Sunday, January 16, 2011

Helpful Road Sign

On our recent trip to Chiang Mai I noticed several of these signs.

Here it's blown up so you can see it a little better.

Apparently there is a problem in Thailand with trees falling on the train trestles.  It's very thoughtful of them to put up signs to let you know where such problems occur, because you know, you might go out on an afternoon drive, find a lovely tree near a train trestle and lay out your blanket and lunch, only to have your picnic cruelly ruined as that tree suddenly falls over in an attempt to crush the trestle.

Looking at Really Old Stuff

I thought about naming this post "Ayutthaya vs. Angkor" but I didn't want to start any international incidents, particularly given the current state of Thai-Cambodian relations.  But the impetus for these particular musings come from a family outing to Ayutthaya, coming one month after Mali and I went to Cambodia.  Yeah, I'm a hopeless romantic who takes his wife to Phnom Penh to see a genocide museum and then to a sprawling testament to the results of slave labor for a honeymoon.  Ayutthaya was a day trip with the family.  Both are World Heritage Sites, but Ayutthaya is in danger of losing its World Heritage status, even as the city has applied to host the 2020 World Expo.

This was in the Angkor Archeological Park at  Ta Phrom.  Ta Phrom is awe-inspiring because of the massive trees that have grown around, over, and on the old temple.  A lot of people call it "The Tomb Raider Temple" because part of the movie starring Angelina Jolie was filmed here.  While the Angkor architecture is pretty amazing, what is more amazing to me is the way that nature has a way of outlasting it all.  Still, kudos to Cambodia for doing a lot to make sure that people can visit these temples safely (there were several areas that were off limits this time around which I was able to freely scramble all over when I last visited in 2006).

This is part of the "Leaning Meaningfully in a Doorway" series that Mali and I started on our trip to Cambodia.  The upper is at a temple in Angkor, the lower is at Ayutthaya.  The most obvious difference between the two is the manner of construction: the Angkor builders used big, heavy stones which were intricately carved.  For reasons unknown to me--mostly because I'm simply too lazy to look it up--the builders of Ayutthaya used bricks, which they then covered in stucco.  There were a few monuments in Ayutthaya that still had some stucco on them, a few of which still had some of the detail work still visible.  Still, in the contest of who had more embellishments that have stood the test of the centuries, Angkor wins, hands down.

What does this have to do with Angkor or Ayutthaya?  Nothing, really.  I just wanted to show how Mali used a hand towel to keep the dust out of her face while we traveled around Angkor in a tuk-tuk.  Now she knows why all the Cambodians in Siem Reap have a krama, the traditional Khmer scarf that has 101 uses, including keeping dust out of your face.  I have a similar cloth from Northeast Thailand that I had included in my luggage for the trip, for some inexplicable reason I didn't think to give it to Mali before we toured the temples.  My bad.

This is your first moment of zen for this blog post.  I love the color contrast of the gray Angkor stones and the bright orange of the monks robes.  It would be way more zen-like if I didn't tell you that the monk is talking on a mobile phone.

The first clue that this one is at Ayutthaya is that the kids are there--the Cambodia trip was a second honeymoon for Mali and I.  The second clue is the architecture.  The Angkor empire was Hindu, while Ayutthaya was Buddhist, and pictures above and below are clearly more Buddhist than Hindu.  Clearly.

This was a great family picture at Ayutthaya.  I'll have to ask around and find out why this particular monument still had the stucco facing on it while all around it were piles of bricks.

This is your second moment of zen. Sarah has this whole inner peace thing down pat.  Well, at least she did for the time it took to take a photograph.

Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil

This is your third moment of zen.   With the exception of my family photos, this was the coolest shot I got in Ayutthaya.  You'll notice the statues have no heads.  This is also common in Angkor--the reason is that treasure hunters and thieves have stolen them all.  So, if I come to your house and see a stone Buddha head that looks like it might have come from Angkor or Ayutthaya, you'll excuse me if I go a little nuts and possible try and return it to its rightful owner.

This was the coolest moment of the day.

My family in front of the Buddha head in the tree.  Cambodia doesn't have one of these!