Bangkok, Siam

Friday, July 26, 1929

My wanderings this morning carried me on for five hours, so I was glad to sit down for lunch. But it didn’t last long as immediately spent two more going out to see the American Consul. He has given me a mosquito net so if I can’t locate a cheap place to stay, I can possibly sleep out with some degree of comfort, barring snakes, rain and wild animals. Darn it, the more I throw away the more I pick up. I’ve collected a book, several Buddhas, ties, and a net here in Bangkok. Tried to wire home today but they only want 1.25 a word, cheapest rate, which is 78 U.S. cents. I’ll wait and see what Indo-China has to offer.

Took a sampan across the river to visit the temples over there. Immediately you leave the river bank you are in a dense, heavy, impenetrable  jungle, the heavy humid atmosphere of which weighs you down and makes you sweat mercilessly. It is little inhabited, only in spots, and is intersected by several small canals. Only a maze of paths to travel on—if you can find them. Some are blind, others appear and disappear, they branch off—everything calculated to lose a stranger, and in three minutes I might have been in Africa for all I knew. Thus wandering about blindly I came upon two temples tucked away in the luxuriant foliage: also queer little native bazaars, houses, etc. An hour and I came out upon the river to find that I had only gained a half mile, so I crossed over again and wandered through the Chinese section near the river called Sampeng Lane where the streets are a couple of yards wide and more than busy and crowded.

Coming out south of the Palace near Wat Leib, I dropped in. When leaving, a young Siamese in dirty khaki shirt and shorts insisted in his lingo and a couple words of English that I follow him. Rather curious, I permitted him to lead me through the cluster of monks’ cloisters to one of the most interesting sights I have seen here—an old temple building now in decay and used to store wood in. We climbed in through the window, over a couple of wood piles in the semi-darkness and when my eyes became used to the light , I could see, from light pouring in holes in the roof, that this was the receptacle for the old unused Buddhas. They were everywhere—against walls, pillars, in boxes, on shelves, strewn in piles on the floor. They ranged in size from larger-than-life-sized sitting gilt images to the tiniest. Most were of wood, slowly rotting away—probably many were over a hundred years old—sitting, standing, hands in different positions. A few were of brass or metal. A person could make a fortune from the sale of those old temple images. I stuck a nice small one in my pocket—wood, but well-preserved yet old and dust covered. It wears the high pointed headdress, is sitting, and still retains much of the gild. If it weren’t for the difficulty of getting the things out of Siam, I would have bought a larger and better one—probably could have—but a permit is necessary to export any of Siam’s old relics from the country.

Plenty hot today, and though it is 7:30 PM and I have but a towel over my shoulders, I am soaked. This close, humid atmosphere makes it seem much hotter than it really is—probably wasn’t over 95° today. Have to pull out of here while I yet have enough to get to Angkor and Saigon, although I would thoroughly enjoy remaining here another week. But money is darned unsociable in these parts and won’t stay with you long. Hope these mosquitoes feel happy. They have been racing about me in swarms for the last two hours, helping themselves to tea and supper. Well, I’m sort of resigned now—don’t fight any longer, just laugh and let the devil do the rest.

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