection of vintage VW microbuses. They have 6 of them lined up and ready to go. Is the king a hippie at heart?