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Meesa gonna kill you!

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Saturday, May 04, 2013

France 2012 - Day 1 - Arrival

France 2012
Day 1 - 13th October - Arrival


Note: This series is called "France 2012". In January 2012 I also visited France, but that is tagged "Europe CNY 2012" since I spent most of my time in Great Britain.

I wasn't intending to go to France again in 2012, but I won the Runme Shaw Cup at the Alliance Française and so got a free air ticket on Air France (sans taxes) and a week at a school, Institut International de Rambouillet.

My journey didn't start well. Because of a delay in the arriving plane, my flight was delayed by 15.5 hours.

The A380 was indeed more spacious than other long distance planes. I couldn't quite remember the last time I'd been on an A380 (October 2010) but I think it was also better than other planes then.

The flight was quite empty. Possibly people had booked other flights in order to reach France earlier.

Some Air France aircrew had red badges to indicate that they were "Safety" staff. This was puzzling: shouldn't all aircrew have safety training? What additional training is required? Or is this like Range in the SAF - they just get arrowed with a few additional duties?

Annoyingly there were no aircon vents to control the flow of air to my seat (weirdly there was one in the toilet). And occasionally snow (ice chips) fell from above).

I was very impressed with the in-flight entertainment. There were more than 200 music CDs, and the movie selection was huge.

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"kids" was not localised into French

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World Cinema - in English and the original language (e.g. "Indian"), with no French.

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One could load one's USB drive with useful information. Unlike the Dutch they didn't translate "infos pratiques" as "practical information" (i.e. there's impractical information). Perhaps this is an endemic European problem, since there're examples from the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Colombia, Spain and Austria. Actually I don't think there's a good translation in English for the concept of "practical information". Perhaps "logistics"?

One movie had a soundtrack in both Cantonese and "官話". I was quite pleased to finally sight this term in the wild.

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The baguette was very slightly crusty, though it was cold. Note the two desserts.
The appetiser looked good but wasn't very flavourful. The fish was tasteful though it wasn't good quality fish.

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No pork. Gah.

I was amused to be offered a digestif (I wasn't offered an aperitif but I guess I could've asked for one). Hoho. So I got a pear liqueur. It was very sweet and smooth, slipping down the throat. Though I spilt half of it. Grr.

Air France had a self-service beverage bar (with snacks like Breton chocolate cookies, les galettes sablées vanille à l'ancienne and cheese crackers - albeit with palm oil in the latter). They had Sprite from 3 countries (the US, China and Singapore), Champagne Brut and lemon - but no Häagen-Dazs, as I'd been told (cost-cutting, perhaps). I sneaked upstairs to see if we lesser mortals were getting stiffed but the selection looked the same. I asked a stewardess and she said it depended on the flight, and there would be fruit salad, sandwiches and soup in the second half of the flight (there wasn't - I got conned).

I found Air France service to be better than both KLM and Lufthansa, making it the best European airline I'd flown. They were not friendly, but at least were polite (and not just because I spoke French, from what I heard of their interactions with other passengers). The self-service bar got refilled with stuff (and different stuff too!) Even the ice got refilled. KLM had had the self-service bar too, but it hadn't been refilled.

Since my flight would arrive at almost midnight, I employed my anti-jetlag technique of matching the timezone and ended up consuming more in-flight entertainment than normal. I watched "As One", which was shameless feel-good Korean propaganda. This would be considered gauche if it were in Western Cinema (e.g. Special Forces got bashed as propaganda because it was not critical). As One made the Chinese look bad, the South Koreans look good and the North Koreans less bad than they probably are.


There was a documentary from Arté on "It girls" (i.e. girls who are famous for being famous [and pretty]). My comment: "tout le monde aime une jolie fille" (everyone loves a pretty young girl).

It Girls are 16-20 years old and they fan the endless flames of desire and consumption. The idea of an It Girl is "the shoes you gotta have, the bags you gotta have, even the girls you gotta have". It was quite critical as befitted a French production, and was very honest about Cory Kennedy (no wonder Sandra Chung refused to be interviewed); she said she had become an adult, so it was no fun being an It Girl (interestingly enough, since she was 21 it was considered daring to still feature her).

They also featured Blake Lively, 23 (I thought that was supposed to be too old) and Kim Kardashian (29 - definitely too old).

The documentary "Profession It Girl" quoted Peaches Geldof: "Every girl wants to be an It Girl" since one gets to "be celebrated publicly for being yourself". She then said there was lust in every girl.

The image of an It Girl is that they don't have to work. Young girls who idolise It Girls have work as a big part of their lives, but they want a life of leisure, branded goods and doing what they want.

The script was great, with the narrator having lines like "the problem with becoming famous without having put any effort into it is you are dependent on others", "[It Girls are a] product of the narcissistic illusion that you have several lives and when you put it into action something creative is bound to come out of it", "the trials and tribulations of New York city youth fluctuate between partying and shopping", "the apparent ease with which [Taylor Momsen] assumes her lolita trash image serves as an inspiration for all young girls searching for their identity" and "that's the future of the feminine condition in the West. To have money and spend as much as possible and to have an okay job".

One of the staff serving an It Girl: "You've grown up. You have breasts. You've slept with men"
It Girl: "I know"

"How else can we enjoy life by spending" - some girl

Perhaps the most fun part of the documentary was when I listened to the French version, and I could hear the contempt dripping from the narrator's voice.

The moral of the story for It Girls is that it is a great example of the objectification of women by themselves and other women - for the consumption of other women (I don't think you can deny that this is primarily about the Female Gaze, not the Male one).


The in-flight entertainment told you, while watching a movie, the time to your destination. In retrospect this seems very obvious, so I'm not sure why it struck me (perhaps I didn't notice it on other airlines).

There was another documentary: "les ados: métro, boulot, dodo" (Teens: the soul numbing drudgery of wage slavery) where they were interviewed about what they thought of wage slavery. It was very depressing. Interestingly, the presenter had a sociology/philosophy degree and shadowed adolescents for a year (that was not the depressing bit).

I was lying down when the seatbelt sign came on. I got up but the attendant was okay with me putting on the seatbelt when I was lying down. However she fastened a seatbelt around my neck, so when the turbulence came I got strangled. So much for safety!

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This one had no "no pork".


15.5 hour delay aside, why would one fly "Can I helpch you?" (SIA) instead of Air France?

Friday, May 03, 2013

On being a moral agent

"Garcin turns out to have the worst case of "bad faith" of all three characters in this section. He can't decide on his own that he is not coward, but will only believe it if Estelle says so herself. Even though he later says that he made his choice "deliberately" and that a man is what he "wills himself to be," Garcin wearily explains that he can't decide for himself if he is a coward or not. He says that he is unsure of his motives and that he has been unable to be honest with himself about why he ran for the border. He also obsesses about the people who are judging him back on earth. He claims that he has left his "fate in their hands."

This classic example of bad faith stems from Garcin's complete inability to accept responsibility for is actions. Rather than acknowledge his freedom to choose his own personality, Garcin surrenders his free will to other people. He becomes a "being-in-itself," whose essence is determined by the look of the "other." This is why he can't leave when the door opens. He can't imagine existing on his own, knowing that Inez will be judging him and that he won't know what she is saying. Just like Estelle's inability to feel that she exists without seeing herself in a mirror, Garcin is unable to exist without other people defining his essence for him.

Garcin also remains a prisoner of his past. He keeps "listening" to what people are saying about him rather than listening to his own voice in the present. Even when he attempts to convince Inez that he is not a coward in the present, he continually justifies his actions in the past. For instance, he suggests that he died "too soon" and "wasn't allowed time" to act, forgetting that he will be stuck in hell for eternity. Sartre wrote that the responsibility for one's freedom was so overwhelming that we are "condemned to be free," a statement literally played out by Garcin's inability to leave the room. Unable to exist without people judging his past, Garcin condemns himself to remain in the eternal present of the room.

It is fitting that Sartre originally entitled the play The Others. Suffering under the German occupation, Sartre wrote that he began to understand that Evil was just as absolute and independent as Good in society. By simply placing three individuals in the same room, Sartre not only suggests that hell naturally exists on earth but that "hell is other people." As Garcin discovers, there is no need for physical torture: the gaze of the "other" reduces and "devours" his individuality. He is unable to do anything, even kiss Estelle, when Inez is watching. Ignoring his innate freedom and responsibility, Garcin thinks Inez's judgment is the only proof of his existence."

--- SparkNotes: No Exit: Section 3

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Best Iron Man 3 Trailer


"IRON MAN 3 Trailer - Thai sweded by FEDFE"

BKK 2012 - Day 3, Part 2 - Bangkok National Museum

BKK 2012
Day 3, Part 2 - 9th September - Bangkok National Museum


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Some building

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Buddhaisawan Chapel

Unfortunately the signage was not as good outside of the first gallery, like in the Red House.

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Bed of Queen Sri Suriyenthra

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Red House

Next was the Buddhaisawan Chapel.

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Vishnu holding weapon

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Chapel entrance

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Inside the chapel

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Mural

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Altar

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Window in chapel

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Rooms in the museum

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Pavilion

Next was a gallery with various royal stuff.

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Clothes "made under the suggestion of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit"

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Masks

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Khon Mask

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Box, cassettes

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Monk's fan

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Carved Wooden Door Guardian

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Bussabok Kroen Throne

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Throne detail

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"Replica of combat aircraft" (there was no model indicated, but I think it was an F-16)

Overall, more than half the museum was non-airconditioned with stuff just in cabinets (sadly - the 19th century museum model).

Though the museum's approach to Thai history left much to be desired, I was very impressed that they had, not just non-Thai Asian stuff, but non-Asian stuff.

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Roman jars

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Sino-Thai Bencharong covered jars
The Sino-Thai stuff was not as nice as the Chinese stuff

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On the jars

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Guardian (davarapal) fragment

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Tang Dynasty tomb relief

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Tang tomb ware

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Very ugly Chinese tomb figurine

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Wood carvings

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Mythical bird Kinnari

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Crouching elephant

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Monkey, Demon and unlabelled item

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Wood carvings

Sadly the Mother-of-Pearl gallery was closed. The ivory room was closed for lunch (2 hours from 11:30-1:30 - how French) so I had to return later.

There was a room for kids.

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Ladies of the palace

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Fashions of Siamese courtesans
Someone should point out to them that courtesans are not the same as ladies of the court

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Window

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"Please take off your shoes and carry them with you to prevent the loss"
This was sad. People steal shoes in museums?!

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Saweta Chatra Throne

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Tang ceramics

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Guardian Lion - possibly plundered from Angkor!

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Buddha on Naga

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Buddha under Naga

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9 Deities

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Birth of Buddha

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Nagapasa scene

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Lion

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Metope with Elephant

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Lion

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Lion

There was some Chinese stuff (some from the Royal Collection, but not all) and some Indian stuff (some presented by India or excavated by the Musée Guimet - perhaps there had been a swap). There was also a Byzantine oil lamp from the Israeli ambassador. There were also Japanese and Chinese Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. So there was some form of Pan-Asian perspective. Notably, not all the foreign stuff had been given by foreign dignitaries (this ties in to museums in the Third World being used for political purposes rather than educational ones).

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Standing Buddha (from India). Notice the long, disproportionate arm

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Meditating Buddha (from India)

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"Indian Arts, Gandhara Style"
I wonder if they didn't label it as a Buddha because it was Greco-Buddhist art (i.e. it didn't conform to their idea of what Buddha should look like)

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Kannon

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Clay Plaque with (?) Minotaurs

I found the Burmese stuff the most interesting, because I'd not seen much of it elsewhere. The proportion was off, but that added to its charm somehow

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Crowned Buddha (Burmese)

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Votive stupa

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Crowned Buddha (Burmese)

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Crowned Buddha (Burmese)

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Image of Buddha in Bhumisparasa Mudra
Even though this was 19th century the proportion was still off. Ironically the 1st-4th century Greco-Buddhist Buddha was a lot more lifelike.

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Votive tablets in "pagan style" (hah!)

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Buddha in 8 episodes

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Stucco fragment of the image of Buddha. Greco-Buddhist art, 1st-4th centuries, escavated in Afghanistan by the Musée Guimet (!)

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Standing Buddha

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Lokesvara Bodhisattva (Indian)

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Rubbing of a bas relief "depicting the Buddha and Hindu God"

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Ganesa (from Java)

There was some other Javanese stuff - I wonder how they got it.

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Agastya (Shiva in the form of Maha Guru) obtained via exchange with the Dutch

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Apsara

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Buddha sheltered by Naga Hoods. Despite being from 1183 this was very well preserved.

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Avalokitesvara

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Padmapan
Interestingly though this was from Thailand it had Javanese influence

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Vishnu

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Vishnu

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Singha (who says hi)

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Shiva and Parvati

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Dvarapala

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Musicians

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Brahma on Swan

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Flying Deity, Relief of Human or Deity

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Sketch of reconstruction of stucco fragments

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"Divine of Bodhisattva"

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High ranking woman (ahh, the days when high ranking women went around topless!)

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Sima with Buddha descending from Tavatimsa heaven

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Avalokitesvara

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Buddha descending, showing the great miracle

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Deity

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Buddha meditating

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Deer crouching

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Buddha

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Wheel of Law

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Votive tablets. 9th-21st century
This was very useful dating

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Face of Singha

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Wheel of Law and Deer

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On "Dvaravati Arts"

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Wheel of Law, Crouching Deer

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I was surprised by this critical evaluation of the Dvaravati period: whether it was a "Kingdom, State or Urban Community". In fact this was the first critical commentary I'd seen in the museum.

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Brahma

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Female figure. Nice figure, and topless too.

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Apsara

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Standing Buddha

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Radiating avalokitesvara

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Prajnaparamita

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Avalokitesvara

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Buddha Descending from Tavatimsa Heaven

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Pilaster

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Lintel

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Lintel

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Lintel with Krisna killing Naga

The prehistory section was closed for lunch, but I didn't care.

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Shiva Linga

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Base for a sculpture (yoni)
I love the description of it as a "base". And how "linga" and "yoni" were not translated.

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Vishnu

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Vishnu

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Surya (sun god)

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Maitreya Bodhisattva

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Bodhisattva head

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Singha

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Garuda holding Naga

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Ornaments

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More Ornaments

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I don't know why I took this

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Palanquin parts

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Building roof

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Naga head

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Garuda seizing naga

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Buddha subduing Mara

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Buddhist pedestal

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Pedestal of a Buddha subduing Mara

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Pediment

Annoying, the whole northern wing with art from the 13th century on was closed.

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Naga head

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Spirit house of the front palace

I then adjourned to the museum restaurant for lunch.

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The ever-important Thai iced tea. It was small though.

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Fried noodle with pork, chilies and hot basil leaves (Pad Kimao). Cheap at 35B
This was the closest to the true street price I'd ever see
It was great, but quite fiery even though I'd picked out the chili. It was an exception to the "Murals in restaurants are on a par with the food in museums" rule
I was tempted to order fried rice also (the portion wasn't that big) but it'd have been too much, so I decided to eat more mystery street food on the way back

One white guy came in and ordered pad thai. Hey, I like pad thai and I'm sure it'd have been very good, but I didn't go to Thailand for pad thai.

Next was some royal vehicles.

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Royal Chariot of Great Victory
There was a "lesser-type" chariot, but it was as grand as the main chariot (this one)

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Mechanical hoist. Apparently 1811 is "the ancient era"

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???
I suppose non-Thais would not have been interested

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Yellow nipples? The previous night all the ones I'd seen had been brown. I suppose this is a divine creature, so that's the difference.

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Meanwhile the male figure had no nipples

The various royal things (building, chariots with very tall lightning rods etc) were hard to snap in their entirety.

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???

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Phra Ti Nang Rachendrayan State Palanquin

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I then returned to the ivory room. I was glad that I had, despite the lack of English. Maybe this was to deter CITES inspectors.

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Ivory room

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On elepehants

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Sleeping Buddhas

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Buddhas

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Tusks

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Tusk detail

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Tusk detail

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Tusk detail

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Boys

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Pond fascinating: German girls playing with flowers

A principled museum would've announced at the entrance that part of the collection was unavailable for viewing (I think there was some water damage to the roof). This one didn't. I didn't expect a reduced entrance fee, but at least a disclaimer would've been nice.

There was a bilingual book in the bookshop: "les messagers divins / divine messengers".

A tuk tuk driver offered me 100B to get back to the hotel. I said that was expensive. He then offered 20B, which shocked me, but he said I needed to make 2 stops at his sponsors. So I took the water taxi again.

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Mysterious drink. 2 hawkers quoted me 20B. A third one further away quoted me 15B - I managed to apply economic principles to get the invisible hand to undermine the cartel due to imperfect information!
It was possibly a grass drink, and had an indescribable taste

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Thai Cap cai png (mixed rice)

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Curry puffs

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"Be careful. Don't believe outside people which give you false information"

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Temple beside navy HQ

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Pagoda

There was a house with a huge portrait of the King and Queen above its door - facing the water.

There was a Holy Rosary Church built in Neo-Gothic style.

There was a "Happy Air" airlines.

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"Passengers who would like to take Durian into the aircraft, please contact airline staffs at check-in counter"
"Passengers who would like to load firearms into the aircraft, please contact airline staffs at check-in counter"
Durians are as bad as guns

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"Suggestion"

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"Reception room for Buddhist monks"
Note also that there is a prayer room for Muslims - but not others (Buddhists?)

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Muslim prayer room: "No: smoking, eating, drinking, talking, sleeping, littering"

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Avis: "Please ask AVIS Counter for Special Rate. You'll get discount"
If everyone gets a discount, no one gets a discount

We then went to the food court, which was like the staff canteen.

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"No pork"

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Kway zhap, teochew style porridge (rice in water)

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Green papaya salad with crispy chicken skin, crispy papaya salad. For some reason there was corn in the dip for the latter.

Amusingly more than half the food in the airport food court was Chinese.

Nestea does Thai Iced Tea. Hah.

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I don't know why I took the meal tickets.

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Tom yam with pork! Or "any kind of balls"

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Sauces galore. And sugar

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This was probably Tom Yam with pork ribs. The chili was a timebomb which only hit later.

I was told: "Most Thais dress like HDB people in their 60s... not just any HDB. Must be Queenstown, Redhill, Outram Park". I ws of the opinion that the age group was more like the 40s.

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More delicious pork dishes

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Hainanese Chicken Rice. I believe there was a mutton option. And the sauces were suspicious.

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My note for this is : "Emirates - business class perks?"

There was a liquid disposal bin (for you to drain liquids into) - after security screening. They should've put it before so no one would throw away their bottles pre-emptively. I swear, it's all a scam with budget airlines involved so they can sell drinks.

On exiting the country, we again got our photos taken (like on entry). One UAE woman lifted her face veil. And you cannot wear a hat, but her head was still covered. I wonder what would happen if you went in with no hat but a tudung. Arab men also have headgear which is like a hat - must they remove it?

There was a counter where one could pay fines for overstaying. Hah.

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One of the eternal mysteries: what is the smoke that airplanes blow into the cabin? I have added this question to Quora and one answer says "It's just condensation (water vapor). Think of it as fog."

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Chewing gum was not on the list of articles prohibited in Singapore, perpetuating the myth that it is alright to bring chewing gum in for personal use. Also it's a bit late to ask people to "Please do not bring these items into Singapore" (they are already in Singapore)

I was amused that even the Budget Terminal got free phone calls.

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Redundant Carl's Jr opening hours sign


Something that struck me: I didn't see pineapple fried rice, olive fried rice, pandan chicken or Thai fish cake. And I think the only green/red curry I'd seen was in Thai mixed rice.
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