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More Bangkok: Dusit, Chatuchak Market & Muay Thai Boxing

Written on: Saturday February 14th, 2009

A journal entry from: Thailand 2009

Today I set out early - big mistake, I was a single target for all the obnoxious touts on Khao San Road. The most annoying thing about them is they never come out and say what they want from you straight away! You have to go through answering all their lame "getting to know the mark" questions like "Where are you from? How long are you in Bangkok? Are you a student?" etc, after 2 or 3 of these pests, I usually revert to walking quickly and ignoring them or saying/yelling "Can't you see I'm walking somewhere!" when they 1st say something.

Despite touts saying I couldn't walk to Dusit (2 or 3 suburbs north of where Khao San is) I got there in a leisurely 45 minutes! Take that! When I got there, some uni was doing its graduation close by the palaces - so I got to see lots of Thai graduates in their multicoloured robes.

I actually prefered the Palaces in Dusit (built in the later 19th century/more European influenced) to the Grand Palace complex, as there were less other people swarming around and there was more to see than just impressive buildings. In the 1st one, there was an exhibition of pieces of cloth/jewellery/ornaments the current Queen had ordered to be made from green beetles' wings (she's apparently the 1st person in the world to think of this!). The beetles' wings can only be collected after the beetle dies a natural death - trauma ruins the colouration. So I've got this image of Thais labouring through jungle looking at the ground for dead beetles to collect for the queen's latest designer item.

Then, I quickly found the Royal Elephant Museum (yay!) - unfortunately no photos allowed inside! The major thing I learnt here was "auspicious" white elephants must show the 7 signs of their "auspiciousness", including white testicles! What's the female equivalent?

One of the best places I saw after was current King Bhumibol's photography exhibitions (housed in not 1, but two buildings!). The king seems like such a lovable dork. He had photos of dogs posed with a pipe in their mouth playing the piano and pictures of him show him always wearing a suit with running shoes and a camera around his neck. Also photos of him as a young guy playing the clarinet, trumpert, saxophone - once with Benny Goodman & Louis Armstrong in 1960s NY!

After that was the Vimanmek Teak mansion (world's biggest building made of teak). Probably the prettiest building in all of Thailand that I saw, but they don't let you take photos of it, even from the outside.  To get inside I had to go on the English tour, they don't let you just wander around it. There was a funny Nigerian guy on my tour who kept asking the weirdest questions, like, to me, "Are you Icelandic?" and to the guide everytime we saw a goldy-looking chair "Is this chair made of gold?"

Unfortunately, there was one of those "I'm so morally superior" most likely Bachelor of Arts dropout/overly intellectually arrogant type of wanker (also American) on our tour. He asked the guide "So where did the King get his money from *dramatic pause for added wanker effect*  - the poor?" thinking he'd really scored a point in some him vs Thailand's oppressive monarchy showdown. Actually, Thais LOVE their royal family and the king he was asking about, Chulalongkorn, was the one who opened up Thailand to Western education/government etc which meant that Thailand was never colonised (i.e. king modernised it so much that Western countries couldn't come in and take it over on the premise that the locals were so "uncivilised") - so what he'd said was really offensive. The guide sort of deflected his question (being way more polite than the wanker deserved), and moved on, the wanker also got lots of dirty looks and sniggers from the other people on the tour... but yeah, why do people think that they can do that when they are a guest in a country? If you don't agree with a king building palaces, don't go to the damn palace.

After that, I was inspired by seeing the royal family's purple tuk tuk, to catch my own to Chatuchak Weekend Market. Again, this market defeated me! I didn't even get around a 1/3 of it, I think. It was only 5pm (market closes 5:30ish) that I found the animal section - complete with baby crocodile in a styrofoam box for sale. My fave was the albino hedgehogs. 

Then, it was a Bangkok-rush-hour tuk tuk trip back to Khao San to dump all the stuff I bought (complete with a more than 10 min wait at 1 set of traffic lights!), before heading over to the Muay Thai boxing at Lumphini Stadium. Tickets were like $75 for a ringside seat, but I figured I'm only going to see REAL muay Thai boxing once, so it was worth it. It was surprisingly violent, 4 of the 9 fights I saw ended in knockouts. What's scary was some of the guys getting knocked out were as young as 15. Growing brains don't need that kind of damage!