I recently travelled to Thailand – and my first time in Asia. I was prepared for it to be a feast for my senses and it didn’t disappoint.
Chiang Mai is a 700-year-old city in the north of the country and has many attractions. My travelling companion knows the city well and it was a fitting start to our holiday known between us as the Temples and Textiles Tour.
But of course my antenna was up for anything book related so I perked up when we drove past the National Library of Thailand building on one of our circuits of the old city. I took note of the opening hours (closed Sunday to Tuesday) and we visited the following Wednesday.In the foyer, there was a huge display of photographs of teacher and scholar Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, the third born child of the reigning King of Thailand. This was our first meeting but before the end of that week I had seen her image many times : her birthday was being celebrated throughout the country. Here’s a tribute seen at Phanom Rung Historical Park.
A librarian called Gale welcomed us into the children’s library. It looked like most primary school libraries: vinyl flooring, freestanding low shelves, with most books shelved spine out. I showed her Baby Ways and she pulled out local picture books for me to look at. Here are the ones I liked best.
Trees in the Garden was published by Amarin Publishing in 1998. The words are by Cheewan Wisasa and Preeda Panyachand is the illustrator. The doublespreads feature children playing in, around and with different fruit trees. Here’s what’s possible in a banana plantation.
There are pictures that wouldn’t feature in an Australian book – the child with a machete over his head to cut bananas down and in the centre right panel below (from the endpapers) a grandmother chastises a child with a stick. Spot the mulberry grove!
Joy radiates from the pages and I pored over it, trying to guess what the fruits were – as I had earlier that morning, in the market just down the road from the library.
Here’s my favourite page. Probably because of the washing line full of printing.
This book features in a booklist produced in Singapore called Forest of Stories.
I was interested to see a collection of nursery rhymes, some of which I could recognise from the pictures: not this one. I tentatively asked Gale if it was really about a kangaroo – she said, Of course! Not sure what the little athletes at the bottom have to do with the verse either.
We didn’t stay long – I didn’t want to exhaust the patience of the Temple tourist. As we left, Gale offered us some refreshment for our morning tea – freshly picked tamarind. I wish I’d taken a picture of that page now.
A few days later, at Phanom Rung, I saw the Thai version of Better Beginnings tent at a festival and took another look at the thriving Thai publishing industry. Thanks Lucky Khanita for taking us there.
If Temples and Textiles ever gets to Bangkok, National Library and bookshops are top of my list to visit.