It is late at night, I’m sitting on the rooftop, bathed in red neon light, and listening to some Leon Bridges grooves. This is a satisfying end to a typical Bangkok day.
This morning I got my geek on and visited the Thai Philatelic Museum (yes, a postage stamp museum). The Museum was mostly empty and no one was supervising, however every single stamp commissioned since the beginning of post was available for viewing and photographing. Each stamp represents an ideal, a value, a significant event, an anniversary, or an aspect of traditional culture that required promotion. The whole archive is a perfect cross-section of Thai history, as told through tiny, gorgeous, photogravure prints. After a few hours I had only covered a fraction of the collection, but knowing that such a treasure trove is so readily accessible, I will certainly return.
Afterwards, I wove through the back alleys (eternally grateful for Google Maps and GPS) to the Bangkok Doll Museum, a very hard-to-find house with an insane, weirdly heart-warming collection of dolls. There were hundreds, possibly thousands, of little strange dolls and models lining the shelved walls, most made up into diorama settings. I’m quite sure I won’t be doing anything with this collection, but there was a peculiar joy about this obsessive house that made it the highlight of my day.
Later in the afternoon I transformed into a fully-fledged tourist, and subjected myself to the Jim Thompson House experience. Jim Thompson was American and a mid-twentieth century silk manufacturer and exporter, whose traditional teak home and lush gardens are now a tourist attraction. Although the Jim Thompson House is the sort of must-visit-tourist-attraction that makes me want to vomit into my shoes, this experience was palatable, and actually, I recommend it. The tour was short, well organised, concise and factual. I zealously coveted were the exquisite miniature paintings adorning every wall of Thompson’s home. Alas, unfortunately for you, no photography was allowed of the interiors.
In the evening I had a (painful) gymnastics class, a late dinner, and a stroll with Annabelle through the surrounding streets.
I will quickly add that yesterday I had a meeting at the Bank of Thailand, to discuss their national treasury of historical coins. They were very receptive, hospitable, and gave me a private tour of the sumptuous Bang Khun Phrom Palace, which appealed to my many Europhile sensibilities. This setting brought into stark contrast the two distinct Thailands I am experiencing: The historical, romantic and traditional Thailand, with its beautiful artefacts, religion and craftsmanship, documented through history as a land of paradise and abundance; and contemporary Bangkok, a military run city, with a tourism driven economy and a chaotic world of dirty streets lined with cheap knick-knacks. These are two worlds I have yet to reconcile.
As usual, the photographs from my explorations are up on www.instagram.com/paul_mclachlan.
Love to everyone at home.