As a four-decade Certified Travel Agent, international airline employee, researcher, writer, teacher, and photographer, travel, whether for pleasure or business purposes, has always been a significant and an integral part of my life. Some 400 trips to every portion of the globe, by means of road, rail, sea, and air, entailed destinations both mundane and exotic. This article focuses on those in Southeast Asia.
Although the land of the King of Siam was overcrowded and, at least in Bangkok, smeared with traffic-created smog, if offered enough vestiges to transport me back to its early history.
Its dazzling, awe-inspiring Grand Palace, built in 1782 and the home of the Thai King, the Royal Court, and the administrative seat of government for 150 years, served as the city’s very landmark.
Surrounded by walls, whose length measured 1,900 meters, it was built for the purpose of restoring order after the fall of Ayudhya, whose monarch lived in Dhenburi, on the other side of the Chao Phya River. But, as soon as Rama I ascended to the throne, he transferred its center of administration to the current site, constructing fortifications, monasteries, and a palace to serve as his offices and residence. That came to be known as the “Grand Palace,”
Its upper terrace sported four significant monuments: the Reliquary in the shape of a golden cedi; the Repository of the Cannon of Buddhism; the model of Angkor Wat; and the Royal Penthouse, in which statues of past sovereigns of the ruling dynasty have been enshrined.
Scattered around these monuments on the terrace were fanciful animals of mythology, which themselves originated in artist imagination because of their aesthetic value.
North of the Royal Residence of the Mahamopnitien was a connecting gate that opened to the grounds of the Chapel Royal of the Emerald Buddha. Because monks did not reside there, it lacked residential quarters, but retained all of the architectural features of a monastery.
The Assembly Hall served as the monarch’s private chapel, but its “Emerald Buddha” was actually a single-piece jade figure which sat on a gold