Saturday, August 30, 2014

Need to think about my next car model!

Tesla Model S

Admit it, you like sleek new things and enjoy the latest technology. You're always updated and have mastered the art of noticing trends extremely well. You love it when you see innovation in society and technology, and unsurprisingly you like to innovate in your life as well. You're the first to try new things and push the boundaries. You love to challenge yourself and understand new perspectives. It'd be an understatement to say you'll go really far in life.

Tesla Model S.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

My Italian side!

What Country in the World Best Fits Your Personality?

You are complex person, yet you enjoy the simple pleasures in life. Your idea of a great day is to spend some time by the water, or have coffee next to your favorite landmark, then follow it up with a fantastic meal with mediterannean cuisine and excellent wine. You believe life is not for working too hard, but for enjoying the fruits of the earth, and you are more than happy to take a siesta. You are a lover of culture, and thrive in a town or city where you get to know those around you in depth. You appreciate fine architecture, art, music, and film, and need to be in a culture that values those mediums.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Flying from Bangkok to Marseilles via Rome

Illy coffee
The Thai Airways (TG) flight from Bangkok-Suvarnabhumi (BKK) to Rome-Leonardo da Vinci (FCO) was packed. It was a smooth flight, which arrived on time in Rome. The Boeing 747-400 was packed and it was a 10:30 long flight to Rome.
I had enough time for my connecting flight to Marseilles. It was nice to walk from one end of Fiumicino Airport Terminal to the other end after sitting for so many hours. I took the time to take an expresso macchiato to get the local feel. 
Near Bastia, Corsica
My next Air France (AF) from Rome (FCO) to Marseilles-Provence (MRS) left right on time. It was a short and beautiful flight as we passed above the northern part of the island of Corsica and then along the French Riviera before landing at Marseilles after a 1:05 long flight. The Airbus A-319 reached the Riviera after Corsica and passed above the Giens peninsula, Toulon, La Ciotat, Bandol and all the 'calanques' before landing.

Giens peninsula & Hyères island
Isles & calanques
 Christian Sorand, 
Arles, Provence,  August 2014 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

On my way back to Provence

Tonight, I am flying off from Thailand for the next two weeks. I'll be visiting my family in Provence and attend my Mum'87th birthday. This is the 4th time I'm flying back to Europe this year.
I'm now waiting to board my flight to Rome Fiumicino Airport at Suvarnabhumi International Airport.

Christian Sorand,
Bangkok, 24 August 2014
Statue detail

Departure Hall Monument
Another statue head

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

'ART IN PARADISE' - Bangkok 3-D Art Museum

Interactive 3-D Art
As I passed through 'Thailand Cultural Center' MRT station, I had been first intrigued by new interactive displays showing 3-D Artwork. First, I published two photos on my site [ ] and by reading the comments, I realized that many other people loved it as well. Then, I accidentally read an announcement in a local paper advertising for 'Art In Paradise ' new three dimensional Art Museum ! Where? Just above at Esplanade Shopping Center! For goodness sake, there was a new museum only one station away from the place I live in Bangkok! And I had never heard of it yet! I found out it opened last February.
So yesterday evening, I went there to find out more about the exhibition. And, oh my word, I never expected to be so completely blown away!
First of all, I thought it would be a smaller exhibition. In fact, it is big as it is located at the top floor of Esplanade next to the Theater on two separate floors. The entrance fee is 300B for adults, perhaps a bit high for Thais, but truly worth your money,
Art Surfer
knowing they also give a discount for children. At the same time, you purchase your ticket, they give you a 30% discount voucher for the little coffee shop on the left of the museum entrance. After showing your ticket, (always with a smile: we are in Thailand!), you must leave your shoes at the cloak room. Here, in the East, we are used to taking our shoes off. But I guess there is also another technical reason for this. This is a 3-D Art Museum and it all appearance, it looks like they have added a special coating on the floor to enhance the three dimensional effect. By the way, this place is spotlessly clean.
Window on Italian Lake
I don't know exactly how long I stayed there, but I think it was over an hour. As I went on my discovery, each time I felt really amazed by this stunning interactive exhibition. I felt good, because other Thais or Asian visitors seemed to enjoy it as much as I did. Many came as a family with younger children because there is so much there the children can enjoy. Isn't this wonderful already? It would be too long to describe every piece of art on display. The best is to check my own Flickr Album called
'Art in Paradise' Gallery, Bangkok (the link is listed below).
However, let me give a clue of what to expect. At the beginning, there is a
Abraham Lincoln
large section with various interactive 3-D paintings: the water world followed by a sort of rain forest scenes with animals. Then, there is a section called 'Classic Zone'. It is as if one was revisiting some of the World's best known masterpieces: Monet, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Chagall, Frida Kahlo, Jacques-Louis David ('
The Coronation of Napoleon I'), Jean-François Millet ('The Gleaners' / 'Les Glaneuses') to name just a few. 'The Thinker' by Auguste Rodin has its own little blue corner and 'Mona Lisa' ('La Joconde') comes alive on a giant screen above the staircase leading to the downstairs exit. She even says 'Sawadee ka' ('welcome') in Thai! But just before you leave the museum, there are a few more contemporary street art displays that include Time Magazine or National Geographic.
Truly, this is one of the newest and most fabulous art exhibition I have ever seen recently.
Rubik's Cube
However, I would like to add a few remarks in order to improve slightly the whole experience. First, it would be nice & useful to add a title to all pieces of art on display. Some have it included on the painting like 'Message In A Bottle' or 'Classic Zone'. It certainly would improve its cultural impact on the classic art displays particularly for school children. On the other hand, It would also be useful to provide visitors with a folder showing the museum map, display locations and any other cultural background. I would also recommend to use this in Thai and English, and perhaps add a few other art work displays with their original French titles too.
The Bangkok 'Art in Paradise' 3-D Museum is a new addition following the success of earlier openings in Pattaya and Chiang Mai. It is the work of 13 Korean artists. It is open from 10:00AM to 10:00PM. If you are in Bangkok, either visiting or living there, make sure you take the time to come and see this new Art Museum. Adults or children alike will love it!
Once again, it shows how great a city Bangkok has become with so much happenings all the time.
Christian Sorand,
Bangkok, August 2014


Heart of Roses

The Cat & the Goldfish

Water Castle

      Trip Advisor review:


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

TripAdvisor new recognition

Congratulations, Christian S.!
You're the #1 reviewer in Bangkok!
Rating bubble
(Not your town? Update it here.)
9Charn P140250
Thank you so much for your 489 reviews. Don't let anyone bump you out of first place.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Another incredible sunset over Bangkok!


   Just before 7:00PM, I received a message from my friend Rebecca. She told me to go and watch today's sunset! I live on 15F, so I had to take the elevator in a hurry to 22F at the rooftop.
And yes! It really was magic!

Rebecca & her husband live in a condo with a balcony facing the west. I live in a condo with a rising sun view. But from the rooftop, I have a 360º panoramic view.



Saturday, August 16, 2014

Wat Suthat Thep Wararam วัดสุทัศนเทพวราราม

Courtyard & Wihan
Wat Suthat (its shorter name) may not have the touristic attraction of other temples. And yet it remains an important and interesting site in Rattanakosin area.
In Thailand, there are 23 royal temples of the first grade and 10 in Bangkok alone. Wat Suthat is one of those. King Rama I (1737-1809), Bangkok's founder, started its construction in 1807, on the 27th anniversary of the new capital. But it took many years to have it fully completed till Rama III (1787-1851) in 1847. There are several aspects, which make this temple rather different besides being one of the oldest and largest:
  • it has a large courtyard with many Chinese sculptures,
  • the courtyard is surrounded by cloisters housing gilded Buddha images,
  • the main hall (wihan) has three particularities: its unusual height, its imposing Buddha image and its remarkable murals.
  • It is located next to the Giant Swing [ref. My other article on this monument].  
    Gallery of Buddhas
As it is often the case, the whole complex has a worship area and monastic quarters. It covers 10 acres in a rectangular plan surrounded by a 949-meter long wall.
The inner courtyard gives an idea of the dimensions of the Wat. It holds a few Chinese pagodas, stone statues of Chinese soldiers and also a few nice bronze horses. It is said they were all shipped from China as ballast in rice boats at the end of the 18th century.
The exceptionally large courtyard is surrounded by a monastery-like gallery containing 150 statues of Buddha.
The Wihan stands in the middle of the courtyard. It has a magnificent roofline. It is massive and exceptionally tall as it houses a huge sitting Buddha image in
Sitting Buddha
Mara position.
Phra Buddha Shakyamuni is a 13th century, 8-meter high bronze statue that had been shipped by river boat from the former capital of Sukothai in the north. The temple was specially built to house the bronze Buddha on King Rama I's orders. The statue is highly revered and is now covered with gold. Its base contains the ashes of King Rama VIII (1925-1946) brother of the actual King, Rama IX, who died mysteriously six months after his coronation. The exceptional quality and number of the mural paintings make the fame of Wat Suthat. It seems that the entire building has been covered with images representing the 24 previous lives of Buddha or scenes of former daily life, whereas the columns depict the early history of Bangkok. Art experts say that the paintings differ from the traditional Thai painting methods and reveal a Western influence. The murals are among the most important and extensive in the country. A partial restoration was done in the late 80s but some still seem to be ready for a revamp.
Mural scene inside the Wihan
Wat Suthat is a Buddhist temple closely associated with Brahman Hinduism. This is why the Giant Swing stands right in front its main gate and that there are two Hindu shrines on both sides.
Like other monuments of Rattanakosin, Wat Suthat has been submitted for consideration as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005.
Christian Sorand,
Bangkok, August 2014

Links :

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Giant Swing [ Sao Ching Sa เสาชิงช้า ]

The Giant Swing
Here is another strange and beautiful structure that stands high above a square in the middle of Rattanakosin (the Old City). From far away, this red 27 meter high monument looks more like a giant Japanese Torii. It towers above another majestic temple called Wat Suthat.
It is quite a puzzling site. We may wonder why it is there and what was its real purpose? So here is its amazing story.
The original Giant Swing dates back to 1784, two years after the completion of the Grand Palace. It was commissioned by King Rama I, the founder of Bangkok, his new capital. With time, the Swing went through some renovations. It was rebuilt between 2005 and 2006. HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX) dedicated it in September 2007 in a royal ceremony.
The story of the Giant Swing goes back to the Hindu past of the country, 1,500 years ago during the Sukhothai period. In the Brahmin lunar calendar, there was a royal ceremony for each lunar month. The Swing Ceremony was held in the fist month of the Thai lunar calendar. It was a Brahmin new year's ceremony that lasted 10 days. In the Rattanakosin period in the 19th century, the ceremony was moved to the second lunar month.  
Hindu Shrine near Swing
According to the ancient Hindu epic, Brahma first created the world. Then he sent Shiva to look after its creation and test the stability of the world. So, Shiva came down to earth. He was ordered to stand on a mountain while the Nagas (the giant snakes) tried to shake him to the ground. When Shiva was able to show that the earth was stable, the Nagas moved to the seas to celebrate the event.
The Swing Ceremony re-enacted this episode. The circular base of the swing symbolizes the earth and the seas, while the pillars stand for the mountains.
It was a thanksgiving ceremony held in mid December right after the main rice harvest. During the ceremony, young Brahmin men would swing higher and higher trying to catch a bag of silver coins with their teeth on one of the pillars. The stability of the swing and the swingers' eventual success were re-enacting the Hindi legend. Since this was a high risk game that resulted in injuries and even deaths, it was finally discontinued in 1932.
Today, it has indeed become a tourist attraction in the Historic City. Like Wat Suthat and other monuments, the Giant Swing has been presented to UNESCO as a future World Heritage Site.

Christian Sorand,
Bangkok, August 2014


Thursday, August 14, 2014

The City Pillar Shrine [San Lak Mueang หลักเมือง]

Lak Mueang Shrine
Here is the story of city pillars. This type of construction has intrigued me for a while ever since I saw the new Vientiane City Pillar Shrine. At the time, I tried to figure out what it was all about. Then recently, I decided to go and see the Bangkok City Pillar Shrine in Rattanakosin (the Old City). So I did some research. Somehow, this type of monument holds a religious recognition since a shrine is often built above the existing  pillar. How can this be associated to Buddhism?
As a matter of fact, this appears to be an old Siamese tradition that goes back to animism and Brahmanism. It makes sense since this belongs to the roots of the kingdom before the arrival of Buddhism. According to an old traditional belief, it was essential to erect a pillar before the foundation of a new city in order to symbolize power and stability. But also it is usually housed in a shrine because people believe it retains the city spirit deity. Thai people strongly believe in the existence of spirits. Several  recent Thai movie productions exploit this side of popular belief!  
The 2 City Pillars
When King Rama I moved his capital from Thonburi - across the Chao Phraya River - to his new capital, he had to erect a city pillar to officially found Bangkok. This was done in the early morning of 21 April 1782. The Grand Palace and other monuments were constructed after.
San Lak Mueang stands at the southern end of Sanam Luang (the Royal Field), across from the Grand Palace and next to the Ministry of Defense. A white shrine in the shape of a cross is actually housing the City Pillar. And this is another symbol pointing to the cardinal points. When a city pillar was founded, to call the spirits, the ritual proclaimed the words 'In–Chan–Mun–Kong' :
  • In, from the north,
  • Chan, from the south,
  • Mun, from the east,
  • and Kong, from the west
The Shrine as such is an exquisite monument. Inside, there are in fact two pillars made of wood covered with gold leaves. The taller one is the original erected by Rama I. The shorter one is an addition made by King Mongkut (Rama IV).
Shrine of deities

Phallic cult
In the back of this white shrine, there is another smaller shrine, which has an altar with tiny figures, most probably for the spirits of the city deity.
Then, on the side, there are also two more smaller golden pillars full of ribbons. These are apparently highly revered by women. The phallic cult is quite common in Thailand and goes back to time immemorial.
Let's hope this will bring a new light on the cult of city pillars as the tradition has spread to other  cities and provinces in Thailand. Nevertheless, the Bangkok City Pillar remains the most revered in Thailand. More practically, it is also the starting point  of all streets in Bangkok and of all roads in the country.

Christian Sorand,
Bangkok, August 2014

TripAdvisor article