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Walking back through time

Posted by pakin On June - 22 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

The historical heritage of the City of Angels comes to life with a Thai Tourism Society tour

It’s 9 on a Sunday morning and a group of us, all strangers to each other, has gathered like a flash mob following an announcement on Facebook.

When I arrive 30-minutes early for the rendezvous at the Makkawan Intersection, opposite the United Nations-ESCAP Building, two women are already there, sitting on the concrete curb and fooling around on their smartphones. On the smaller strip of pavement next to Khlong Padung Krungkasem, a 40-something woman is reading quietly on a bench. A helmeted cyclist soon joins us. By 9am the group has expanded to 50 and while we don’t know each other, we do know what we are doing this morning – taking a walk along Bangkok’s historic lanes.

“From Makkawan Bridge, we head north along Rajdamnoen Nok Avenue, then turn right to Sri Ayutthaya Road,” begins Apivat Covintranon, a retired lecturer who has volunteered to show us around. “We will stop here and there at historical landmarks.”

This free trip is organised by the Thai Tourism Society and aims to enhance what residents love about the city through heritage tourism, ecotourism, and geotourism by using social media to bring like-mind people together.

Today’s walking tour is a stroll around Dusit, Bangkok’s first urban district.

Before King King Chulalongkorn (King Rama V) took the throne, all royal business was conducted inside the Grand Palace. The Inner Court was home to the royal family while the country’s business was discussed in the Middle and Outer Courts.

Eventually, though, the Grand Palace became too small to accommodate the royal family members.

King Chulalongkorn returned to Siam from Europe in the late 19th century and, inspired by what he had seen in the great capitals of the west, started his ideas into reality. One of his first acts was to purchase the orchards and paddy fields between Khlong Padung Krungkasem and Khlong Samsen and grow flowers, naming the area “Suan Dusit” or Dusit Garden. He then built a new palace, Vimanmek, which served as the new royal residence. The compound, which became known as Dusit Palace, was later expanded to include other throne and residential halls.

History tells us that King Chulalongkorn really loved his new palace and often cycled between the Grand Palace and the compound.

“His cycling route eventually became Rajdamnoen Avenue,” adds Tor of Thai Tourism Society.

From Makkawan Bridge, we head north to the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall along Rajdamnoen Avenue. Lined with leafy tamarind trees, this busy thoroughfare is surprisingly peaceful on a Sunday morning.

We stop at the Ministry of Education, once Chan Kasem Palace, which King Chulalongkorn built for Crown Prince Vajiravudh. With Royal Thai Army Guard 1 on our right, we keep heading north. As we wait for the lights to change at the corner of Sri Ayutthaya Road and Rajdamnoen Avenue, Apivat points to the mustard-coloured fence and olive-green gate on another side of the avenue.

“Paruskavan Palace,” says Apivat. “King Chulalongkorn built this palace for his son, Prince Chakrabongse.

Beyond this dark yellow fence is a grand mansion in the German baroque style. The palace was made famous by the autobiography of Prince Chula Chakrabongse, (son of Prince Chakrabongse and his Russian wife Catherine Desnitsky) titled “Kerd Wang Parus” or “Born in Paruskavan Palace” as it’s known in English. The palace is now a Police Museum, and open to the public from Wednesday to Sunday.

Turning right onto Sri Ayutthaya Road and heading east, we arrive at Wat Benchamabophit, also known as the Marble Temple. Built by King Chulalongkorn in 1899 to replace two unused temples knocked down to make way for Dusit Palace, the temple is considered one of the most beautiful in the city. A hybrid of Thai and European architecture, it boasts Victorian-style stained-glass windows depicting scenes from Thai mythology. Sunday morning, when city-dwellers are still in bed and the tourist buses have yet to arrive, is the best time to visit.

Dusit district is still a royal enclave, home to the Chitralada Palace, the residence of the current Royal Family. Encompassing the National Assembly of Thailand to the north of Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall and Government House, south of Wat Benchamabophit, it is also the seat of political power.

From the back of Wat Benchamabophit, we retrace our steps back to Phitsanulok Road and walk through Nakhon Pathom Road to Panichyakan junction, where the Chamai Maruchet Bridge crosses the Prem Prachakorn canal. East of the canal is Rajamangala University of Technology Phra Nakhon, once the palace of another of King Chulalongkorn’s son, Abhakara Kiartivongse, Prince of Chumphon. To the west is Government House.

“The Government House was originally meant to be a family house and was known as Baan Norasing, says Apivat. “King Vajiravudh, also a son of King Chulalongkorn, commissioned an Italian architect to build this massive mansion in Neo Venetian Gothic style for his favourite general and close aide – Chao Phraya Ramrakhop.

“The Prince of Chumphon was not pleased and promptly shut the main gate of his palace on the canal side, and used the smaller gate on the side of Khlong Padung Krungkasem,” adds Apivat.

Conflict is thus nothing new to this part of Dusit. Since Norasing House became the Prime Minister’s seat, protesters have often set up camp along the canal and even gone as far as to occupy the Government House.

We cross Phitsanulok Road, and stop at the shrine of Prince of Chumphon. Born to King Chulalongkorn and a common woman from the Bunnag Family, the prince is the Father of the modern Thai Navy. He is highly respected by Thai people for his bravery and generosity as well as his use of herbal medicine and love for the paranormal.

“People love him, and they built him many shrines. But this one, in the grounds of his palace, is the most secred,” Apivat adds.

The group retraces its steps to Khlong Padung Krungkasem, finally parting company at Nang Loeng marketplace.

Kim and Kanye are delighted

Delighted Kim Kardashian and Kanye West are having a little boy, she has revealed.

So, little North, two, will is going to have a little brother when Kim, 34, gives birth in December.

And the Keeping Up With the Kardashians star made her announcement in the cutest way – by paying tribute to husband Kanye, 38, on Father’s Day.

Along with the news she posted a picture of the musician and North reading a pop up book together in a hotel room.

Kim, who is currently accompanying her man on tour, wrote on Twitter and Instagram: “Precious moments like this when we were travelling on tour with you are what I live for.

“You are such a good daddy to North & you will be the best daddy to our new son too!”

Obviously, following that announcement, social media went into meltdown.

Since Kim revealed she’s pregnant with her second child three weeks ago, her fans around the world have been desperate to know what sex the baby is.

She made sure we all know now, the day after Kanye headlined at Hot 107.9′s Birthday Bash at Atlanta’s Philips Arena on Saturday night.

On May 31, Kim revealed she is expecting her second child after months of fertility issues.

She was even told by one doctor that she would have to have her uterus removed if she had another baby.

Only last week little North celebrated her second birthday with a family trip to Disneyland in Orange County, California.

JERUSALEM – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday rejected “international dictates” as France’s top diplomat visited, with Paris advocating a UN resolution laying out parameters for peace talks.

With negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians stalled for more than a year, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius met Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and Netanyahu on Sunday.

The separate meetings in Ramallah and Jerusalem were part of a regional tour by Fabius aimed at reviving peace talks.

France has argued in favour of a UN resolution that would guide negotiations leading to an independent Palestinian state and which could include a timeframe for talks.

Ahead of Fabius’s arrival in Jerusalem, Netanyahu hit out at international diplomatic efforts to impose proposals which he said neglected to address vital Israeli security concerns, saying his government would reject “international dictates”.

In a joint news conference with Fabius after their meeting, Netanyahu said “peace will only come from direct negotiations between the parties without preconditions”.

“It will not come from UN resolutions that are sought to be imposed from the outside,” he said.

Netanyahu said a Palestinian recognition of the Jewish state as well as “iron-clad security arrangements on the ground in which Israel can defend itself” were requirements for peace.

Fabius sought to respond to such concerns, saying negotiations would ultimately be left to the Israelis and Palestinians, but that it did not prevent international support in the process.

“We must both guarantee Israel’s security and at the same time give Palestinians the right to have a state,” Fabius told journalists earlier at a joint news conference with Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Malki in Ramallah.

Malki welcomed France’s efforts, but said he doubted a deal was possible with the current rightwing Israeli government, which he labelled “extremist”.

In Cairo on Saturday, Fabius warned that continued Israeli settlement building on land the Palestinians want for a future state would damage chances of a final deal.

– Lone-wolf attacks –

Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been comatose since a major US push for a final deal ended in failure in April 2014.

Israel says the process failed because the Palestinians refused to accept a US framework document outlining the way forward.

But the Palestinians blame the collapse on Israel’s settlement building and the government’s refusal to release veteran prisoners.

The relationship between the two sides remains severely strained, prompting the Palestinians to boost efforts on the international stage to seek their promised state.

Such efforts have included a push to open criminal proceedings against Israel before the International Criminal Court.

Tensions have been high, and on Sunday a Palestinian stabbed and seriously wounded an Israeli border policeman outside Jerusalem’s Old City, with the officer managing to shoot his attacker, leaving him in critical condition.

It was the latest in a string of so-called lone-wolf attacks by Palestinians.

– After Iran talks? –

The United States has consistently defended Israel before the UN Security Council, and any French resolution must be accepted by Washington to avoid a veto.

President Barack Obama’s administration, however, has signalled that it could be swayed given Netanyahu’s recent comments regarding a Palestinian state.

Netanyahu sparked international concern when he ruled out the establishment of a Palestinian state while campaigning for the March 17 general election, though he later backtracked.

France could unilaterally recognise a Palestinian state should the peace process remain moribund, a possibility that could pile further pressure on Israel.

France’s diplomatic efforts come against the backdrop of negotiations with Iran over its nuclear programme, with Israel firmly opposing the deal currently on the table.

Iran and the P5+1 powers — Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States — agreed in April on the main outlines of what would be a historic agreement scaling down Tehran’s nuclear programme.

The world powers and Iran set themselves a deadline of June 30 to finalise what would be a highly complex accord.

Some have argued that a window of opportunity may arise after the conclusion of the Iran talks for France to submit a resolution at the United Nations.

They say that Washington would be unlikely to support moves beforehand that could impact negatively on the nuclear negotiations.

Great Little Place

Posted by pakin On June - 22 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

Because GLP is quite new, it is not yet practical for use in Thailand. It will come in handy should you be planning trips to cities within the UK, the US, Ireland, Canada, South Africa or Australia.

GLP allows you to search for places where you can explore local culture such as restaurants, bars and museums. Some of these places might not be mainstream, but they are nonetheless worth popping by.

The interface is user-friendly and easy to navigate. Upon entering the app, users choose the city they plan to visit. Users are then directed to interesting places in that city. Swipe right to add a particular destination to a shortlist. The distance and a map to the destination are provided in-app. Users can also swipe left to return to the main menu.

The app also provides basic information on places and allows you to make reservations at restaurants or bars.

The application is only available in English.