Where the Gold Shines, Bangkok, Thailand

When I visited the royal palace in Bangkok, with its glazed tiles in green and red, I was struck by the shiny gold throughout the building, but instead of pondering over the history and significance of such splendour, in front of my eyes there was only Yul Brynner in the film “The King and I”. I hadn’t been born at the time of that production, but I saw the film just as I was turning 6. At that age, of course I did not know that Bangkok really existed, so I imagined it as a legendary, exotic city, where people sang and bowed before the king of many wives, concubines and one hundred children.

The first time I went to Thailand, about 35 years ago, what I saw in real life touched me deeply in several other aspects, many more than my imagination had ever conceived. The gold that shines in the extremely refined royal residences merged with the golden light that flashed in the smiles of the little Thai children I could see from the boat leading me upstream through the rivers of the country.

I watched them dive into the water from their wooden houses on the banks, playing with each other while swimming, while elderly women shampooed others on the steps right down near the river. And every time as the boat sailed by and they saw me photographing them, the children joyfully greeted me, calling out and waving as all children do when they are happy.

The Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, Asia

The Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, Asia

Barbara Athanassiadis