City Of Temples
1952 - 1953, Bangkok, Thailand (Other)
Cat no. 3182
A holiday in Thailand.
Laurie Day sits in her sitting room writing a letter. Her husband enters and gives her an air-mail letter from the person in Bangkok who had arranged their itinerary on a recent holiday, informing them that some parcels are in the post as a memento of their visit. They have also been sent a copy of 'Life' magazine, which contains a feature on the city. Stuart Day puts this on the table to show his wife. She looks at it and writes a letter expressing thanks for the magazine. The article prompts shots of their holiday in Bangkok. The film returns to the present where Stuart Day hands over the expected parcel which contains a silk tie for him and a length of material for Laurie Day. She continues to express her thanks in the letter praising the city. Sequences in Thailand include: shots of temples in Bangkok; visits north of Bangkok to the King’s Summer Palace, the ruins of the old capital Ayutthaya and the plains of central Thailand; the Khlongs [canals and waterways in Bangkok]; street in scenes in central Bangkok; a visit to the snake farm; a visit to the Arts Museum to watch a performance of the Temple dancers accompanied by a Gamelan Orchestra. The commentary provided by Laurie Day provides a brief description of the features and a legend associated with the Buddha of the Temple of the Emerald Green Buddha, highlighting the architectural detail of curved serpents’ heads traditional to Thai architecture; a noviciate’s entry to the Buddhist priesthood, Buddhist beliefs and the objectives of priesthood; Wat Pho, including its exterior pottery decoration, its mosaic tiles and the attraction of building shrines for the wealthy; the need for constant repair; the fight against opium smoking, the government monopoly over the opium trade including its licensing of opium dens, the lessening of the drug’s strength before enforcing a complete ban on the drug, the existence of large-scale smuggling; a brief history of the fall of Ayutthaya and the expulsion of the occupying Burmese army; the importance of washing water buffalo; harvest and logs sent by river to Bangkok; lives spent on boats by many of the population; the existence of floating markets; life on the canals and waterways [khlongs]; the Buddhist belief in reincarnation; the interest in cock fighting (‘a national pastime’); the development of Bangkok; the changes in sights in the modern centre of Bangkok, with the replacement of hand-pulled rickshaws with pedal tricycles; the milking of snakes venom, including a description of how the venom is used to develop a serum to treat snake bites and its other beneficial use as a treatment for haemophilia; how the venom is obtained and the snake is fed with milk after; why cobras spread their hoods, and the danger posed to the assistants in this public show; the use of other deadlier snakes (banded kraits) and the King Cobra; the slow movement and control of hands of the Temple Dancers to convey the meaning of the dance. Authoritative in tone throughout much of the film, Laurie Day adopts a humorous tone in one sequence at Wat Pho for an imagined chatter between statues. The commentary is broken up by sequences of music, including a recording of a Gamelan orchestra.
Locations: Bangkok, Thailand (Other)
Subject: foreign travel
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