#3 (final) Thailand, Jan. 14, 1990

Dear Everybody,

I shared a cab to the airport with an Italian couple and then had a short flight to Bangkok. After getting settled, I walked a long ways to Jim Thompson’s house and his silk and cotton store. Jim Thompson had been with the CIA in Thailand during World War II, returned to Thailand after the war and set about building a silk distribution company, which rescued the silk industry in Thailand that was in danger of dying out.

The next day I took the express water bus to the National Palace area where I visited the National Museum. Then I got a tuk-tuk to take me to the Gem and Lapidiary shop where I bought a set of bronze flatware with mother-of-pearl trim. This was a huge set with 12 place settings of 11 different items even including iced teaspoons! Needless it say it was very heavy—I nearly broke my arms off carrying it back to my hotel.

The “Oriental Queen” was a tour boat owned by the Oriental Hotel, which I took up the Cheo Phrya River for 70 km to Bang Pa-In, which was the Summer Palace. The river was beautiful but hot. We went by bus (air-conditioned, thank heavens) to Bang Pa-In and then on to Ayutha, a ruin of a 14th to 18th century city, which was the capital of Siam from 1350 to 1767. The ruins were quite extensive with many holy statues, obviously still venerated since they were ‘wearing’ golden sarongs.

 

By the end of the 17th century, this city had a population of one million and was reported by many foreigners to be the most wonderful city that they had ever seen. It was eventually destroyed by invading Burmese.

Remember “The Bridge on the River Kwai?” I took a bus to Kanchanaburi, which is the town near this location. First I went to the JEATH Museum. The letters stand for Japanese, English, American, Australian, Thai and Hollanders who were involved in the fighting there. There was a replica of the bamboo barracks, which was the museum, which had photos and some artifacts from this area and period of World War II. Then there was the Bridge on the River Kwai, The first bridge constructed in 1943 was of wood; two months later a second bridge was constructed of steel. While it was bombed and rebuilt, some portions of the bridge are original. The materials were all brought from Java by the Japanese Army during its occupation of Thailand. This bridge was part of the ‘Death Railway to Burma,’ which cost about 16,000 POW lives. What a lot of history to think about as I walked across it.  (No, I didn’t whistle!)

After lunch at a floating restaurant and a tour through a food market, we returned to Bangkok.

My last day in Bangkok I went back to the market—they are colorful places to photograph and are also interesting for the food that’s for sale. I stopped at a stand in the market and had some soup, and then got a plastic bag of wonderful candied bananas.

When the tuk-tuk driver was taking me back to my hotel he got very lost and we went way out of our way in terrible traffic! I did a little more ‘silk scarf’ shopping—luckily they are easy to take home! When I was crossing the street after buying them, I nearly got hit by a motorcycle that was going very fast! The traffic is so bad in Bangkok, that I have been crossing streets by going with locals when I can. A bigger group of pedestrians is helpful too—surely a car wouldn’t run over several pedestrians! Anyway, as I was going to cross, I quickly ran a few steps to try to catch up to several pedestrians that were just starting to cross the street. A motorcycle came out of nowhere and drove between the other pedestrians and me. I could feel the wind from the cycle—I really think it was only one foot from me! I learned a lesson, though. Now I never hurry or dash ahead in any way for anything in places like this. Slow and deliberate is much safer!

The next morning the taxi came at 4:30 AM to take me to the airport; I got my flight(s) home without any problems. While Thailand was very hot, there was a lot to see and do and I liked it a lot!

Carol

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