Monday, May 11, 2015

King's Summer Palace Visit

On preparation day we visited Bang Pa-In Royal Palace, also known as the Summer Palace.

I have been pining to visit this location since I became aware of it during our visit to Thailand about 5 years ago. 

I arranged to borrow a van and we invited 10 other Senior missionaries to go with us.  We left at about 8 in the morning for the 40 mile drive.  The palace is located in Ayuthaya Province in the Amphoe (equivalent of a county) of Bang Pa-In.  After entering the property we rented three 4 person golf carts (2 couples to each cart).  Elder Seppi drove the cart we rode in.  Since I drove the van to the site, I thought it appropriate to have some one else drive.  Plus he was a regular golfer - therefore I knew had has golf cart driving experience.  We truly enjoyed ourselves and I got the chance to eat Ice Cream twice during our 2 plus hour stay.

King Prasat Thong constructed the original complex in 1632, but it fell into disuse and became overgrown in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, until King Mongkut began to restore the site in the mid-19th century. Most of the present buildings were constructed between 1872 and 1889 by King Chulalongkorn.  It is a huge site with vast gardens and beautiful landscaping.  The palace remains largely open to visitors, as the current King Bhumibol Adulyadej and his family use it only rarely for banquets and special occasions.

Sister Meeker, Elder Meeker, Elder Seppi, Sister Seppi
Absolutely Beautiful - Oh and there is some nice buildings and landscaping there too
She wanted a picture of the large leaves on this tree

"Heavenly Light Royal Residence" from the first level of the observation tower

 The "Heavenly Light Royal Residence" was built by the equivalent of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce in 1899.  We were not allowed to take pictures inside the building.  It is a two story mansion with ornamented tiles floors, massive ebony furniture, gold, silver and porcelain are used for decorative purposes.  There is delicate fretwork on the columns and on the windows.  The ground floor contains a Chines style throne, the upper story houses an altar enshrining the name plates of King Mongkut and Chulalongkorn with their Queens.  This was the favorite residence of the King during the years of 1910 thru 1925.  Very impressive  building.

Carved wood with a Chinese flavor - mythical creatures with lots of color
Yes those are monks in the bright colored robes - they are touring the site - complete with expensive camera gear.

Excellent and shining Heavenly abode

The building is a Neo classical style one story mansion (very tall ceilings with huge chandeliers).   The mansion was built in 1876.  It was built as a Residence and a Throne hall.  The private apartments in this building are still occasionally used by the royal family, whenever they reside at the palace.  We talked with a tour guide inside this building.  There is a huge 30 foot long dining room table and we asked here does the royal family eat at the table.  She gave us this .... how am I supposed to know look.  She said when the royal family comes they shut down the entire site from visitors and she does not come to work.  No pictures allowed in this building also.

Changing of the Guard

The site is a royal residence, thus it is guarded by the army.  The guards are not dressed like those in England but they do have little guard shacks scattered around the residence.  We even happened to be leaving as the changing of the guard was happening.  We were in the van and stopped on the road. 

The  Large Display building
After we saw the changing of the guard, we had a short drive (about 15 kilometers) to the Bang Sai Arts and Craft Center.  We started there, with lunch in an open air cafeteria (Thai food of course).  Then we visited multiple areas where artisans make all kinds of hand made crafts of different materials and methods  (ceramics, leather, carving, jewelry, furniture making etc). We finished up in the large display building.  It is air Conditioned and has museum pieces and a well stocked gift shop.

One of the areas was dressing making

Patterns in the dress making area

Oil painting of the King and Queen  - Era when Elder meeker was here the 1st time

On Site Museum - Awesome Glass encased Thai Village

Great top view except for the reflection of the celling lights


Sunday, May 3, 2015

Store Names in Thailand

Picture of a store with a familiar sounding name
Shopping in Thailand has changed in the last 40 years.  It used to be all mom and pop stores along the road.  Now there are modern malls and chain stores in the big cities.  Sister Meeker thought these two pictures indicate the amount of name copying that is going on. 

Baan and Beyond is just like it sounds a clone of Bed, Bath and Beyond. The word "baan" in Thai means house or home. What is interesting to me is the large sign in English with the Thai name of the store in Thai letters upper left of the sign. The Thai name is just like the English name sounded out "baan and beyond".  It is not the words that mean "and Beyond."

For the office supply store - it is not office depot but Office Mate.  Name in the upper right corner (Thai characters) says offid mait.  There are no c or s sound at the end of words. 

Another store is Home Pro.  A clone of Home Depot right down to the orange aprons for the sales and help staff.  The big difference is the qty of help staff hanging around.  Probably three to four times as many as you would find back home.  Easy to find help.  Although from Sister Meeker's experience - they do not speak English very well.  So what they do is go get their associate who they think speaks English better.

In addition Sister Meeker thinks I should mention 7/11 stores.  They are literally everywhere.  There are probably 5 within a few minutes walk from our condo.  In fact for the first month we were here there was another one on the first floor of our condo bldg.  It is now closed.  They have pretty much all of your basic needs and the prices are very competitive.  We buy our milk, bread, eggs and other staples there for the most part. 

Why are there so many  7/11s? One blogger stated that there are  "two kinds of answers: One is that Thai people don't like to walk (far), and ..... there is enough business for all of the shops."

   "At the end of the year 2012, the Company had a total of 6,822 7-Eleven stores nationwide. Of the total, 3,177 stores are in Bangkok and vicinity (47 percent) and 3,645 stores are in provincial areas (53 percent). Presently, an average of 8.3 million customers visit 7-Eleven stores each day."

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Visit to Royal Plaza

On the Friday night after the Water Festival (Songkran - Thai New Years) we went with the other Senior Couples in Bangkok to the Royal Plaza (สนาม หลวง).  Our intent was to go and see some dancing and displays at the National Museum located nearby.  But the museum was actually closed that night.  However we happened upon a large activity at the Royal Plaza. The Royal plaza is a very large field in the old part of Bangkok.  If my memory serves me right, 40 years ago it was the location of the weekend market.

The building tops in the background is the Grand Palace,
location of the Temple of the Emerald Buddha 
The Ministry of Culture was putting on a large activity which included, what I have coined as a kite Festival. There was dancing and music and floats and other things. But the thing that got our attention was the large kites we saw nearby in the Sky.  The actual event I learned later was in a celebration for the 233rd anniversary of the Chakri Dynasty (reign of Kings).  Current king is the 9th - King Rama the 9th.  It  was a great evening in Bangkok.

These kites was enormous - I would estimate that they were 50 feet long. 
We got closer when they were on the ground later.
Senior Couples in a tunnel of handmade kites - with their self appointed guide (green shirt) sharing his joy of kites

Yes that is a Turtle kite

Making kites

Beautiful original kites

More kite making in the background

Some of the kites were for sale - only a couple dollars to buy yourself a kite

 Cobra kite made by our self appointed guide - who spend time with us
Kite wranglers - note the basket in front - holds his string to control the kite

Music also provided

More than one set of musicians playing

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Videos from Senior Specialized Training

Area around Hotel

 More Area around Hotel
Sister Meeker being Kissed
 Elephants entering the River for a Bath
Bathing Elephants
Scrubbing the Elephants
Playing Soccer
Starting the Painting
The Finished Painting

Senior Missionary Specialized Training 2015

24 Full time Missionaries, 2 District Missionaries and President and Sister Senior
Once per year - Our mission President gets all of the Senior Missionaries serving in the Thailand Bangkok Mission together. We have Senior missionaries in Bangkok, multiple cities in Northeast Thailand, in Lao and Myanmar so we enjoy this yearly opportunity to be together. This year President and Sister Senior selected a location outside of Chiang Mai in northern Thailand.

The Resort was called Panviman Resort.  The resort is literally located on a hillside about 45 kilometers outside of Bangkok.  Picturesque! and also good for exercise.  It was a hike between the main building - restaurant, reception and conference room to our actual hotel room up about 200 feet in elevation. It was quite a logistical feat to get all of the couples from their respective locations to arrive near the same time.  I arranged all of the airline tickets and the transportation to meet them at the airport and take them to the resort.  I also brought the cash to pay for the group hotel and the activity costs.  We as senior couples were responsible for our room costs.

Picturesque setting in the hills northeast of Chiang Mai - yes we swam in that pool behind us

We were at the resort for 3 days (2 nights).  On the first day we had training session and then had dinner together at the hotel restaurant.  The second day had a morning session and an afternoon activity time.  Most of the couples selected to go to a nearby elephant camp along a local river.  We fed the elephants watched them bathe in the river and then they put on a little show. That evening we had a Thai dinner a local restaurant a short walk from the hotel.  After dinner we had a FHE activity together in the hotel conference room.  Fun fun. We played a form of gospel oriented Pictionary . We had four teams,  Some of these senior couple are amazingly quick.  We had a closing session on the Third day where we had the opportunity to share our testimonies.  Then most went immediately to the airport.  12 of us traveled to the city of Chiang Mai and stayed the night.  We had fun with them and did some more souvenir buying (shopping). 

The LARGE deck outside our room

Sister Meeker chilling on the deck

View of Main building

Pool and waterfall area shot taken from main building
Chilling after swimming
Artificial Cave area below the pool

Watch your head walking in there
Entrance to Elephant camp
Mahuts bathing their elephants
Yes that is an elephant painting

Some of the finished product - All painted by different Elephants

Quite stunning in their ability to paint
The elephants put on a show - played soccer, twirled hula hoops and moved logs

The group that attended the elephant camp with us
Big strong hug

Placing the hat

Capping off the elephant experience
Papaya tree with fruit - notice the lack of branches

Feet up - King Size Chair
Rock Paper Scissors - deciding who gets to translate1st  for the Native Thai Senior Missionaries - I won
Local resident often made loud cackling comments outside conference room during the training
Getting to know you game prior to dinner - note the scenery thru the windows
Nice hotel with beautiful company in Chiang Mai

Shopping for Wood carvings - left this one - but two others are currently sailing home - surface mail