It’s a Wrap…Bangkok

The Spirit House at the Novotel

Thanks to my little bout of whatever it was (I still blame the spring roll, but hubby thinks my symptoms were more like that of a migraine) we didn’t get out and about too much in Bangkok this trip – well, certainly not as much as I would have liked.

Further, because of the national holiday around Songkran, there was a lot that was closed.

Having said that, we managed to fill our few days here with a visit to Jim Thompson House, a cruise on the river, lots of shopping, and some fun songkran soakings…and collecting these random thoughts…

Broken Things

I talked the other day about broken things and how hanging on to them can bring bad luck. Anyways, you see a lot of these broken things or symbols representative of broken things, at shrines or other offering points.

It might be a little statue with the head or arms off, or a piece of broken porcelain, or something else. Either way, the offering is representative of atonement for something that you’ve done wrong. Sort of like a confessional.

Thresholds

The thresholds are high. Seriously high. You actually have to take a full step over and, if your knees are as shoddy as mine, sometimes even have to grab the doorframe as support.

the threshold at Jim Thompson House

Why?

Is it perhaps to stop babies crawling out and toppling over balconies into the river or canals below?

Maybe it’s because of the flooding. Traditionally many people lived by the river and canals – they still do – and these have a dreadful habit of flooding to a pretty mega level during the wet season.

Perhaps it’s to stop snakes from crossing the thresholds and terrorising the inhabitants?

If you answered yes to either of these questions, you’d be wrong.

The correct answer? It’s to stop the spirits from crossing the threshold. Thai spirits – the nasty buggers, that is – can’t jump or fly. Instead they crawl along on their bellies like the truly nasty spirits they are.

Apparently Chinese spirits can jump and fly which is why you shouldn’t be able to look through the front door to the back door, or through windows and other feng shui no no’s.

Incidentally, many traditional Chinese homes in Chinatown have mirrors over the front doors so that the spirits will see themselves and take off in fright.

Balinese bad spirits fly over the top of everything, like great evil A380’s- which is why on Nyepi Day, everyone has to turn the lights out and stay really quiet so that the spirits will think no one’s home and fly right on by…but that’s Bali and this is about Thailand and here the spirits need to be stopped from crossing the threshold.

Spirit Houses

Spirit House at Jim Thompson House

Speaking of spirits, no matter what religion you are, most Thai houses have a Spirit House outside for the spirits to live in.

These are seriously cute. Like little dolls houses. Some are elaborate, some simple.

As long as the flowers and food offerings are replenished each day, everyone’s happy – especially the spirits.

The spirit house at the Novotel is seriously elaborate

Stairs

Stairs around temples or holy places are generally steep, often narrow, and there are usually a lot of them.

Why? Is it a gym for the monks?

No. It’s a mindful meditation through physical effort.

When you’re going up or down these stairs, your mind is completely on the job of going up or down these stairs. Especially if you have a dodgy knee. You are completely focused on the task. Trust me on this one.

The River

Chao Phraya River (Mae Nam Chao Phraya) is the lifeblood of the city and venturing down and onto to the river is something that you probably should do – even if it’s just for the different perspective it offers.

Last time (2013) we did a Floating Market tour (absolutely recommended), but this time round we opted for something more leisurely – an afternoon on the river by longtail boat and rice barge.

Aside from being substantially (and blessedly) cooler on the water, you do get a completely different view of life – and the struggles that the floods bring every year.

 

Food Halls

Food halls are actually good options for meals -especially for lunch. Cheap, air-conditioned and of good quality, they bear no resemblance to the offerings in your local mall.

This is particularly the case during Songkran when it’s stinking hot outside and many of the family run restaurants are closed for the national holiday.

This pad thai – which tasted amazing – cost about $4.

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