Category Archives: The Cambodia Diary

The Grand Palace – Bangkok


So, we cross the road and enter into the Royal Palace.

The Royal Palace was the official residence if the Kings since 1782 and has been renovated often to preserve its grandeur. Though the Royal Family does not reside here, it is open for public view and is used for ceremonial purposes. Most of the buildings inside the Palace complex are closed to the public.




As we walk inside the long palace path, we come across three strikingly beautiful towers. These represent three different styles of temple architecture – Srilankan, Thai and Khmer. The golden stupa to the left representing19th century Srilankan, the middle pillared tower representing Thai and the right representing Khmer Architecture. The Srilankan Stupa is worshipped as the most sacred of all the three towers as Buddha’s relics – a piece of Buddha’s breast bone- are preserved here.

We are greeted by Yakshas – Demons guarding the Palace –




The intensely ornate Thai style architecture Library which contain sacred Buddhist manuscripts.



and the tranquil Buddha sitting in stone on the side of the library –






The Ramakien (รามเกียรติ์, “Glory of Rama”, sometimes also spelled Ramakien) is Thailand‘s national epic, derived from the Hindu epic Ramayana.

While the main story is identical to that of the Ramayana, many other aspects were transposed into a Thai context, such as the clothes, weapons, topography, and elements of nature, which are described as being Thai in style.

The Ramayana came to Southeast Asia by means of Tamil Indian traders and scholars who traded with the Khmer kingdoms (such as Funan and Angkor) and Srivijaya, with whom the Indians shared close economic and cultural ties.



In Tamil, Ramayanam is called ‘Kambaramayanam’ – Ramayanam written by Poet Kambar. Kambaramayanam occupies special place in the history of Tamil Literature for its distinct literary presentation and delivery of emotions through crisp language skills – by the ‘King of Poetry’ – Kavichakravarthy Kambar as he is hailed.

Kambar adopted Valmiki’s original Ramayana in the Tamil style, with changes made according to Tamil Culture. In other words, it is the re-telling of the story of Lord Rama without alienating from the Tamil lifestyle.


One of the situations is where Ravana the king abducts Sita from the hut where she is staying with Rama. In the Sanskrit version, Ravanaa lifts Sita and carries her. But this is unthinkable to the Tamilian. So Kambar makes a deviation and states that he lifted her up along with the hut and the earth below it and carried that piece of earth, hut and the lady in it. There are several such instances.


Scenes of Ramakien, the Thai version of the Ramayanam decorates the walls in the Royal Palace Complex.




Is this Hanuman helping Rama’s force cross the sea to Lanka?




A stone model of Angkor Wat, Cambodia – the largest religious structure in the world, can be seen-



Kinnara and Kinnaree

Golden statues of Kinnara and Kinnaree greet the visitors –

In Southeast Asian mythology, Kinnaris, the female counterpart of Kinnaras, are depicted as half-bird, half-woman creatures. One of the many creatures that inhabit the mythical Himavanta. Kinnaris have the head, torso, and arms of a woman and the wings, tail and feet of a swan. She is renowned for her dance, song and poetry, and is a traditional symbol of feminine beauty, grace and accomplishment.


This Kinnaree is an exclusive one – body of a female and legs and tail of a lion! Please do let me know if she is also a Kinnaree or has any other specific name in the mystical world.



and her counterpart – half male and half lion – our guide mentions he is also called Narasimha – the sanskrit word for man and lion.




And the exclusive Naga – Snake – with the head of an apsara – devine female and body of a snake… The usual Naga has the head of a demon and body of a snake – our guide tells us!



Wat Phra Kaew – The Temple of the Emerald Buddha

Wat Phra Kaew is considered the most sacred of the Buddhist temples in Thailand. The statue of Buddha is just over 2 feet tall and no photographs allowed from inside the temple room. Buddha is seated in a well crafted shrine, glittering in gold.

The Emarald Buddha is adorned with different costumes three time a year – summer, winter and the rainy months of the year. Only The King touches the statue and changes the costume of Buddha.




and the costumes for the three seasons –




Then we proceeded to the Grand Palace Grounds – the different Halls, added and renovated by successor Kings. Ancient Buddha stupas, Temples and Murals from literature, Ornate Temple Architecture in glittery gold – and a Palace Hall with a European touch – visit to Grand Palace has been an enthralling majestic experience. The shine of gold in bright sunny daylight and the master piece architectural beauty cannot surely be captured in one’s camera.

The efforts put to safeguard these important symbols of culture and literature –  the endless renovation works being carried over are truly commendable. I would never miss another chance to visit again!



Bangkok – An Architectural Splendour!




Our next place of visit was Wat Arun – The Temple of Dawn. This temple is named after Aruna – the Sun God or the God of Dawn. It stands magnificient on the banks of the Chao Phraya River. The first day evening when we went to the temple, we took the ferry – ferries run straight across the river to reach the other side in about 5 minutes duration to reach the temple side. Wat Arun can be reached by road too. The next day when we went during the day, we took a taxi.



The stunning view of the Temple of Dawn at dusk, is what makes it different. The image of the stunning Wat that falls on the river waters is truly captivating. As the sun gets ready to take some rest, we see people thronging the restaurants and filling up empty spaces wherever possible, on the other side of the river, to make the best use of their best of Cameras. Such is the view of WAT ARUN in lights with its image on water!


It is said that the royal fleet of King Taksin, the founder of the former capital of Thonburi, arrived at Wat Makok Nok precisely at dawn. He stopped his vessel and disembarked to pay homage to the Holy Relic inside the pagoda, and the temple was subsequently referred to as Wat Chaeng – the Temple of Dawn. When King Taksin crowned himself the monarch, the temple was designated a royal temple within the grand palace, as it was the first place in Thonburi to catch the morning light.


The tall tower of the temple is called ‘Prang’. It is a Khmer style tower ( style belonging to neighboring Cambodia).  King Rama III raised the Prang and it remains the highest tower in Thailand even today.



Wat Arun temple had been founded in the early 17th century, some believe it to be earlier than that but most of the features present today were built by King Rama II and King Rama III through the 19th century.

This Wat or Buddhist temple is an architectural representation of Mount Meru, the center of the world in Buddhist cosmology. In the mythology of Tibetan Buddhism, Mount Meru is a place that simultaneously represents the center of the universe and the single-pointedness of mind sought by adepts.


On the second terrace,  the Hindu god Indra called Erawan, in Thai, is seated on his three headed elephant. There are four such statues.


The multiple layers of the towers are supported by Devas –


and Asuras –


The temple towers and the different layers are decorated with colourful porcelein plates (seen in above picture). These are said to be porcelein, which the Chinese ships used as ballasts and discarded on arrival at the port of Bangkok.

There is a huge Buddha statue with two statues of Brahma – the four headed Hindu God of Creation.


Lord Brahma-


Wat Arun was truly an architectural splendour – but we had more to experience – at the Royal Palace which is very close to Wat Arun and Wat Pho.

On the way to the Royal Palace, a very bright and sunny day that was – couldn’t resist the coconut icecream, served in a different way altogether!

Coconut Ice Cream –

step one- scrap out a few layers of coconut from the already scrapped out, ready to be served coconut shell



step two – place 3 scoops of vanilla ice-cream or coconut ice-cream


step three – sprinkle some peanuts on top, which is optional


step four – choose your syrup  chocolate or strawberry (I chose chocolate syrup)


step five – exquisite stuff ready!


After a cool-cool treat, we crossed the busy road and walked inside the Royal Palace. So, meet you next at the Royal Palace!

The Charming Capital of Thailand!


Stunning view  At night – Wat Arun – Temple of Dawn, Bangkok



When two months of holidays were almost going to be over, a sudden plan of visiting Malaysia and Singapore came up. As soon as we returned from KL and Singapore, there rose an oppurtunity for a quick visit to Bangkok!

The beauty, culture and spirit of South East Asia  – each country different and unique by its own, yet similar! Culture, Religion, Behaviour, Lifestyle, Traditions – beyond the marked differences there is still a thin line indicating the centuries of give and take.

While KL and Singapore experiences would follow later, the beauty of Bangkok that lies very fresh in my mind makes me write about it first. So, the very recent ones first.

Bangkok seemed to be a mixture of traditional and modern things in the same shell. I think this fusion is something that makes Bangkok the most visited place in the world.


Bangkok, Thailand will be the number one destination for tourists in 2013, according to MasterCard’s new Global Destination Cities Index.

It beat out major destinations like London, Paris, New York, and Dubai with an anticipated 15.98 million international arrivals in 2013.


For the religious and heritage lovers – huge Buddhist temples; for the fashion and shopping lovers – the small, medium to big malls; for the cullinary lovers – street food, food courts in malls, restaurants offering different cuisines of the world to chose from and speciality THAI restaurants for those with heavier pockets; for relaxing the global community – the innumerable massage centres to classy Spas; for true tourists who believe in nights by the water – river cruises and dinner cruises, Bangkok has so much to offer!

Leaving aside the traffic jams and busy roads, the Metropolitan Rapid Transit or MRT is a very comfortable transport system, called the Underground Train. It is called the BTS or sky train.

Under the Metro Rail System, the Airport Rail Link is a very comfortable service which is available from the Airport itself. This is a great boon for tourists, for the first timers not knowing the routes and the used passengers alike.

Of our favourite topic Food – as mentioned earlier, the food courts in malls offer food at very reasonable rates. A platter which is a whole filling meal, with the spicy taste of Thai Cuisine – which has the touch of Chinese and Indian cuisines.  Forget about the very popular Thai Red and Green Curries, there is an entire variety like –


Brown Rice, Crispy Fried Mushroom and Spicy Vegetable Curry



Yellow Rice, Chicken in Spicy Curry (served without the curry for my daughter) and a clear soup



I had this dessert in mind – and I wanted to taste it after seeing it as one of the best foods to be tasted in Thailand – It is called Khao Neeo Mamuang in Thai language or the Mango Sticky Rice. It is cooked rice sweetened with a sauce of coconut milk, sugar and salt; served with sliced mango  and garnished with the coconut milk sweet sauce and roasted sesame seeds! We got it served cold. This is certainly a refreshing dessert – that gives a soothening effect to the tummy after all those spicy Thai Curries!




and the beautifully presented Coconut Icecream! There can be many versions to this- different in the way is served.  Ice Cream made with Coconut milk is scooped in coconut shells with scrapped tender coconut pieces. One of the versions –



Another version – served at street corners comes in the next post!

Now, let’s talk about the enchanting places we visited!

The first day, we planned to see Wat Pho and Wat Arun. The word Wat in general denotes a place of worship, here denoting Monastery Temples.


In everyday language in Thailand, a wat is any place of worship except a mosque (Thai สุเหร่า – su-rao; or มัสยิด – Thai rendering of masjid; a mosque may also be described as โบสถ์ของอิสลาม – bot khong Is-a-lam). Thus wat cheen is a Chinese temple (either Buddhist or Taoist), wat khaek is a Hindu temple, and wat kris or wat krit or wat farang is a Christian church, though Thai โบสถ์ (โบด bot) may be used descriptively as with mosque.


Wat Pho – The Temple of Reclining Buddha


Wat Pho is the oldest and largest temple in Bangkok.  The first temple was built in the 16th Century and consecutive renevations and additions have been done by successive kings.

Inside the temple complex lieds the biggest Buddha in reclining position in Thailand. This statue is 46 metres long, with the dimensions at the face of 15 metres high and at each foot of 3 metres high and 5 metres long.


The soles of the statue’s feet are inlaid with mother-of-pearl showing the 108 auspicious signs of the Buddha. This is the largest and most beautiful piece of fine arts of the Buddha image in a reclining position found in Thailand.

The mother of pearl inlay at the feet of the image is of Thai-Chinese style, as indicated by 108 auspicious signs portraying natural scenes of both Indian and Chinese influences.



Inside Wat Pho runs the Thai Traditional Medical School where Courses on traditional Thai Massage are conducted.


Being the base of Thai Medicine, Wat Po Thai Traditional Medical and Massage School was opened in 1955 inside Wat Po. It is the first Thai Medical School under the approval of Thai Ministry of Education. Us


The second important building inside the temple is the Phra Uposatha – the Main Chapel where monastic rituals are performed.


Lord Buddha in a posture of concentration



For Buddhists, the main chapel is the heart of the monastery, as without a main chapel, it would be a monk center and not a monastery.


A tour inside the temple complex lets one admire the numerous Buddha statues bright.


The galleries extending between the four chapels feature no less than 394 gilded  Buddha images, many of which display Ayuthaya or Sukhothai features. The remains  of Rama I are interred in the base of the presiding Buddha image in the bòht.


In the West Vihara there is an image of “ Pang Nak Prok ”, the Buddha under the Naga’s hood.


One of the most interesting features of the temple is the stone and rock statues.  These Chinese statues stand as guards inside the corridors of Wat Pho. Very interesting to note the facial features and the amazingly well sculpted emotions on the faces. These statues arrived into Thailand from the ships which brought in goods from China. These were used as Ballasts to provide stability to the vessels during sea voyage.

Thailand, with its fertile valleys, was a main producer of rice and other crops in the 19th century, which it exported to China as well as other countries. The ships on the way home, used these Chinese figures as ballast, but these statues became very popular in their own right and were eventually imported for their intrinsic merit also.






and …



Bangkok has so much to offer, historical and modern… the old ones captivating the hearts and minds with their skillful architecture and beautiful techniques employed centuries ago. Shall continue with more!

The Cambodia Connections- I

Bicycling in the streets of phnom penh, one can sense so much similarity to southern indian places. Being a foodie, my eyes and interest obviously stick to those things I value primary. Like the vegetable market especially… loaded with tropical stuff, even some of those rare fruits amd vegetables that have been our childhood nibblers!

I have tried to capture some… let us enjoy it together!

I gave the title ‘The Cambodia Connections’ and also suffixed with ‘I’. There is an ocean of many more things that would follow in future posts, that could be categorised under the same title.


Kothumalli/Coriander is available in plenty. But more than the green, fresh coriander, what attracts the most is the way it has been clipped beautifully with the cut palm leaf or something else I am yet to find out! We call it Kothumalli Kattu is Tamil – it means tied coriander bunch.

the beautiful bunch




Nellikkai/Gooseberry is one of those summer delights which is a sour fruit and when one has a glass of water after, it sweetens ones taste buds.

The health benefits of gooseberry –

enhances food absorption, balances stomach acid, fortifies the liver, nourishes the brain and mental functioning, supports the heart, strengthens the lungs, regulates elimination, enhances fertility, helps the urinary system, is good for the skin, promotes healthier hair, acts as a body coolant, flushes out toxins, increases vitality, strengthens the eyes, improves muscle tone and it acts as an antioxidant.

While Nellikkai is available in the markets and vendors in bicycles – the packet of salt and red chilli powder that comes with the pack made me feel at home truly….. that’s the way we have our raw fruits like mangoes, guavas and gooseberries.

nellikkai with salt and chilli




also known as  – Guamachil, Manila Tamarind, Kodukkai Puli/Kodi-kai puli, Sweet Tamarind, Thai-Sweet Tamarind, Madras Thorn, Monkey Pod, Jungle Jilebi, Bilayati Imli, Seema Chintakayalu (Foreign Tamarind), Kona Puliyankai (Twisted Tamarind)


Now, I had been searching this for a long time… in Chennai whenever I go on a holiday. But not been able to find it.  This used to be one of our childhood nibblers (if I could call them so) sold out of the school in Thoothukudi. Myself and my cousin who used to come out of school would buy kodukkappalli and nellikkai and munch back home! It is called Kodukkapuli in Tamil and we used to call it kodukkappalli colloquially.

The sweet soury taste still lingers in my tongue.. with some sweet memories too!

the twisted tamarind


I could find some interesting facts on this fruit from –

Kodukka puli came from the word Kodi-Kai puli which means Vined Tamarind
* peel the black seeds to reveal a brown coating (not the white ‘main’seed inside) and then string them into bracelets
* The pod/pulp is widely used in the tanning industry. Camachile bark used almost exclusively by Filipino tanners
* Used as good timber
* Mucilaginous gum
* Used for preparing yellow dye


The Manila tamarind fruit is low in calories, and including it in your diet can help you meet your daily fiber, vitamin C, iron, calcium and potassium needs.

It promotes normal bowel movements, controls hunger and lowers your risk of heart disease.

It is also an important antioxidant, protecting your cells from free radicals, which can help reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer.



The south of India uses more coconut in cooking. Buying coconut and grating in not a problem anymore. In the market, you choose your coconut and the vendor grates it in front of you. It looks like an indigenous coconut grating machine made from local items.. very interesting!

the machine


coconuts grated



Karumbu Chaaru/Sugarcane Juice

On a humid, sunny, sweaty day, a glass of sugarcane juice can provide instant energy. Karumbu Chaaru in Tamil. Karumbu is sugarcane and Chaaru means juice. In the streets of Phnom Penh, one can find these small carts/machines and the juice is sold in disposable glasses… covered in a small plastic bag – easy to be hung in cycle handlebars or be placed in water bottle holders in bags. There are also halves of lemon squeezed between the canes while they are being pressed… I think in India, it is also a bit of ginger added while the juice is pressed…if I am right.

The only problem is the glass would first be filled with icecubes it can fully hold and the other approximately 3 or 4 ladles of juice would fill the glass… great chiller ofcourse but solely due to ice. Pay double or triple and you get the same glass full of juice… but my sugarcane lady is very friendly though.. she insists I take ice in the outer bag and she places the closed full juice glass in the ice bag and we reach home with undiluted ice cold karumbu chaaru/sugarcane juice!

the machine


stored sugarcanes and the juice



It is truly a warm feeling of being at home!   An exploration of more cultural and cuisinical similarities between the Tamils and the Khmers! I shall try my best!

It is Tamil Puthaandu/Tamil New Year on April the 14th. The Khmer New Year called Chaul Chnam Thmey (means Enter New Year) is celebrated for 3 days starting April 13 to April 15.

Puthaandu Vazhthukkal! Happy New Year!

Suo Sdey Chnam Thmey!!