Bangkok Arts And Culture Centre Infographic

Gliding up to the first of the three large exhibition halls I lightly stepped off the escalator and walked to the edge of the floor. My fingers gripped the railing as I leaned out over the soup of noise simmering below. The floor fell away into a neat crater revealing five floors below and two above. The building seemed to be designed just to encase the empty gulf. Perhaps the architecture was an attempt to leave room for all the sizzling thoughts and ideas bubbling up from below.

It is a capsule. A cathedral. A bomb shelter and haven for modern Thai artists. Hungrily nabbing my mental spoon I spun away from the edge rubbing my hands in delight. It was time to gobble through another five-course meal of social commentary and artistry.

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Grand Palace in Bangkok? Overblown.

One of the first things I did when I studied abroad at Thammasat University was visit the Grand Palace, or Phra Boromma Maha Ratcha Wang, in Bangkok.

So why haven’t I written about it until now?

I just wasn’t that impressed.

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Plain of Jars: Xieng Khouang, Laos

Here lies Allison Declercq-Matthas, the Canadian too stupid to stay within the safe-path markers. The thought coursed through my mind, ricocheting back and forth. Tentatively lowering my foot toward the next narrow patch of packed earth I cursed my curiosity. Other tourists milled about at the bottom of the hill, a colony of colourful carefree ants marching from jar to jar. I pictured how, for a split second, they would collectively duck and snap their eyes in the direction of my explosive end, then scatter like frightened doves. They’d have an inkling of what happened, and perhaps know that they were safe, but they’d run away just the same.

Then, after they’d fled and their cries had bled away, peace would settle in. A silence—absent from the plain since the years following American planes littering the area with bombs—would blanket my grave.

And that’s when my nerve ran out. With an about-face that would have inspired even the strictest of sergeants I began to creep back to the embedded stones marking the main path at Site 1 of the Plain of Jars.

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Pha That Luang in Vientiane, Laos

The Disappearing Man

Pha That Luang glistened in the distance, a beacon on the far side of the sea of tarmac. On my side a few stubbly trees gave shelter to a smattering of dozing songthaew drivers. Their makeshift hammocks, strung across the bed of their little pick-ups, rustled as they spotted me and began to lazily shout.

“Tuk tuk! Tuk tuk!”

I ignored them as I searched the shaded oasis.

The driver I’d arrived with, and not yet paid, was gone.

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Wat Maha That in Ayutthaya, Thailand

“Ok guys, go over and stand in front of the ruin.”

“Perfect, hold it, hold iiiiit,” I drew out the final word as my friends shuffled into position before the remains of the ancient Kingdom of Ayutthaya.

“Now be happy conquerors.”

The three Burmese before me broke into beaming grins and waved behind them.

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Sanam Chandra Palace in Nakhon Pathom, Thailand

All I remember from the Sanam Chandra Palace was the flowers swaying in the slight breeze of the day, the roosters clucking about and the castle-like building—with its bridge drawing over the small river meandering through the neatly manicured and sharply-shaped gardens.

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Phra Pathom Chedi in Nakhon Pathon, Thailand

“Please be invited to pay homage to the thousand years Buddha, the happy monk and the four faced statue of Brahma. Our officer is being service to you inside.”

“What do you figure is down there?”

“I dunno.”

“Think we can go in?”

“Yes?”

“Let’s go,” I say to my friends as I slip past and slowly descend into the tunnel.

Reassured by the echo of accompanying feet I mentally pull out my “tourist card” just in case. It usually works wonders displaying a confused expression when people find you in places you shouldn’t be. A bit of scolding might be dispersed but that’s easy enough to digest.

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Chin Swee Cave Temple, Genting Highlands, Malaysia

It was like the first gust of air that strikes you when you watch a thunderstorm creeping up across the prairies. The moment when the air is sucked away and the world goes mute as the distant clouds display spats of brilliance. Then, as you watch, the wheat at the horizon kneels as everything bows to the shrieking force in the distance. Settled on a small green embankment your fingers grasp at the grass by your legs. Gulping down a breath as you clutch the protective blanket of stillness around you, the gust finally hits and yanks it from your presence.

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Hindu Temples: The Unknown Temple

We had just left the Kuantan Firefly Park and driven up the road surrounded by mangrove trees. When we came up to the main road a brightly lit building shining across the road caught our attention. It stood out like a New York theatre on Broadway in the darkness.

“Wait, what is that?!” I asked my friend as I pointed through the windshield.

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Batu Caves: Hindu Temple

One, two, three, four, five, six, seven…. Our voices melded into a rhythmic trot. With each stomp we made our way past bystanders and left a trail of numbers. 50, 51, 52, 53, 54… The sunlight was beating down on our backs. The heat penetrated our clothes and gathered on our skin. The numbers began to catch in our mouths as our climb slowed to ensure each number was included. 123, 124, 125… “I want a picture,” I gasped balancing on a step to catch a shot of the scene ahead of us. “Ok.” 234, 235,235-236… “Oh wait, we are out of sync.” 234, 235, 236… Seeing the stairs cut away just ahead our legs pumped as we threw ourselves up the last few steps. 269,270,271 aannnddd 272…

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