It is our last day in Bangkok and we decide to try and make it an educational one. We therefore set off for The National Museum. Unfortunately our cabbie doesn’t seem to understand where we want to go at all despite showing him the name in Thai also and we have to stop and ask a few people before we’re on the right track!
He chucks us out quite a distance from the museum and we decide to walk the rest of the way. It’s hot but so cloudy that it isn’t unbearable and we make our way along quite well. We have read recently that Bangkok has a huge drive to clean it up and it is for the most spotlessly clean wherever we have been, making walking along the streets an interesting pleasure. As we pass an ornate temple a well dressed, business like looking fella points out King Rama 3rd’s statue. After a quick chat we realise he is a scam artist, big clue when he tells us today is Buddhist day and the museum is closed!
The Royal Family are of utmost importance to most Thais and deeply respected. We spent a few hours learning about the Kings when we travelled to Thailand and are hoping to consolidate some of this information for the kids today. The present monarch is King Bhumibol Adulyadej ( Rama 9th) and has reigned since 1946 making him the worlds longest serving head of state. He is immensely popular and regarded by many Thais as a semi divine figure.
The museum is interesting and we use the exhibits to discuss some of Thailand’s history that we have learnt during our stay here. The kids are really knowledgeable about recent history such as the Japanese invasion during WWII and we refresh our memories of ancient history. When we holidayed in Thailand in 2005 we visited Kanchanaburi (The Bridge over the River Kwai) and were amazed and inspired by Ali and Maisie’s level of comprehension and capacity for compassion when faced with the stories of the atrocities of The Burma Railway and a visit to The Allied war cemeteries. It was for us all a deeply moving experience and one which we won’t forget.
The most interesting exhibits were the fabulous funeral palanquins. So ornate and beautifully gilded, the largest palanquin has carried the cremated remains of all of the previous 8 kings of Thailand. It was last used in 1996 when the present king oversaw the funeral procession of his mother.
By now we have all had enough and head off to Siam Square for some food. We decide on Ali’s favourite sushi and then take the kids to see the supercars. We catch the skytrain back and they have a quick swim before settling down to some maths with Simon. I repack some of our gear and we talk about our travel plans over the next few days. We are both slightly apprehensive about our journey through Cambodia. The roads and transport system are fairly poor and the whole country is still recovering from the brutal Khmer Rouge regime of the 1970′s.
We are going to try for an early night as we have a long journey ahead tomorrow.