Pattaya to Bangkok

Day 50 of riding - 120 km, total distance 3,950 km since Hanoi.

Another day off in Bangkok today due to major overhauling of my bike and maintenance on Troy's and Giles's bike.

Highway riding from Pattaya to Muang Boran yesterday kept us on our toes and on seat edge due to the volume of trucks (mainly) travelling between Pattaya regional shipping ports and the nations capital Bangkok (Krungtep).

A fantastic welcome for the long ride home team awaited us in front of the Australian Embassy Bangkok on arrival . His Excellency The Australian Ambassador to the Kingdom of Thailand Mr. Paul Robilliard was there along with his Embassy staff to greet us and to make us feel welcome at His Excellency's residence. Thai PBS TV along with other media outlets were there to report on our arrival in Thailand and had discussions with the team about the long ride home objectives on route to Sydney via Thailand.

Buddhist lent holidays also has increased the volume of traffic flowing in and out from most cities throughout Thailand making it even more dangerous to be out on there over the next week or so, therefore, riding condition in terms of safety will be at its utmost highest alert and on our agenda. The Thais are out on the main roads at present in small convoys celebrating the Buddhist lent by dressing up in beautiful Thai silk garments and wearing the traditional Thai headdress 'Chada'.

The Chada worn in the Ramakien dance drama is the tall lom phok worn during the reign of King Narai and the ngob worn by farmers.

Traditional Thai clothing is called chut thai (Thai pronunciation: "tɕʰút.tʰaj" which literally means "Thai outfit"). It can be worn by men, women, and children. Chut thai for women usually consists of a pha nung or a chong kraben, a blouse, and a sabai. Northern and northeastern women may wear a sinh instead of a pha nung and a chong kraben with either a blouse or a suea pat. Chut thai for men includes a chong kraben or pants, a Raj pattern shirt, with optional knee-length white socks and a sabai. Chut thai for northern Thai men is composed of a sado, a white Manchu styled jacket, and sometimes a khian hua. In formal occasions, people may choose to wear a so-called formal Thai national costume.

If you think hats are just a fashion accessory, think again... hats are more than just a cover against the sun or rain, according to researcher Pachat Tiptus, senior exhibition coordinator at Museum Siam.

The lom phok is a tall white-pleated hat widely used during the reign of King Narai. Pachat believed this unique hat was adapted from the turban worn by rulers of Persia's Safavid Dynasty and later transformed tochada dancers headgear used in the ancient khon (mask performance) in the royal court in the early Ayutthaya era. It eventually became the head wear of Siamese ambassadors to Europe during King Narai's reign.

There is a debate whether chada really qualifies as something truly Thai.

"Chada is seen to represent Thainess in advertisement posters. But when a foreigner arrives in the kingdom, does he or she see anyone wearing a chada on the street?" Pachat questioned.

There are three chada items we have on display... the last is the controversial chada worn by Lady Gaga onstage during her performance in Bangkok recently.

Farmers also wore headgear, a bamboo-hat called ngob, to protect them from the heat. Unlike typical headgear that is worn close to the head, the space between the head and the top of the hat allows airflow to run inside, making it cooler.

The seventh section at Museam Siam, "Hat: A Symbol of the Civilised", is all about the hats worn by those at the top of society during the period of King Rama V. The section shows a set of black-and-white photographs of the king, noble people and expats - all wearing hats which represented an element of Western culture that was adopted by Siamese society - sometimes out of local context - during the influx of foreigners.

According to Pachat, the use of hats was a "symbol of the civilised" mainly because they didn't really protect one's head back then. Despite living in tropical climate, people still wore felt hats - the same as those worn in the West. Moreover, he noted, bowler hats were also widely worn among the noble people in Siam although it was only popular among the working class in England. Thai people always look up to Western culture with admiration, the researcher said.

For those that haven't visited Bangkok it's worthy of a visit once in your lifetime at least. I first visited here in 1980 and to and fro here a lot because of the fantastic cultural aspects and people of what is known as "the land of smiles".

Wikipedia; Bangkok is the capital and most populous city of Thailand. It is known in Thai as Krung Thep Maha Nakhon. The city occupies 1,568.7 sq km (605.7 sq mi) in the Chao Phraya River delta in Central Thailand, and has a population of over 8 million, or 12.6 percent of the country's population. Over 14 million people (22.2 percent) live within the surrounding Bangkok Metropolitan Region, significantly dwarfing Thailand's other urban centres in terms of importance.

Bangkok traces its roots to a small trading post during the Ayutthaya Kingdom in the 15th century, which eventually grew in size and became the site of two capital cities: Thonburi in 1768 and Rattanakosin in 1782. Bangkok was at the heart of Siam's (as Thailand used to be known) modernization, during the later 19th century, as the country faced pressures from the West. The city was the centre of Thailand's political struggles, throughout the 20th century, as the country abolished absolute monarchy, adopted constitutional rule and underwent numerous coups and several uprisings. The city grew rapidly during the 1960s through the 1980s and now exerts a significant impact among Thailand's politics, economy, education, media and modern society.

The Asian investment boom in the 1980s and 1990s led many multinational corporations to locate their regional headquarters in Bangkok. The city is now a major regional force in finance and business. It is an international hub for transport and health care, and has emerged as a regional centre for the arts, fashion and entertainment. The city is well known for its vibrant street life and cultural landmarks, as well as its notorious red-light districts. The historic Grand Palace and Buddhist temples including Wat Arun and Wat Pho stand in contrast with other tourist attractions such as the nightlife scenes of Khaosan Road and Patpong. Bangkok is among the world's top tourist destinations. It is named the most visited city in MasterCard's Global Destination Cities Index, and was named "World's Best City" for four consecutive years by Travel + Leisure magazine.

Bangkok's rapid growth amidst little urban planning and regulation has resulted in a haphazard cityscape and inadequate infrastructure systems. Limited roads, despite an extensive expressway network, together with substantial private car usage, have resulted in chronic and crippling traffic congestion. This in turn caused severe air pollution in the 1990s. The city has since turned to public transport in an attempt to solve this major problem. Four rapid transit lines are now in operation, with more systems under construction or planned by the national government and the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration.

More to report on Thailand as TLRH team ride through this marvellous country over the next 2 weeks.

Sawadee Krub

Truck, Troy and Gilies
On the long ride home, Thailand