Feb 14, 2010

Saturday in Bangkok--or--Thai Nativity

"The Post Where I Try to Sound Like a Novelist"
The day dawned cloudy and over cast leading one to ask whether they might be greeted by chill air upon stepping outside. But alas, no. As D and I ventured out to begin our day of adventure, we were once again body-slammed by the wet heat.
Our first expedition had been carefully planned and extensively researched over the last few weeks by Doug. We would take the Sky Train, and then a taxi, to the Bangkok Doll Museum.
Yes, a doll museum.
A museum housing numerous dolls. This was our one “must do” this trip and we would let nothing deter us.
Why a doll museum you ask? Because Doug LOVES collectible dolls! No. Actually, because in a non-Christian country, this was the only lead Doug could find on a Thai Nativity set. The one thing I told him he MUST find and bring home. After talking to all the interpreters on the trip with no luck, and even tracking down a Catholic church with poor results, this was our last hope. He had found a website for “Bangkok Dolls” on-line and seen a nativity on the site. But the site had neither directions, nor information about whether or not such a thing was even for sale.
(Why a nativity? We bought one on our honeymoon in Mexico, Doug has one from Jerusalem made of olive wood, and we plan to buy a Kokeshi nativity before we leave Japan. So obviously, this was a necessity.)
We started our trek and after many detours, a trip through the ghetto, and numerous stops for help, we finally found it tucked back in a cul-de-sac in a crumbling neighborhood: Bangkok Dolls(.com) & Bangkok Doll Museum.

We entered and found a small over-heated workshop to the right with 5 or 6 women working--assembly line style--on hand-made dolls, and the museum in the rooms straight ahead.

At our arrival someone flipped on the museum lights and we walked into the deserted edifice.
Surrounding us were display cases filled with …well, dolls. We went from display to display trying to find the one display Doug had seen on the half-functioning website. Finally, we found it in the back corner—a complete Thai Nativity with
…a price card next to it!

But would they really have one for us? Would it have to be specially made to order? Would they just sell us the display so we could get our hot little hands on it NOW?
A woman was summoned. Doug motioned to the Nativity and communicated that he wanted to buy it. She seemed to understand and made a phone call including some random hand gestures we weren't sure how to interpret. We hoped someone was coming to assist us.
Finally, the owner of the museum showed up. The son of Mrs. Tongkorn Chandavimol, original owner and doll designer, she made her first doll in 1953. Mr. Chandavimol spoke good English and sent someone to fetch the nativity for us. An assistant brought out the different dolls. A wooden building, Mary holding Jesus, Joseph, three wise men, and three farmers. All distinctively Thai in dress and appearance. (I could have cried with happiness.)
After the price was negotiated and the pieces taken away by the assistant to be meticulously packaged for transport, we chatted with the shop owner. He told us his mother, after 50 years running the business, was in the hospital. Unconscious and on a respirator. He had retired from teaching Law at University and was trying his best to keep the shop and museum going. He tried to list some things for sale on e-bay, but *shrug*... He was working on the website but…not completed yet. Doug told him he had come to Thailand for a humanitarian mission, Cobra Gold, to do dental work on little kids. He gave us a 10% discount for helping his people.
After 45 minutes or so, we left with our prize and a determination to help this man who was trying to keep his mother’s cottage industry alive. (Know anyone who wants a Thai Nativity? All the info is at the end of this post!!!) 

Our taxi driver, whom we’d told to wait just 5 or 10 minutes, begrudgingly took us back to the Sky Train station and forgave us only when he saw Doug had doubled the promised fare.
(end novella)
The rest of the day?

We went to a HUGE weekend market to shop and my feet once again burst out of my shoes so badly that Doug bought me some $3 fake crocs. (Which my feet are currently stuffed into.) Souvenirs were haggled over (by Doug, not me.) and purchased. We left satisfied with our treasures, but hot and swollen, and went back to the hotel for a swim and some Skype calls to the boys.
(This little boy just played the same two notes over and over. It wasn't pretty. But you had to give him props--and Bat--for effort.)

(One stall featured 20 or so cages filled with puppies. Sorta cute. Sorta intensely depressing.)

I would end this lengthy narrative right here, but I can’t leave out dinner. Even after laying by the pool with my feet up, I was still incredibly swollen and had no desire to venture back into the heat in search of a cheap place to eat. So instead, we did something we’ve never done before in 9 years of marriage. We ate at our hotel. In the “Thai” restaurant. And it was fabulous.
(I got Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce and Doug got some sort of fish.)

We had the place to ourselves, had awesome food, and were actually able to discuss and plan our future a little bit. (I made a list. I can’t discuss important topics like where we’re going to live in the future without making a list) We actually had a lengthy, uninterrupted adult discussion! Such a novelty!

(Coconut Milk Sticky Rice with Mango and Coconut Ice Cream. MAJOR YUM!)
So, all in all, I can safely say…Saturday in Bangkok was a raging success. And I happily fell asleep at 8:30pm. (Hey, that’s 10:30pm in Japan…and I’d done a lot of walking!!!!)
Now, we’ve checked out of our hotel and are in a taxi headed for Hua Hin (pronounced: Wahine/WahHEEN) to a resort by the beach. Which Doug’s interpreter recommended and which he’s springing for only with the understanding that I not expect any holiday/birthday gifts ever, ever again.
In other words, life is good in Thailand.
Happy Valentine’s Day! And, more importantly around here…
It’s the YEAR OF THE TIGER!!! Happy Chinese New Year!!!

Bangkok Doll Info:

Arbhas Chandavimol, Manager
85 SoiYak Rajatapan, (Morleng)
Rajaprarop Road, Makkasan,
Bangkok 10400  THAILAND.

Tel.  : 0-2245-3008, 0-2245-4532
Fax  : 0-2245-3929
Mobile  : 08-1689-9956
E-mail:  Bangkokdolls@gmail.com
website:  Bangkokdolls.com


mountainmama said...

WOW! What a find. I cannot wait to see pictures of the cherished nativity. They sell nativities in Spain. This should be your next stop!!!!!

LaLa said...

I would love a Thai nativity! How much?

Glad you guys are having such a great time. Hope your feet return to their normal size soon!

Jessi said...

I am trying not to covet your nativity. I LOVE nativities and that one is really, really cool.

Bob's Blog said...

Awesome narrative in a Thai style-haha. I love all of your pictures.
And where did you decide to live after your adult discussion?:)

likeschocolate said...

What an amazing experience to be able to travel Asia. Thailand looks beautiful.

April said...

so so jealous! looks like a fun trip and you're such a trooper being pregnant! coconut sticky rice and mango is my FAVORITE - YUMYUMYUM!!

Lynette said...

My sister found your blog. We have been trying to contact the doll museum to buy a nativity for months now. Any information you have on contacting them to purchase one would be greatly appreciated! shonandlynette@peoplepc.com

Anonymous said...

Thanks very much for this 4 year-old post! We're visiting in Bangkok, and I googled "nativity set Bangkok. Your post came up, and with a bit more research I figured out where Bangkok Dolls is located. Our experience was just like yours. Our taxi driver tried to drop us off at another museum, and then had to ask directions three or four times when we insisted on going to Bangkok Dolls. The lights in the museum had to be turned on for us. The owner wasn't inclined to negotiate very much; I guess he knew that anyone who put in the effort to find the place must be motivated to buy.
We're going back to Canada with a treasured nativity set and a memorable experience!
Thanks for your help.

acte gratuit said...

Happy to help even four years later Harry!! :)