I just finished The Great Deluge during the trip to Thailand and can’t recommend it highly enough, especially as the date of August 29th approaches. Lots of folks are trying to not let people forget that it’s still not over including Bill Moyers. While pundits continue to punt this political football around, Douglas Brinkley’s book nails it, journalistic-style.
Some of the things I need to remember next time visiting Thailand (it seems so obvious now):
- Bring more long pants–that’s what everyone wears
- More collared shirts
- Those Lonely Planet guides you bought!
- An address book
- An International Driving Permit (if you’re feeling lucky!)
Fortunately, most of this stuff was already here, so no worries. I’m glad for some things I didn’t bring like: a laptop, lots of clothes, my wallet (just parts of it), or a big camera.
It was hard to imagine–the whole country stopped to be addressed by HRH Queen Sirikit on Sunday for her birthday.
She was loving of her people, speaking across the spectrum of Thais. She took up the issue of flooding in the Northeast by scolding the greedy timber industry which has created the situation of mudslides; she looked to her consistent concern with the Chao Praya River as a source of water and food for Thai people during difficult times which has been contaminated to nearly beyond repair; she urged Thais to seek freedom of religion for their country to deal with the issues in the South rather than create a national religion of Buddhism. People had waited outside the palace for two days just to be near her when she spoke.
The Queen spoke to the effect that when she traveled to the small villages to find out how to help them harness the power of traditional Thai arts to help support the local communities, she was not recevied with the traditional respect of a queen but with the respectful familiar tone. However, among Thais she, along with the King, are rightfully revered. Not only are there words taken to heart by all Thais, but they put their words into practice–the Queen has served as the president of Thailand’s Red Cross since 1956 and worked on conservation, preservation, and health issues as long. Her speech Monday was immediately honored in its request to increase freedom of religion to prevent further violence in the South.
It’s hard to understand the concept of being a subject. Thais all seem comfortable with it, as no one mocks or considers themselves above being part of the monarchy, youthful rebelliousness or not. Even in hushed tones, Thais are still respectful of their rulers and their ideas are seen as both insightful, beneficial, and instructive to the country’s greater good. The royals seem to easily be able to look beyond politics, communing relgion’s values with nationalistic dedication in an attempt to be models of humanity.
My background with nobility has often been marred by the thumbing-of-the-nose toward authority; even the British royalty seems to not be above reproach to the Brits. Thais have the similar independent streak that Americans do–give the Thais a fork and spoon (courtesy of King Rama V) and they make it their own; give them a road with rules and watch out ;-). But the King and Queen supercede this and continue to benevolently rule people who are devoted to them. What is a subject who loves their rulers?
Long live the Queen.
After a whiz-bang tour of northern Thailand, courtesy of my wife’s cousin, we’ve got a week left here in Bangkok. Man we saw it all, but one of my new favorite towns in Chiang Rai, a close cousin of Chiang Mai, where we spent the night. Quiet and calm, it still has some “city-life” events, such as the night market, and a second-home to the stars who want to escape the crowds.
Any advice on what to see or do with time left in Bangkok? We’ve done most of the major sites, but yesterday we visited the Jim Thompson house, a first for my wife and her sister. Fantastic example of what a love of Thai architecture by an American architect can do.
I just picked up some new glasses frames, Asian-style! Got to get some lenses put in before leaving…the clock is ticking…