Bangkok: City of Angels, Home of Metrohm Siam
When I landed in Bangkok, I felt like I might have by accident passed through the gates of hell—which, as you may remember, are open right now (at least in Singapore). I thought that I’d already adapted to the humid heat in the previous countries I visited, at least as far as that’s possible. But Bangkok brings it to a whole new level. Dealing with my still upset stomach and the heat at the same time have made my first days in Thailand a challenge. Still, I managed to do some sightseeing and join Metrohm Siam’s anniversary team event!
With more than 20 million tourists in 2017, Bangkok was the most visited city in the world. On my first day in the capital of Thailand, our two colleagues Rapat and Chullashut, took me right into the heart of tourist Bangkok. By the way, the handy two-syllable word Bangkok is a name that only foreigners use for the capital of Thailand. It’s official name is covers multiple lines and roughly translates to «City of angels, great city of immortals, magnificent city of the nine gems, seat of the king, city of royal palaces, home of gods incarnate, erected by Vishvakarman at Indra’s behest.» Even though the name Bangkok is only used by foreigners, not even Thai people use the city’s full name, but the abbreviated version Krung Thep.
Historic Sights of Bangkok
As its name suggests, Bangkok really is a city of many royal palaces. The Grand Palace is possibly the landmark of Bangkok. It’s a large complex of temples and buildings that served as the residence of the royal family and as government offices between 1782 and 1932. The complex grew organically during this time as each king who came into power made additions to it.
What resulted is an eclectic architectural mix that combines Western and traditional Thai elements. The latter are of course the most exotic for me, and the most interesting! There are golden pagodas held by colorful monkeys and giants and a beautiful mural consisting of 178 very detailed, intricate scenes that recounts the Ramayana, an epic story of Rama, an earlier incarnation of Buddha. All Thai people are familiar with the Ramayana to varying degrees and has had a strong influence on the local culture, probably similar to the impact of the Bible on Western Christian countries.
Buddhism in Thailand
The most important influence on Thai culture has certainly been Buddhism. Nearly all Thais identify as Buddhists. You will notice this when you meet our colleagues at Metrohm Siam, who represent Metrohm in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar. I have not been in a car in Thailand that didn’t have a Buddha shrine on the dashboard.
There must be thousands of Buddhist temples in Bangkok, and some of them have made it to become tourist attractions as well. For example, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, which is part of the Grand Palace, and the Temple of Dawn, which is called Wat Arun in Thai language and has become a main landmark of Thailand.
Buddhist temples contain one or many statues of Buddha, which come in varying sizes from miniature to life-size all the way to the 46-meter long reclining Buddha at Wat Pho temple, just a stone’s throw from the Grand Palace. The temples are where believers learn about the teachings of Buddha from monks and where they pay their respect to Buddha, whom they see as their generous teacher on the path to enlightenment who was willing to share his wisdom with the humans. I questioned some of our Thai colleagues about Buddhism: Who is Buddha? How often does someone reach enlightenment? How does the pursuit of enlightenment work together with having a career, a family, et cetera? After several days, I feel like I’ve gathered some pieces of the puzzle. But I suspect that the path to enlightenment is not an easy one.
Metrohm Siam’s Rally to Chanthaburi
Most outsiders will probably, like me, associate Buddhism with mindfulness, quietness, and thoughtfulness. Although I am certain that our colleagues at Metrohm Siam must carry some of these traits in them, there’s definitely another side to all of them and it showed at the celebration of Metrohm’s anniversary.
All Metrohm Siam colleagues and I went to the beach in Chanthaburi in eastern Thailand for the festivities. But we didn’t simply drive there. We had a «rally». The passengers of each car got a questionnaire to which the answers lay on the way. My team was slightly chaotic, plus, I slept half the way … so it comes as no surprise that we lost. I can take a defeat with grace (especially when I slept through the competition) but unfortunately, Metrohm Siam had prepared a punishment. Mine was eating two spoonful of wasabi. My teammates got chilies, a bitter piece of wood to chew on, and a bad whiskey respectively. What ever happened to consolation prizes?
Here are some impressions from Metrohm Siam’s anniversary celebration!