Friday, 3 September 2010

cha-am -- teak palace, tranquility, and tandem tribulations ...

This 1920s palace is the biggest drawcard in this part of the coast. And why not – it is after all the 'longest teak palace in the world', lovingly restored and maintained in a garden of several hectares featuring lush rain trees, sprawling multi-rooted Banyan trees, spiky Bismarck palms and jacarandas . Despite the tour buses disgorging their passengers every 10 minutes it makes for an enjoyable half day outing. You see, all the groups go straight into the main entrance, take the tour through the palace, and back on the bus again on to the souvenir market.

But to do that is to miss so much ...

Hire a bike at the entrance. It costs you 30 baht all day. We paid 50 for a tandem. In a scene reminiscent from The Goodies we had a few false starts which landed us in hedges and had us weaving all over the road, running tour groups and unsuspecting grandmothers off the pathway. Jing jing!

But once we’d mastered it, it became an enjoyable meander. Off to the left (north) of the palace past a statue of Rama V1 gazing out to sea, is a wonderful teak house which used to be used by his aide-de-camp. A lamp signalling system told him when Rama V1 was getting dressed for dinner, when His Majesty was already at the table, etc.

Surrounded by frangipanis and a sprawling lawn and overlooking the ocean, this double storey tropical mansion would have real estate agents salivating and struggling to come up with suitable descriptions if they had to write an ad for it.

Garrulous groups of more interested tourists pose endlessly in front of it. This way and that. In fact, it strikes me that posing for photographs is a, or perhaps the, national sport in Thailand. Ok, one, two, three, peace sign, click. Ok, one, two, three, peace sign, click. Ok … thousands and thousands of variations of the same photo. Thank Buddha for digital cameras.

We eventually find absolute tranquility in a wooden walkway constructed through the mangroves. We dismount, and walk hand-in-hand, observing large herons and creepy salamander-like amphibious fish which slither and slide across the mudflats. It is positively pre-historic. The pathway eventually brings us back full circle to our bike.
We cycle it back to the rental shop, hoping they don’t notice the dings, scratches, and tell-tale bits of shrubbery collected in the spokes along the way.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the story, although I probably won't be on a bike when I get to Thailand next year, I did enjoy reading about your ride.


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