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At Bangkok’s Temple of the Coffin

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Only a few steps from the sinful streets of Patpong in downtown Bangkok lies Wat Hua Lamphong. It’s known as the temple of the coffin.

Visitors to Hua Lamphong temple can earn merit by giving donations to sponsor coffins for the poor and homeless. The temple mixes Thai, Chinese and Indian rites. There are Buddhist shrines, you can pray through the joss sticks at a Chinese looking altar, and there’s a shrine to Ganesha, the Indian Elephant god.

The temple is also home to about a dozen cows and a cow shrine. People visiting the shrine write down a prayer and pray in front of an ornately decorated statue of two cows right next to the cow pen. Then the faithful buy some food for the cows and feed them. But even though the cows seem to lead a very privileged and sweet life at the temple, at least one source says that they’re only there to be sacrificed some time in the future.

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Written by Thorsten

June 28, 2015 at 4:18 pm

Central Embassy Mall in Bangkok

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Gucci, Prada and Paul Smith – they’re all at Bangkok’s newest luxury mall ‘Central Embassy‘. It opened on May 9, 2014 on Ploenchit Road – within walking distance to at least three similar high-class shopping malls. Though I’m not sure who needs yet another mall with stores for the super rich, the architecture is fascinating.

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Most of these pictures were taken simply looking up at the seven floors of the shopping center in its atriums. All in all, the space is vast – and that’s probably the biggest luxury in a crowded city like Bangkok.

And since Central Embassy isn’t a mall where they just play muzak, there were even some flautists and a string quartet taking care of the entertainment the day I was there.

Written by Thorsten

May 11, 2014 at 4:28 pm

Wat Pho through my eyes

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Wat Pho is one of the most-visited temples in Bangkok and it’s one of the most photographed. So when I returned to the temple last weekend, I deliberately tried to stay clear of the crowds as far as that was possible and explored some of the quieter corners of the complex.

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Written by Thorsten

August 21, 2012 at 6:25 pm

Thailand’s dusty treasures

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I like going to museums. But Thailand’s National Museum in Bangkok is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. It’s like one of those fairy tale places that have fallen under a spell and are asleep for a hundred years.

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The museum is housed in a number of former palace building, but also comprises a Buddhist pagoda and some “newer” buildings from the 1960’s.

The strange thing is that hardly anyone in Bangkok seems to be aware of the National Museum. My taxi driver didn’t even know where it was and had to ask for directions on the way.

The museum is a very quiet place. Fallen out of time. There were hardly any other visitors at the museum the Sunday I was there. Almost the only life you saw were middle-aged Thai ladies placed in every exhibition room as museum guards – more softly snoozing than supervising the visitors.

The museum’s collection is eclectic. Everything from golden Buddhas to royal porcelain and a shell collection. From doll houses to the royal funeral chariots and a collection of shadow puppets.

All exhibits all seem a little dusty, like someone put the together fifty years ago and then forgot about them. But all in all very charming and just the place to go if you’re looking for a little quiet time in Bangkok.

Written by Thorsten

December 11, 2011 at 6:03 pm

Posted in asia, this and that, travel

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A mall for young designers

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Idea Market at Kamphaeng Phaet Subway station in BangkokI was ready to head back to my hotel after having walked around Chatuchak Weekend Market for the better part of the morning.

I was tired and looking forward to my hotel swimming pool, a nice cool drink and some relaxing music from my i-pod.

But when I got to the lower level at Kamphaeng Phet subway station, I was in for a surprise. And that surprise made me forget the pool, the drink and the music for another hour.

Idea Market at Bangkok's Kamphaeng Phet subway stationHere in this subway station was the entrance to an underground shopping mall. An Idea Market that is only open on weekends.

A mall especially for young designers

Some of the designers at Kamphaeng Phet already had their own shops where they sold their own lines of fashion, gifts or perfumes.

The Idea Market at Kamphaeng Phet Others, however, were just getting started and obviously couldn’t afford renting a store yet.

They had spread out their goods on the floor in front of them – pretty much like kids selling old toys at a flea market.

Some of these vendors were selling interesting stuff that they were making themselves on the spot: designer bags , jewelery, hand-sewn teddy bears or knit sweaters.

Young designers at the Idea Market at Bangkok's Kamphaeng Phet subway stationI never studied design at school, but I thought that some of those people at the Kamphaeng Phet Idea Market were pretty talented.

And the prices were very reasonable. I bought a pair of designer shorts at one men’s fashion store, which cost me the equivalent of four dollars. Can’t really complain about that…

Written by Thorsten

December 23, 2008 at 10:55 pm

Shopping at the world’s biggest market

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Chatuchak weekend market in BangkokI’ve been to Bangkok dozens of times – it’s the hub I always have to go through when I’m travelling to another Asian country on business.

But if I thought I’d seen all the major sights in Bangkok, I was proven wrong on this stay.

I finally managed to head out to the Chatuchak Weekend Market. So far, I’d always thought it would be too far out (way in the north of the city). But I guess I must have had things a little wrong.

Yes, the weekend market is on the outskirts of Bangkok, but the city’s new subway has a stop right in the center of the market.

Actually, you can choose between two different subway stops if you want to get to Chatuchak – that might give you an idea how big this weekend market is.

It’s billed as the world’s biggest market

You can reach Chatuchak Weekend Market by getting off the Chatuchak Park subway stop or by getting off at Kamphaeng Phet Station. I’d recommend the latter, because that lands you right near the market’s entrance gate one.

Map of Chatuchak weekend market in BangkokGate one is a good place to start because this is where you can pick up a market map. And believe me: if you don’t want to get lost or risk missing the best parts of this huge market, it’s a good idea to take one of those maps along.

Chatuchak is the only market I know that actually publishes a map. This market is really almost the size of a small city.

To make life on the shoppers a little easier, the market is subdivided into streets and 28 sections. In some sections, you’ll find t-shirts, in others handicrafts, pets or antiques.

There’s no way to say how many vendors sell at this market. I’ve seen numbers published from 10 000 to 15 000 stalls.

The selection is overwhelming

I think you should be able to find any product made in Thailand on this market. And at great prices.

Chatuchak weekend market in BangkokI couldn’t believe how cheap Thai souvenirs were at Chatuchak.

(Sorry if I’m beginning to sound like an info-mercial, but I was really overwhelmed by this place.)

Whether it was Thai silk, wood carvings, mother-of-pearl or porcelain – everything I saw here seemed much cheaper than at retail stores throughout the country.

I guess you pay something close to the retail price at Chatuchak Weekend Market.

Facts and figures

O.k. – after all the raving, here some fast facts for those among us who love numbers and figures: Chatuchak is supposedly number one in the world when it comes to weekend markets.

Other sources are a little more cautious and just say it’s “…one of the world’s largest weekend markets.”

Chatuchak covers some 28 acres and has over 200 000 visitors each Saturday and Sunday. The large majority of those visitors (approximately 70 %) are Thais.

Water lilies on sale at Chatuchak weekend market in BangkokSo you see that this isn’t your average  “let’s rip off the tourists-market”.

It’s a place where the Thais come to shop (which explains some of the sections of the market: furniture, plants, pets – I guess you wouldn’t carry any of that home in your backpack after an Asian vacation…

Oh, and two more interesting trivia: Chatuchak Weekend Market has its own little electric train that drives shoppers around the market for free.Miniature train at Chatuchak weekend market in Bangkok

And – unlike markets in Europe or the US – it also has booths that offer foot massages for those who just can’t take another step.

Written by Thorsten

December 21, 2008 at 4:34 pm

Of singing flight attendants and such

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My friend Sandro is a flight attendant. In his blog, he recently wrote about flying to Bangkok with a pilot who is about to retire.

This flight was going to be one of the last ones for the pilot.

When they arrived in Bangkok, the pilot invited the whole crew out to dinner.

And to thank him, they sang a song for him after their meal: Leaving on a Jet Plane by John Denver.

The next morning, they sang it again for him – I guess as a double thank you and farewell.

According to Sandro, singing this song for crewmembers who are retiring, quitting or leaving the company is a tradition among airline personnel.

I didn’t know that and thougth it was kind of touching.

In addition, the idea of the whole happy cabin crew singing just made me smile.

Wouldn’t it be hilarious if the flight attendants also sang on the plane during their emergency-exit-oxygen-mask-routine? I mean, what would lend itself better to a musical number than this cabin-crew-choreography before every flight?

What a shame that so many airlines have meanwhile reverted to showing videos demonstrating the emergency procedures. Some even with computer-generated passengers and crew. Yeach!

That has no style whatsoever! I paid for the live show!

More music on airplanes

Speaking of song-and-dance routines and music in general on airplanes: a few years ago, I was on a flight to Spain. It was a pretty rough flight and as soon as our plane touched down, the crew played some soothing music over the cabin sound system.

The first song the passengers heard was Time to say good-bye by Sarah Brightman and Andrea Bocelli.

When that was over, the next song was Who wants to live forever by Freddy Mercury and Queen.

I always wondered if they’d played those songs in reverse order during the flight in case those turbulences had gotten worse…

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