Monday, February 29, 2016

On Fleeting Life

That life can, in a snap...stop.
Nobody can really be...ready.
We'd want to forever be...there.
But we're not meant to, nay...stay...
Someday we'd have to go, hey...away.
---freespirit (espierspectives)

News of sudden deaths can really break one's heart, even if those who went away were not close to one's heart.  You see them alive today, and tomorrow they're gone...just like that.  What more if you know them personally? Oh, the yearning! And then you begin to wonder: Whose next, me? And so you begin to tidy up and pray...just in case.

Friday, February 20, 2015

PALACE-NOW-FOUND: Finding the Palace of Love and Hope

Remember my blog post about a "lost" palace?

Hubby and I returned to Sirindhorn Park in Cha-am to bike around. It was breezy but the afternoon was warm.  After one round I decided biking wasn't really for me as I panic and lose my balance each time another biker gets too close.  Hubby couldn't get me to bike one more round so we parked our rented bikes beside an arch covered with vines.  

Just at the entrance, after walking past the souvenir shop and through an archway guarded by a couple of naked bronze statues, one on each side.

Be welcomed by this sight as you pass through the vine-covered arched entrance. Be enveloped by the feeling of serenity and oneness with nature.  The sound of the sea. Tje rustling of the leaves. The chirping of the birds and other insects. The sounds of silence.

We enter the archway and find ourselves at the entrance of an expansive grassy grounds shadowed by giant acacia and ficus trees. The ficus trees look ominous with their intrinsically-gnarled roots that tell of age. Following the paved walkway a quaint structure looms in front of us. It is made of several individual wooden cottages on wooden stilts or legs and are interconnected by roofed path walks made of wooden planks.  These cottages comprise the Palace and yes, we are on the Palace grounds!


This is it!  The Mrigadayavan Palace. Simple and dainty, but once held the strongest power of the nation.  The King lived here with his family and staff during summertime.  The Palace consists of three big cottages or pavilions that looked exactly the same, connected by  covered walkways that allow one a full view of the sea.

From the entrance to the grounds, the Palace peeps through the trunks of  a mixture of young and very old trees.  Don't expect a sparkling structure. Made of teak wood and  standing on hundred stilts, this one's different from all other palaces I've ever seen and imagined. 
Old trees with trunks covered with prayer envelopes.  The whole area is sheltered with tall, verdant  trees, making the otherwise humid day a fine day to stroll on the grounds.

Excitedly,  we looked for the entrance to the Palace, which proved quite a challenge because we couldn't read the printed signs. Some local guests helped us by pointing to the right cottage. What we thought to be the entrance was actually the exit! 

So at the right cottage,  we take off our shoes and leave our cameras behind. Barefoot, we climb the stairs and saunter somberly, as there are signs that request guests to keep silent in respect for locals who are there to meditate.  Not all cottages are open for viewing, but then I have the feeling that these closed areas are not any different from the ones we have already seen.

Peeping into each one-room affair  living quarter with divisions for private activities, one wonders how the occupants spent their time here, growing up and growing old.  This palace had been home to the royal family and King Rama VI's  concubines. One pavilion was for the exclusive use of the king; a second exclusive for the king's wife, Queen Indrasakdi Sachi, and her court; and a third, for multi-purpose functions.

These days this palace functions as a museum to showcase the life of the old royal family. Some of the displays include a wedding gown, beds, bathrooms, tea sets, musical instruments, etc.  The focal point of this expansive museum was the huge dining hall that used to house a hundred diners--royal families, extended relatives, the concubines, foreign dignitaries, guests and probably the consorts. An antiquated  menu for dinner is on display by the doorway and surprisingly, the whole course from appetizer to dessert was of French cuisine prepared by, of course, a French chef.

The whole structure is old and  is undergoing preservation efforts initiated by King Bhumibol,  Some areas at this time are cordoned to ward off guests because of on-going reconstruction activities.
The living quarters are elevated from the ground on hundreds and hundreds of pillars.

The covered walk that goes all around one building and leads to the two other buildings.

The whole structure is well-ventilated and the clean air coming from the ocean goes through open-wide windows, high ceilings and fretwork adorning the the walls.

The architecture of the whole expanse of building is very appropriate to a life by the sea. The whole place welcomes the  sea breeze to pass through and ventilate the quarters.  The walls washed with white and pastel blue or pink do not clash at all with the natural green of the surroundings.  I could imagine an evening stroll along the bridge to be so romantic, or an early morning walk at the Cha-am beach with the view of the Gulf of Thailand spread across the horizon, meeting up with the clear blue sky.

The tour thus ended, we reclaim our belongings and trace our way out of the Palace grounds, back to the beautiful entrance.  Along the way we find a flowing fountain area concealed behind thick vines.  This is a lovers' garden, definitely. I could almost visualize a youthful king professing his amorous intentions to a young queen or any of his concubines as they sit in one of those whitewashed benches in front of the fountain. No wonder this palace is called the Palace of Love and Hope.

Before one gets to the palace, or leaves the palace as is in our case,  one passes by this rotund park ensconced within a wire fence covered with vines.  At the center is a flowing fountain that gives the spot an impression of romantic dalliances at any time of day.

My pride may have been wounded by my failure at my attempts to like biking, but the tour around the Palace-now-found healed the broken spirits completely. :-)

Friday, January 30, 2015

My Sons Are Driving, and I'm Getting Old! 😱

I guess I've been stuck for a long time at the age when I would sit behind the wheels and drive my kids to school, to the dentist, to the music lessons, to the prom. I've gotten used to being in command of the car, driving carefully because with me are my precious jewels. And despite the fact that I've seen these jewels grow up into young adults, for all this time a big part of me still looked at them as that: growing young adults that needed mama to drive for them.

The realization that these jewels of mine who are now young adults who are slowly getting into the process of adulthood are driving now is presently giving me the culture shock of some sort. You'd probably ask, "So what's the big deal? It's no big deal, everybody in town is learning how to drive." But no, it's a big deal for me. Because I am moved. Because it's a sign of change. Because it's a sign of adulthood. Of them slipping away from your fingers. Of them having their own wings to fly. Of maturity. Of responsibility. And of me growing old, ugh! :-)

Moving into the big city means moving the car into it as well, along with most of our belongings. Of course, these young adults whose minds are very open to learning all sorts of adult stuff would never let the car sit idly in the basement car park. Now they hold the car keys and are being very resourceful about learning how to drive it. My youngest, who's still eighteen, still has to learn, still has to take lessons, so he hasn't dared to get behind the wheels...yet. My eldest already knows how to drive before we came here. After a couple of incidents with the car painting its color on the surface of the garage posts, this kid was raring to take the car beyond the pineapple fields. My second commissioned a friend to teach him how to drive after school, sometimes late into the evening, and would come home exhilarated because he was able to take the car along a major highway. There are nights they would sneak out to try other roads, and I'm left seriously praying for their safety. Yeah, really, it's one of those moments I could write down as my Conversations With God.

Now being just their passenger, who becomes a total mess in the passenger seat (yeah, back in the small city I was a good driver but always a bad passenger, especially when seated up in the front), I admit I become a source of their stress as much as they are the source of my stress. That makes us even, haha! Anyway, here, my right foot secretly automatically steps on an invisible break pedal each time I feel that my son the driver is being a bit unguarded, or that the other drivers are being inconsiderately reckless. At the same time, I just can't prevent myself--whole body and all--from being tensed, with my back pressed hard against the seat. You just can't imagine how my adrenaline is pumping such that when we get home, sleep eludes me well into the morning.

It takes a lot not to show how scared I am. I try so hard to reign in my fears because it affects especially my eldest, but sometimes it slips with sucked breaths and oops, uups, iiihhhh, and sudden gestures that they find truly annoying. Hehe, sorry for that. I'm still learning in that department. I have to. I have to show my sons that I have faith in them. For if I didn't, however else are they going to have confidence? Well, again, all through this time I ask God to keep us out of harm's way and guide my son and the other drivers as well. But credit to my boys, I am amazed at their judgment on the road, and their courage, and their desire to master driving.

Driving is an essential skill these days, and my sons are too old for Mama to be driving around for them. And Mama is too scared to be driving in the big city for now. So yes, someone has to learn how to drive. Someone has to be confident to ride with me for when I get the courage to try driving in the big city. I haven't driven in about a year. except for when I went back in the small city for my mother's funeral.

As of this writing, I'm trying to unnerve myself by writing this...while waiting in the car for my son to finish his driving tests and secure his license. Later on our way back home, well, you know how the story will go. :-)

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Portraits from Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

One's travel to Thailand is never complete without a side trip to one of its floating markets, particularly the largest and most-visited by tourists, the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market in Ratchaburi Province,  about 100 kilometers away, or roughly two hours' ride from Bangkok.  How do you say the name? Read: damnernsadwak.

Once you get there you are welcomed by stalls and stalls of  mostly Thai products: handmade crafts, souvenirs, bags, purses, key chains and other trinkets, and local homemade delicacies.  You must know how to haggle because there's a different price set for tourists, expectedly exorbitantly higher than what the vendors would give to the locals.

There's a large market hall across the canal from the parking lot side, half of it occupied by a very fashionable lady whom everybody calls Madam Paew.  All the goods sold in her turf  are of fixed price.  So you can probably benchmark  from there when you go shopping in other stalls down the canal.   But it's always advisable to haggle lower than half until you come to a compromise with the vendor.  Be polite.

By the way, it's also a must to hire a paddle boat--rowboat/long-tailed boat-- (cheaper, around 100 to 150 baht) or a motor boat (200 to 300 baht) that will take you down the water-alleys where there are more beautiful products sold.  Enjoy haggling in every stall.  Just remember, whenever you inquire about an item, it will be a bit difficult to break away if you decide not to buy.  The vendors are quite persistent and the boat won't leave unless you order the paddler to move on.

There are many other floating markets around Thailand, many of them authentic and traditional, meaning they have been there for about a hundred years old, or thereabout, mainly for trade than for tourism.  Many of them have been rarely visited by foreign tourists.  As the grand floating markets like the Damnoen Saduak and the Amphawa have become main tourist destinations, they have also become busy and too crowded, hence attention is now turning toward those quaint old little riverside markets that still show the regular way of life of people living in the banks and using the water thoroughfares to commute from home to market and other places.  Some vacationers do prefer places  where one can just hang out, shop a bit, have a quick boat tour, and sip coffee in the quiet. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Getting Lost In Sirindhorn Park

Yet another of what is touted  as "Royal Initiatives," the  Sirindhorn International Environmental Park is situated inside Rama VI Military Camp in Amphoe, Chaam.  As the name suggests, it is one of those natural parks in this  side of Thailand that had been built to conserve and showcase nature in the raw. Purported to be a natural venue for learning, the park was built to be such a place where students and teachers come to discover upclose and personal about science, energy conservation, flora and fauna, mangrove rehabilitation and such other concerns.  Inside the vast compound are structures devoted to energy conservation, a  museum where documents and prototypes of such undertakings are exhibited.

Can you read that? :-)

That's what it says. :-)

Some sights inside the park.

Text, top pic: Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn grew the mangroves on August 17, 1994.
Text, bottom pic: On 14 August 1994, Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn gave initiative idea  to Mr. Sumet Tantivejkul to seek the proper area as well as to look for ways to preserve the mangrove forests in coastal areas which will provide a good ecosystem and natural balances. On 2 April 1998, Thanpuying Putrie Viravaidya was asked to restore the deteriorated soil condition in order to turn to area for recreation activity and ecosystem study.

Well, that's the side that makes you wanna yawn and stretch out your arms. But here's the exciting part.  Aside from it being educational, the place is also good for biking. Yes! That is, if you are the type who enjoys leisurely biking, then this is the place for you.  Sweat it out around the compound. Along the paved pathways, under the trees, by the beach, under the sun.  Let the wind blow your hair like crazy.  

Sorry, serious cyclists who are gaga over mountain bikes and road bikes, tuck your big gears away and go for the rental bikes. The cute ones.  There are tandem bikes, as well, if you care for that stuff.

That's the kind of bike being rented here.

If you get tired of biking, go up the lane where the bird tower stands. If you're lucky enough, you'd get to see a few of those eighty-something bird species that find solace in this green place. 

This place is for birders, too! 

Now if you don't really feel like biking, feel free to be one with nature on foot. In good comfy footwear. No high heels! Slap on some sunscreen, especially if you decide to come in the morning. Bring a bottle of water. And a small towel. 

This is the reason why one should be comfy-shod here.

The man-made bridge that has become the persona of the Sirindhorn Park.

Winding thoroughfares canopied by trees and creepers.

If you get hungry, there's a line of eateries outside, at the parking area.  There is a coffee shop where you can order hot or cold coffee as well as herbal tea. And there are several more stalls that sell lovely bonnets, wide-brimmed hats accentuated with ribbons, and souvenir t-shirts and other apparel.

By the way, why were we lost? We were looking for a palace inside the compound, the Mrigadayavan Palace, but failed to find one among the trees and the mangroves.  We wandered off and found ourselves heading far away from the central area.  Then we were back in the main road, outside the park, but still inside the military camp.  We were ambling toward the bend leading to the entrance and back at the parking area. Feeling tired and thirsty and hot and hungry after the long desultory "stroll",  we decided to park our heels, cool down a bit and just have our lunch at one of the stalls there, where we found the food we were served tasted really, really  good (was it because we were feeling tired and thirsty and hot and hungry???)  that we vowed to go back there someday soon to try other dishes.

This is it for now. Next trip to this park in the near future, for the purpose of biking. And finding that palace.