BANGKOK (Laem Chabang), Thailand
DAY 40 - 18 February 2023
CURRENT POSITON : ENROUTE TO HO CHI MINH (PHU MY)
Queen Mary 2 World Centenary Voyage
102 days, 31 ports, 18 countries.
Ellen Frazer-Jameson reporting live from Queen Mary 2
WELCOME TO THAILAND
Laem Chabang is a township in Chonburi Province, Thailand. It is home to Thailand’s largest port by the same name, about 25 kilometres north of Pattaya, and south of the city of Chon Buri, built in order to relieve the overcrowding at Bangkok and to expand the industrial areas in the Eastern Seaboard. The city has grown up around the port but also serves as a major stop on the coastal highway linking Pattaya and Bangkok.
The first Kingdom of Thailand, an established trading community back in the 13th century, was home to a nation of goldsmiths, many of whom originated from the Southern part of China. Influences from China and Arabia combined with the prevailing culture and a trade route was established using the available transportation, bullocks and elephants.
Thailand was formerly known as Siam, the name was changed in 1932, and the blockbuster Hollywood musical, The King and I, starring Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr left an enduring impression of the country of Siam. Thailand’s Royal family and the current King are descended from the character played by Yul Brynner as he portrayed a King trying to reconcile traditional values with the modern world in 1862.
Portraits of the King and his Queen Sirikit are displayed all over the city and the Thai people revere their Royal family enthusiastically retelling in song and story and legend all the mythical and magical stories of the reign and the kingdom’s triumphs over enemies.
The city of Bangkok and the surrounding areas shine vibrantly with the golden aura of thousands of shrines and temples. Displayed in every entryway, building and home, the Thai people pay homage to the Buddha in his incarnation of their Buddhist religion.
However, all does not appear to be thriving, even as we cruise passengers travel in a bright new coach with frilly pale blue curtains at each window, through the countryside it’s hard to fail to notice a land where the farm has been swapped for the factory. Empty fields and abandoned; prawn farms and the stable crop of rice that were once the foundation of the working economy, have fallen into disrepair along with so many crumbling buildings.
Many villages are ramshackle and mile after mile of rubbish strewn local streets show properties in desperate need of repair, boarded up and uninhabitable. Where some progress is made, new buildings are constructed within sight of dilapidated properties, without removing the old structures. Industrialisation focuses around transportation. Cars and trucks and tuk tuks and scooters. The local population, male and female, ride purposefully at as an invading army on brightly coloured scooters into the city every day. Traffic jams form at the junctions of country roads as they ride home again in the evening.
Thai people are unfailingly courteous, mild mannered, accepting and the word is that the average daily wage of $10 US a day, compares well to neighbouring countries who earn even less.
Approaching Bangkok on the bumper to bumper early morning highway, from miles away, one unmissable gold shrine lords it over the city and outer areas.
The Grand Palace is comprised of thirty-one temples, monuments, statues and galleries,The Grand Palace complex was established in 1782 and it consists of not only the royal residence and throne halls but also a number of gerbernment offices as well as the renowned Temple of the Emerald Buddha.
Elaborate ornamental and sacred buildings in the complex dazzle the eyes, decorated in glittering jewels with gold and silver and pearls displaying, gods, goddesses, animals, protectors and predators. Giant statues tower over crowds who stand and gaze, shoes in hand as they make their way step by delicate step in this land of opulence and grandeur.
Rigid dress codes are adhered to; shoulders, knees and ankles must be covered. This explains the number of tourists dressed in flapping elephant patterned trousers which they have bought or rented at the Palace gates which will allow them to be admitted; many of those tourists will still be wearing the elephant trousers for days on the ship and even when returning to their homes. I’ve seen them in London airport. A strange fashion to want to preserve.
The Grand Palace attracts international tourists and also many Thai visitors. All eager to Enter the Temple of the Buddha. Around three meters tall, the Emerald Buddha now elevated on his high throne, appeared as If magically, in 1464 when another temple was destroyed by a ground eruption. He is a worshipped as a Symbol of peace.
(click to enlarge photos)
Entry to the residential areas of the Grand Palace are not allowed but the Thai Royal Family maintain a residence there and the King and Queen receive dignitaries and heads of state .
To visit the Grand Palace is an amazing experience – to observe the grandeur and kaleidoscope of colour when your eyes are forced upwards while the statues look down on you and the Temples outshine the sun.
A nation that maintains their Royal heritage for almost 1,000 years can be said to be admirable but I may have learned, through an elderly Thai lady the secret of this countries’ success.
‘We are happy for our Royal family to live in the Grand Palace,” she smiled as she told me. “Thai people believe in Heaven and the Royal Palace is Heaven“
Happy Sailing, Ellen.
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QM2 at night / Laem Chabang
Current position of Queen Mary 2: Under way from Laem Chabang to Phu My
Departure was 20 min ago. (at 19:00 h local time)
Arrival will be in 2 d 10 hrs 40 min. (at 06:00 h local time)
Traveled distance since Laem Chabang: 0.06 nm (0.11 km)
Remaining distance to Phu My: 826.61 nm (1,530.89 km)
Traveled distance since Singapore: 821.53 nm (1,521.47 km)
Happy Sailing ... The Journey continues... Ellen
NEXT PORT - Ho Chi Minh (Phu My)
20 February 2023
Photo of the day (from the archives of JD Schwartz)
Further updates will be posted as soon as we get them from Ellen onboard Queen Mary 2.