The Phuket Vegetarian Festival – held each year since 1825 – kicked off yesterday with lots of screaming and beating of drums. Check out my other blog at Asian Meanderings for a selection of photos of events over the next nine days or so. As I am on holiday from work this month, I am stuck without a reliable WiFi connection at my home and am trying to post these blog entries and photos using my mobile phone. It’s a bit hit-or-miss as the networks are often completely down and snail’s pace slow when they work at all.
At least today I only have two items of mail to talk about, eight stamps and a postcard. As seen above, the stamps are from Abu Dhabi – eight from the sheikdom’s first set of eleven issued in March 1964 – mint, never hinged. It is exceedingly difficult to obtain stamps from the British-protected era of Abu Dhabi at reasonable prices nowadays. A once affordable country to collect has seen values heading upward recently as new collectors in the Arabian Gulf discover the pre-UAE issues. There’s a lot of competition in the market right now…
Next up is a postcard picturing a few of the princesses from King Chulalongkorn’s day. That is the highly-revered King Rama V who is definitely the Thai people’s favorite king next to the present monarch, Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX). The postcard is from a Thai collector by the name of Jobbo whom I met via my “Please, Mr. Postman!” postcards-only blog. Here he mentions the weekend market that is held in the parking lot of the old General Post Office building in Bangkok.
I’ve long wanted to spend a holiday in Bangkok searching out places to buy stamps, inspired in no small part by a vastly out-out-date guide originally compiled by Alan Cameron. The following is an excerpt of the relevant sections:
“GENERAL POST OFFICE
Location: 1160 Charoen Krung Road
Map Grid: G-6
The GPO is an absolute must for a visiting stamp collector, not only for the sake of the building itself and the services provided there but also because the largest concentration of postage stamp stores in Bangkok is within a 1-2 minute walk from this location.
Let’s assume you get there early on a weekend morning, perhaps about 0800. The main hall that you enter is huge, and there are 39 service counters in front of you. At the extreme right end of the hall is the pack and wrap service area. There is also a doorway here entering into a room off of which are the restrooms, a staircase, and an entryway into the telegraph office. (Telegraph office is now closed and blocked off. There is a small counter just inside the main GPO entrance that now takes telegrams. Telegram service is rapidly being phased out of the Thai postal service.) Want a good photograph of the main hall? Go up one flight on the staircase and you’ll find a large window over-looking the hall.
At the other end of the main hall are the Post Restante facilities and the Philatelic section. You should go to the philatelic sales windows first because they’ll be hard to get to later after the crowds arrive. If the windows are already open you’ll find a basket of scrap paper on the counter. Take a piece and write down the code numbers of the stamps, souvenir sheets, first day covers, maximum cards, etc. displayed in the various cases and then get in line.
Why is the GPO located here? With all of the tall buildings around it’s hard to realize it but the back yard of the GPO is the Chao Phraya River, and the GPO was probably constructed here around 1940 because of its proximity to the river. You can get to the river by walking down some of the sois off of Charoen Krung Road. A new GPO Tower (high-rise building) has now been constructed behind the old GPO building. It has a unique “Broadcast Tower” on it’s top that can be seen from a great distance. The river is behind this new building.
THE GPO WEEKEND BOURSE
Location: In front of the General Post Office, 1160 Charoen Krung Road
Map Grid: G-6
Hours: Sat-Sun only 0900-1700. Some dealers start leaving around 3:00PM.
Almost 20 stamp dealers operate from an open-sided tent erected in the parking lot in front of the GPO on New Road every weekend. Sales start at 0900 or earlier but many of the dealers don’t arrive until near noon. Each dealer has his material spread out on a table and there are usually plenty of chairs so you can sit down and go through their stock books and boxes of covers and souvenir sheets. For those who like classical Thai stamps and postal history, pay a visit to Kitti Damrongvadhana, who has a large and interesting stock together with a vast knowledge of the subject. He also speaks excellent English, German and French.
This is a must stop, not only because of the large number of dealers here but also because many of them do not have stores where you can visit them.”