The wreckage of Baan Amphoe Beach
the Wreckage, a Lotus Blooms
Story and Photos by Gary Singh
aan Amphoe Beach sits about 15 km from Pattaya, Thailands
Dionysian party playground. I am here amidst an assortment of wrecked
fishing boats, all parked on the beach in various states of disrepair.
It looks like a tsunami has just hit, but I learn from the nearby Malabar
Seafood Restaurant that this is where the locals store their boats when
they need to get fixed.
Its funny, primarily because Baan means village
and Amphoe means district, and there exist many different English spellings
for anything in Thai. I see it written Baan-Am-Per, Ban Amphur and at
least a few others. But the absurdity phases me none. On the contrary,
the desolated abandonment of the entire scenario beckons me to stay.
I got a thing for abandoned places.
Dilapidated fishing boats at Baan Amphoe
As I contemplate the scene, a storm appears
imminent, with a dreary gunmetal sky hovering above all. Crashes
of thunder begin to reverberate across the landscape, juxtaposed
only against the horrific 70s AM-radio monstrosities emanating
from the Malabar Restaurant. Leo Sayer would be proud to know he
is only a heartbeat away from this destroyed nautical
bric-a-brac near the Gulf of Siam.
The storm looms
And here at Baan Amphoe, I also sense a feeling
of laidback acceptance of all things as they are. As soon as one
local floats up in his fishing boat, he begins pumping the water
out of it. The boat has a leak, it seems. More locals are yelling
playfully at each other across the inlet. A few bored seagulls
float in and out of the scene. A few children scamper about. Everyone
appears to be in a lazy mood due to the pulverizing humidity,
even though the rain is starting to come down.
Baan Amphoe locals take in the day
Malabar Restaurant is cheap. As I meticulously pick
through a delicious grouper fish, a syrupy instrumental version of Neil
Diamonds Sweet Caroline fills the room. Moments later,
the sky darkens to near-black and the rain suddenly becomes violent.
The employees scramble to shut the sliding glass barriers that separate
the restaurant from the outside patio. I am now safe to watch the abandoned
fishing boats in all their ruined glory.
With the storm now in full force, the boats look even
more wrecked and desolate. Many Thais believe in animism, and I wouldnt
be surprised if spirits from times past are lurking here somewhere.
At Baan Amphoe, there must be spirits
After experiencing the desolated and remote wreckage
at Baan Amphoe, it was time to revel in the polar opposite: sheer luxury.
Shattered nautical wreckage and luxury hotels can be seen as merely
two sides of the same coin. Just like yin and yang, each scene compliments
So, one day later, the opulent Siam Kempinski Hotel
in Bangkok became my next place of contemplation. After all, what would
a bleak stew of conked-out fishing boats be without a contradictory
scenario? In particular, the Garden Wing of the Siam Kempinski features
21 swim-up rooms with direct pool access (see photos).
Left: View from outside the swim-up room; Right:
View from inside the swim-up room
Inside, weary folks might feel overwhelmed
by the enormity of the Kempinskis grand lobby in all its glory--the
interior design alone is staggering--but as a traveler who often
feels like a ghost looking in on humanity, I fit in perfectly. The
Kempinsky is inimitable. It is not cookie-cutter. The hallways are
refreshingly maze-like, an uplifting change from the repetitive
straight corridors of so many homogeneous box hotels.
Tenth-floor view of the Siam Kempinski
pools and gardens
But the propertys art collection, above
all else, is what comes crashing through as the key visual component.
Over 4000 pieces of native artwork fill the rooms, hallways, public
spaces and especially the lobby, creating a vibrant cultural backdrop.
Of those 4000 pieces, 200 are commissioned paintings, sculptures
and photographs from more than 30 Thai artists. It took four years
to amass the entire collection.
Lotus-themed artwork appears on every wall, every
nook and cranny
The lobby alone functions as a 24-hour art gallery of
sorts, with lotuses and splashing water serving as the foundation and
source inspiration for the rest of the collection. The wall sconces
are formed like the decorative fingernails of traditional Northern Thai
dancers, with lotus patterns blooming from splashing water. Similar
lotus patterns appear on the elevator doors and signage, as well as
the employees uniforms.
Left: Urn on the 10th floor;
Right: The Kempinski stocks its own bottled water in the rooms
The lotus appears everywhere at the Kempinski
Especially for a traveler in Thailand, where Buddhism
penetrates everything, all of this leaves an indelible impression. The
lotus in ancient worlds was believed to symbolize the union of the four
elements: Earth, Air, Fire and Water. Its roots are in the earth, it
grows in and by means of water, its leaves are nourished by air and
it blooms through the power of the suns fire. Therefore, the lotus
can represent the fourfold order of the natural world.
The unfolding petals of the lotus also symbolize the
expansion of the enlightened self. As the saying goes: From the
darkest mud blooms the brightest lotus. One neednt eliminate
the imperfection, the mud, the wreckage, in order to bloom. It is precisely
in that mud where our own true nature thrives.
And yes, I am transformed. In a period of just two days,
I have traversed a tiny slice of the Thai landscape. From the abandoned
wreckage and dreariness of a desolated beach at Baan Amphoe to the opulent
environs of the Siam Kempinski Hotel, I have bloomed.
The Siam Kempinski features 21 swim-up rooms