Saturday, April 12, 2014

This Is Thailand - Thankfully!

One of my objectives, actually my last objective, for our trip to Nakhon Pathom last month was to visit a special institution.  According to the e-brochure, "Khlong Tour, Cruising the Majestic Waterways", issued by the Tourism Authority of Thailand in 2007 near Khlong Maha Sawat there was the Palace College And Museum of Ten Schools of Thai Crafts.

The e-brochure described the college as an institution where visitors could observe the training of Thai craftspeople for traditional arts of mother-of-pearl inlay, painting, sculpting, fruit and vehetable carving.  My Internet search for additional details yielded a contact phone number and an address of "Salay-Bang Phasi Rd, Tambon Salaya"  Unfortunately I was unable to determine further details from the "Salay-Bang Phasi Rd, Tambon Salaya" - maps that I accessed either on the Internet or purchased at local 7-11s, more often than not, referred to roads and highways by their number or gave the name in Thai.  Our driver did not speak English and the specific details that I had was only in English.

I had Duang call the phone number and she ended up speaking with some manager at an apartment house!  I had determined from the Internet that the school was open from 9:00 A. M. to 4:00 P.M. It was getting fairly late on our last full day in the area.  The next morning we were going to the airport to fly back to Udonthani.  It appeared that we would not get to visit the school.  We stopped at a gas station to refuel the car, and get some snacks.  Duang and our driver spoke with some people and seemed to make a connection for the school that I wanted to visit.  Surprisingly it was very close to the hotel where we were staying.

We arrived at "The College of Dramatic Arts: Fine Arts Dept" at 2:45 P.M.  The guard at the main gate directed us to a seven story building located at the corner of a modern university complex.  Duang and I entered the building and found ourselves amongst a couple of sculpture studios - studios with sculptures in various stages of completion but no people.

After walking about the studios, we returned to the lobby and went to the elevator.  I suggested to Duang that we go up to the seventh floor and work our way down to look for some people.  We went up to the seventh floor and exited the elevator to find ourselves in a sterile lobby.  Behind a glass partition and a locked door, we saw some people in what appeared to be an administrative office.  After telling them, through a glass section that had some small holes in it for better communication, why we were there, they electrically unlocked the door for us to enter.

This was very reminiscent of our experience at my former junior high school two years ago in America.  Duang was going there to learn English (reading, writing, and speaking) at night school.  One night she apparently left her pencil case with her prescription glasses at the school.  The next day we returned to the school to see if the case had been found.  I had gone to the school in the early 1960's, a time when you or anyone could and would go inside the school, walk about 25 feet inside to the school office and transact your business.  Not any more!  We approached the school and found an entryway very similar a high security entrance to a bank - once you clear scrutiny, you are allowed into a small sterile area where you are subject to additional scrutiny and questioning before being admitted to the office to deal with people face to face.

Our experience in Nakhon Pathom was similar but more pleasant.  Once we got past a single door we were in the office speaking with some very pleasant and friendly people.  We told them that we had learned on the Internet of a place, perhaps this place, where people were trained in the arts.  They told us that they were preparing for a large public exhibition at the end of the week.  We told them that we were leaving to return to our home the next day and would not be able to attend the exhibition.  It was no big deal for me.  I know things like that happen - unexpected situations and circumstances - part of life. As I thanked them and was turning around to leave they asked us to wait and brought us each a glass of cold water.  After a short while we we joined by a very pleasant young woman, a woman obvious with some authority.  After repeating our story to her, she asked us to follow her.  This was the start of our personal tour of the facility - all seven floors with the woman who was an important professor.

A Student Finishing Up Her Painting For the Upcoming Exhibit

We were fortunate during our tour to speak with the few students that we encountered along the way.  Duang was kept very busy interpreting for me and all the other people.  I was encouraged to take as many photographs as I wanted to.  Our tour guide willingly answered all the questions that I had regarding which made for a very pleasant experience.

A Student's Sculpture of Mythological Creatures Central To Thai Culture

Floor by floor, art by art, and craft by craft we toured the facility with our personal guide.  It was a very entertaining and enlightening experience for us.

An Example Of Traditional Thai Painting By A Student

A Student Working On Her Pottery

Wire Sculpture In First Floor Lobby

First Floor Studio Sculpture

Outside Courtyard Sculpture

Our personal tour of the facility lasted approximately one hour.  Looking back at our experience the term TIT (This Is Thailand) comes to my mind.

TIT, This Is Thailand, is an expression often used by expats in reaction to an experience or situation that they have encountered here.  The expression is typically not meant to be complimentary.  It often stems from frustration from falang (foreigners) who have observed or experienced some  aspect or idiosyncrasy of Thai culture or life that is very different than what they are accustomed to or familiar with in their home culture.

I am using the expression in this blog entry as a compliment and expression of gratitude for our experience at The College of Dramatic Arts: Fine Arts Dept.  The kindness and friendliness of the staff was a pleasant surprise.  The staff's concern over our situation and the action that they took to help us was beyond what I normally would expect.  They very well could have saved themselves some time and effort by just telling us "Sorry, we are closed.  We are busy preparing for the exhibit"

But this is indeed Thailand - a place where you will frequently encounter friendly and accommodating people.  These are some of the people who add greatly to the quality of life here.

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