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Jasmine Dispatch

We're In Thailand, What's the Scoop?!?
June 21, 2000

It was like deja vu, Abeja and I walking through an airport, giggling at the foreign currency we just exchanged because it looks more like a handful of Monopoly dollars than anything we could actually use to make a purchase. Where have we landed this time, you wonder? We're in Thailand!

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My knowledge of Thailand has been limited to Pad Thai, a delicious noodle dish cooked with bean sprouts and peanuts and an exotic favorite of mine back home. Thai islands have quite the international reputation as well. Full moon parties and white sandy beaches make them a haven for travelers from all over the world. But what is the real Thailand like? I decided to find out the Odyssey way, live and in person!

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I figured a visit to the ancient capital of Ayuthaya would give us some insight. First we'll have to take a bus ride. The city is about 86 kilometers from Bangkok, which is about an hour and a half bus ride. Outside the window of the bus are rivers where ferry boats jet people around the city. Small bridges lead from one side of the river to the other, and in residential areas terraces overlook the waters below.

That looks like a nice way to live; a striking contrast to the poverty and stench of India. Bangkok is litter-free like no city I've ever seen. The people, very patriotic and business-minded, are busy. The nation's international exports to the United States are second only to India. Unfortunately, a lot of the wealth comes from prostitution and the exploitation of children your age.

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The first thing on our "to do" list is a visit to the ancient palace. At the gates, women dressed in traditional royal garb greeted everyone who entered. Wearing ornately designed gold crowns, they bowed to greet me. Traditional Thai-style dresses are halter-style, made from a single length of cloth wrapped around the chest and then draped over the shoulder. Gold is the material of choice for jewelry and can be seen in both fashion and architecture.

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The ancient palace consisted of five different buildings on a magnificently landscaped complex. The royal compounds served as quarters for the royal family, visiting dignitaries, and officials of state. Other quarters were for dining, receptions, and royal fiestas. Built in 1350 AD by King U-Thong, Ayuthaya was destined for success as it lay at the strategic juncture of three rivers. Its position made it an island and allowed it to easily dominate the major trade route, making it an important commercial harbor. The lake in the center of the palace grounds is actually formed by a small tributary of the surrounding river system. It compliments the various styles of architecture from the grand Chinese-designed reception hall to the Cambodian-style watchtower and the English mansion.

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Ayuthaya served as the capital city for some 417 years, for over 30 kings and four dynasties. It thrived until 1776, when the Burmese army destroyed the city. The famous woven silk designs showing armies fighting on elephant-back, which are readily available for tourist purchase all over the city, depict the disastrous moment when the Thai armies were defeated. The capital city was reestablished in Bangkok, but the ancient remains of Ayuthaya are anything but forgotten.

Tour the ancient Thai capitol of Ayuthaya

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The beautifully designed temples of the city are its most sacred treasures. Buddhist monasteries here are among the best known in the country. Inside the grounds of one of the most famous temples in Ayuthaya is a
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courtyard with steps leading up to the main towers of the pagoda. On either side are two sitting Buddhas that tower above at over 30 meters tall. 500 smaller sitting Buddhas encircle the temple, each one representing a deceased ancestor of the royal families of Ayuthaya.



It is said that if you are buried here in the presence of Buddha, blessings will be bestowed upon your family in your absence. The temples are still used for worship. The flow of crowds moved in and out, lighting incense and candles, and bowing before the statue of the reclining Buddha. This Buddha is only half the size of the massive golden Buddha in Bangkok, but it's still remarkable.
Vocabulary

export - something that is conveyed from one country to another
garb - a style of clothing
landscape - to modify a natural landscape by gardening
juncture - the connection

Ayuthaya remains a blessed city, indeed. The city is still a busy metropolis, but the action has long since relocated. River markets have evolved into high-rise malls and skyscraping business centers. On to the present-day capital we go! Click here to magically transport yourself to Bangkok, for Starbucks and the hottest fashion!

Jasmine

p.s. - Please e-mail me at ...jasminehamlett@bigfoot.com
 

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