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Irene's Adventures

Thailand - King’s Birthday - Bangkok

THAILAND | Sunday, 6 December 2009 | Views [392]

   They found Irene's luggage!!:)  It arrived about midnight last night.  The airline called earlier in the day and said it would be delivered around 6 pm, however since the King's birthday celebration is being held so close to our hostel, all the streets are absolutely plugged with people, traffic, and street vendors.  We were coming down Koa San Road and wondering what on earth is going on?  All the street vendors are gone...???   There are hundreds of them, Where did they all go???  A few blocks over we got our answer.  they had all packed up and moved closer to the celebration site.  Smart.  Go where the people are.  

The city had a major 8 lane street blocked off for about a kilometer for the festivities.  The center boulevard is about 3 - 4 meters across and has millions and millions of potted marigolds placed in amongst greenery, complete with intermittent fountains and rotating colored spotlights shooting into the sky, and massive framed posters of the king spaced every 100 meters that must be at least 10 meters high.  On either side of the street are booths (for lack of better description) from every government agency, promoting themselves and each and every one had posters of the king doing something that showed him involved in that agency.  The king planting rice at the agricultural display, the king feeding chickens farming display, the king in military garb at the military display, the king playing the saxophone at the arts display, the king playing with his children at the family planning display, the king reading to kids at the education display, the king sweating, complete with a droplet hanging off the end of his nose. This last one seems to be the favorite, as there seem to be more of that particular picture than any other.  Obviously the king is very involved with the common people.  

Some of the booths were giving away, we're not sure what, but the people were literally running to get into a queue to have a chance to get it.  Mostly, it looked like a brochure of some sort.... Basically, it looked like something that you couldn't pay a Canadian to take, and these people were running to get one.  But no pushing or shoving, running up and very methodically getting into a queue.

The whole thing was quite the carnival feel.  There were helium balloons, but not just regular balloons, these were in all kinds of weird and wonderful shapes and colors and themes,  There were head bands that had stars, and hearts and even little horns popping up and flashed and blinked in a rainbow of colors. There were little propeller things that people would shoot up into the air like a slingshot, but the propeller on the end kept it up for a few seconds while it shone an electric blue. There were dancers, and singers and bands of every genre.  The fireworks display was fantastic, each night was more spectacular than the previous night. When all the fireworks completed, the rotating spot lights created an almost Hollywood feel reflecting off the lingering smoke in the air.  The night time parade was incredible!!  The floats were massive and lit up with rope lighting so that they totally hid the vehicle towing it, they appeared to be magical castles,mystical creatures and rice paper animals lit from within bouncing along the roadway.  Again, nearly every float had some sort of poster of the king on it.

Something we noticed straight away was the cleanliness of it all.  There were hundreds of thousands of people on the street.  There was all sorts of food available (remember all the street vendors from Koa San Road and Soi Rambuttri had moved closer??) yet there was hardly a paper of litter on the street. We happened to be sitting on the curb close to some garbage cans and there was a steady stream of people depositing their rubbish into them.  We could see some people walking several meters just to drop something in the bin.  There was no rowdiness, no drunks, no swearing, no shoving, no crying / squawking kids, no yelling parents.  Everyone was just having a good time.  We had met some fellow Canadians on the flight over, who happen to be staying at the same hostel and they told us that on the way back to the hostel last night, they went through a touristy district and the streets were filled with drunken, obnoxious foreigners - such a contrast.

We had to take a tuktuk, despite all the warnings that they try to rip you off.  However, we found out that there are government tuktuk's that are a bit more scrupulous, but still not without a hitch.  Again, because it is the King's birthday, there are promotions sponsored by two very large factories.  If the tuktuk driver brings you to one silk factory, he gets a coupon for a free tank of petrol.  You can't blame the guy for wanting to take you there.  This offer was only for the long weekend, and really, who wouldn't want to take advantage of that?  The silk factory is nearly across the street from the Government Touristy office, and they really want to take you there as well.  I think the Government is using the King's birthday to re-coup some of the costs of the celebration, by getting tourists, and locals to the tourist office to entice people to books some sort of tour. Fortunately, or unfortunately for us, one of the sights that we wanted to see that required either a taxi or tuktuk was just near this silk factory and tourist office. A bit of a waste of time, but interesting as to the workings of tuktuk drivers. And it is kind of an interesting way to travel, a bit hair raising at times, a bit choking (when sitting behind a bus at a red light), and a bit cramped, but an experience, none the less.

oh,  the other large factory was a large gem factory.  They actually showed you how they prepared raw sapphires and rubies and make it into jewelery.  Very interesting.  Then, of course, into the showroom....  Wow, the opulence of some pieces is beyond description!!  We inquired into the prices of some modest pieces, and found that they were actually very reasonably priced, almost cheap ($250 for a ring with over 1 carat of marquis cut rubies).  But then we inquired to some fancier pieces -  ouch!!  But realistically, they were absolutely stunning.  There was a ring that had a very large flower made of various shades of rubies, with the darkest red in the center and fading until finally the tips of the flower were clear diamonds.  I think the price on that one was $30,000.  But considering the size and the artistry and selection of diamonds and rubies, I guess it was a good deal.....LOL  Cheron, you would have went GA GA!!


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