Monday, July 30, 2018

Museums and bookstores lovin'

Whenever the bf and I find ourselves traveling overseas, something that should always be in our itinerary is a visit to bookstores and museums. Museums are a given, of course. But what we're really after are those special exhibits that coincide with our visit, like the one I'm going to talk about later when we dropped by Museum Siam in Bangkok. Bookstores are another thing. I get a bit judgy when I check out a country's bookstores. They allow me get a peek of what the locals are reading. And what I find out are oftentimes fascinating, inexplicable, or just weird, but in a good way.

Day 1: Kinokuniya
Our most recent trip was my 4th time to be in Bangkok, but it was the bf's first. But even though this trip was my first time going around the city, I've always visited Kinokuniya, which is probably my favorite bookstore. Yes, the books there are pricier than those in Manila, but I always manage to buy a book or two  (or more) each visit. I can probably live there. Or even just visit all of Bangkok's Kinokuniya (they have 2, I think) as my sole itinerary and I'd be happy. This time, however, I didn't go on a book splurge because I brought a small luggage, which already weighed almost 10 kilos. (Our check-in allowance was 15.) Bummer, I know. Still managed to buy 2 books though.

I guess the book-buying experience changed for me when I started getting books online, mostly from Book Depository. Free shipping is love. Sometimes, I check out Amazon, but only if I'm buying more than 3 titles, as shipping fees are a pain. When we visited Kinokuniya and found titles that I'm interested in, I find myself checking online if I can get them cheaper at Book Depository or Amazon.

Day 1: Dasa Book Cafe
Also on our first day was a trip to this charming secondhand bookshop called Dasa Book Cafe. Three whole floors of books, baby! Spent around an hour in this bookshop, and bought just one book. (Again, 15 kilos of check-in allowance sucks vacuum cleaners.) Also, The Joy of Cooking almost fell on the bf's head. He has lightning reflexes, or maybe he's just lucky. If a book did fall on top of my head, the least the bookshop could do was to give that book to me for free. Makes sense, right? What almost kills you should be yours.

Day 2: National Museum of Thailand
On our second day we went to the National Museum of Thailand. It isn't very touristy, as many guidebooks say to skip it entirely because it's poorly maintained. So wasn't really too keen on visiting this one at first, as I read that some of its rooms are dusty. And there's nothing like dust bunnies to make an asthmatic person run away for his life. Fortunately, there have been major conservation efforts to spruce it up. It was a pleasant museum visit, but there were several rooms and halls that were closed because they were being renovated. You can actually spend half a day at the National Museum, as it's a sprawling area. Too bad there weren't any guided tours though.

Day 2:  Chulalongkorn Exhibit
On our way to the Grand Palace, our attention was caught a lady saying, "Go inside! Free! Free!" Now free is one of the most beautiful words ever, IMHO. So we went inside, and if only the words had English translations. All we knew was that the place housed an exhibit on Chulalongkorn (Rama V). The place was gorgeous though, quite spacious with shiny wooden floors. And, more importantly for us non-Thai visitors of the museum, there was air-conditioning.

Day 2: Museum of Siam
Decoding Thainess Exhibit
Perhaps the highlight of that same day was our visit to the Museum of Siam, which had an ongoing exhibit titled "Decoding Thainess." Basically, it poses the question: "What is considered Thai in this modern day?"I loved everything about the exhibit, from the interactive light and sound show to the juxtaposition of what Thais want to project to the world and what the world really thinks of the Thai people. It was so fascinating to learn about Thai history, culture, food, clothing, and their three pillars (Nation, Religion, and King).

We also got in for free at the Museum of Siam. When we came in at 3:50 pm, one of the museum staff told us to wait for 10 more minutes, because at 4:00, entrance is free! Woot! 200 baht is still 200 baht. It's money that could be spent for pad thai, or tom yum, which I had every day the while time we were in Bangkok.

Day 2: Museum of Siam
Gender Illumination Exhibit
Another thing that made me fall in love with the Museum of Siam was that they also had an ongoing exhibit on gender illumination. To say that this exhibit shatters stereotypes is an understatement. The Thais are the most accepting, hospitable, and happy people that I've come across with. They promote an atmosphere of tolerance, which includes being open to different genders. I just wish that we had the same spirit of open-mindedness back home, which is still predominantly Catholic.

Day 2: The Open House
Central Embassy
On the evening of our second day, we decided to check out Open House at a posh mall in Bangkok along Sukhumvit. Goodness, it was huge! Like the bookstore occupied the whole top floor, and it mostly had art and design books, which are terribly expensive. I have mixed feelings about bookstores that have expensive stuff. I think it puts off people from reading. Perhaps I'm not just the right customer for these kinds of shops. So didn't get anything.

Open House was breathtaking the first time you see it. But it isn't for me. I felt that I had to consume less oxygen while I was there, as someone might come up to me and charge me for breathing their air. Also, there were several eating establishments interspersed with the shelves. Hmmmmm.... Maybe not a good idea. There's a reason why they don't usually allow people to eat at libraries, no? Food shouldn't be allowed near book paper.

 Day 3: Bangkok Art and Culture Centre
Even though we had a packed third day  as we had a scheduled tour to Ayutthaya, we still managed to visit one more artsy place, the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre. We didn't stay too long though, as the place felt too hipster-ish and avante garde for us. Or maybe we were just tired and had no more energy to explore BACC's vast interiors.

Day 4: Jim Thompson House and Museum
On our 4th day (the day before our departure actually), we decided to check out the Jim Thompson House and Museum. We joined a small group with an English-speaking guide. That group included "ladies who lunch." I cringed when one of them took a photo of a tree and said, "I'm sooooo into trees right now." Anyway, the house and the tour were a delight, but it did have a sad story though, as the owner, Mr. Jim Thompson, disappeared in the forests of Malaysia and was never found.

Now we didn't just visit museums and bookstores, dear reader. I dragged the bf to lots of places. At the end of the day, each of us was clocking 20,000+ steps. I lost count at the number of temples we went to. I had a nasty case of sunburn on my neck because of the scorching heat in Ayutthaya. The bf had a scorpion on a stick at Chinatown. We went to so many supermarkets just to check out their produce. We went to malls and their food courts. Such an event-filled vacation, that Bangkok trip was. Surprisingly, the bf fell in love with the city. So yes, we're definitely coming back.