Friday, May 20, 2005

First day in Bangkok

Yesterday morning I did a workshop at a big Bangkok music school, they decided I was too experienced for their students so I gave a workshop to the teachers! It went very well.

Last night was my concert at the Residence of the Australian Ambassador to Thailand , in the Australian Embassy compound. The security at the Australian Embassies in Asia is now rigorous since the Jakarta Embassy was bombed and there was a foiled attempt in Singapore. Islamic separatism is very strong in Southern Thailand. Where the compounds used to be fairly open there are now double iron gates with mass security. Even though I was picked up at my hotel by an Embassy car with a Thai Embassy driver, upon arrival at the Embassy our vehicle was descended on by 4 security guards with long poles that had huge round mirrors on the end. These were used to inspect under the vehicle for a car bomb. It was rather disconcerting to have a vehicle I had been sitting in for 45 minutes be inspected in this way. Probably I was at the highest risk anywhere in my travels while at the Australian Embassy or travelling in their vehicles.

I played a 45 minute solo program of standards including less usual choices like Sounds of Silence, Loch Lomond and Norwegian Wood and it went very well sparking many invitations to return. The performance setting was beautifully presented with a wonderful acoustic, and an audience of invited cultural and diplomatic VIPs.

The Australian Ambassador himself is a serious jazz fan, a lovely man who casually informed me that his previous posting before coming to Thailand as Ambassador in December was as Head of the Australian Task Force in Iraq right through the recent war and its aftermath. There was our military commander in Iraq and he was head of all civilian operations.

At dinner afterwards I was seated with the Ambassador and his wife, the Canadian Ambassador to Thailand and one of the 16 Privy Councilors who are the civil representatives of His Majesty the King of Thailand. The latter, an elderly, delightful and distinguished Thai gentleman who is one of the King's right hand men sat next to me. He plays trumpet and writes arrangements for the King. The King is renowned as a jazz lover and a player of jazz (clarinet and sax), who also composes tunes. The Privy Councillor told me that the beloved King (also quite elderly) plays every Saturday night from 1am to 4am leading a big band, even at his age. Rather foolishly I asked "Where does His Majesty perform?" and the Privy Councillor answered "Why, in his Palace". I guess when you are King you don't have to go to your gig, the musicians come to you! The Privy Councillor was actually educated at Oxford where he read Law, he spoke beautiful English as did his wife. His main job (music is his pastime) is to look after the King's private investments. We spoke about poetry and literature and music, a very special evening.


At 5:48 pm, Anonymous Bangkok Hotels, Thailand said...

From my experience of Bangkok trip. I think that looking for accommodation around Sukhumvit are is the good idea because Sukhunvit is in the heart of the shopping district, both in terms of large department stores and the various stalls lining both sides of the road. The various side-streets provide a proliferation of nightlife venues. For the renowned and well-known spots, you will need to walk onwards past the Asok crossroads to Sukhumvit Soi 21 or Soi Cowboy. This area also offers a wide selection of cuisine to choose from, both in terms of air-conditioned high-end restaurants and open air restaurants offering quite reasonable prices.


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