A touch of Thai

Traditional artwork graces this East Asian ambassador's mansion.

thai house 88 (photo credit: )
thai house 88
(photo credit: )
The residence of the ambassador of Thailand, Kasivat Paruggamanont, is a magnificent mansion in Herzliya Pituah. Built about four years ago by a wealthy Israeli and rented out, it has been the embassy residence for about three years now. Although in every way it is a typically impressive and rich Israeli home, the Thai residents have made a sincere effort to add some touches from home. On either side of the vestibule, two large color portraits of the King and Queen of Thailand hang on the walls. The king, Bhumibol Adulyadej, celebrated his golden jubilee some years ago and was born in 1927, so the two paintings, which depict two young and handsome people, were perhaps slightly idealized. The first secretary of the Royal Thai Embassy, Maratee Nalita, who showed me around together with the ambassador, tells me that portraits of the king and queen grace the homes of every home in Thailand. "The monarchy is the most highly revered institution in the country," she says. "The king dedicates himself to helping the poor and encouraging research to develop better agricultural methods while the queen is very involved with charity work, helping women to produce handicrafts and work from home." While most of the furniture belongs to the embassy and is what one might see in any comfortable home, the Thai artwork scattered around helps distinguish this home from others of its kind. There are several models of the royal barge which is still used for ceremonial occasions. One is in the entrance hall on a table next to the national flag. Another, in silver, is inside the splendid lounge with its three sitting areas. Other specifically Thai ornaments are a silver replica of a Buddhist temple and a gold-plated replica of a typical head-dress. A wall cupboard contains Thai masks which add an exotic flavor. Several examples of "benjarong," a very old method of producing multi-colored ceramics, are also displayed. Stepping into the huge living area, one notes the magnificent spiral staircase which is plumb in the center of the vast room and a feature in its own right. Ornamental pillars around it are not just functional but add a palatial touch. At the foot of the staircase, next to the luxuriant flower arrangements, an aquarium is a focal point, with some healthy-looking fish swimming around in it. "I look after it myself," says the ambassador proudly. The three seating areas all have different color schemes which blend harmoniously together. The first has beige brocade sofas, navy blue tasseled scatter cushions and a blue and beige rug. The second is in red leather around a wood and glass coffee table, while the third has plain chairs with white linen armchairs. A visitor sitting in any of them can see out of the huge, plate glass windows into the garden with its smooth lawn used for receptions and its nice-sized pool. "We can easily invite 150 people to a reception here," the ambassador tells me, "but as our national day is in December, it's too cold to use the garden, so we make our winter party in the Hilton where we can invite between three and five hundred people." A small, open kitchen next to the dining table with turquoise glass work tops proved to be inadequate for the dinner parties frequently held here, so a new kitchen was added in the basement, which also houses a billiards room, a private theatre and living quarters. The private bedrooms are upstairs, at the top of the wrought-iron staircase. The Thai embassy is one of the busiest in Israel. Maratee tells me there are 25,000 Thais living here, mostly spread around the country and with about 5 percent in major cities. Many work as cooks in Asian restaurants, but the majority are agricultural workers, as they were back home. Trade between Israel and Thailand is thriving. We import canned goods like tuna and pineapple, and send approximately 100,000 tourists every year, mainly backpackers. "We get telecommunication equipment from Israel," says Maratee, "and there is cooperation between our armies, with our people coming here to train." The residence offers just a tantalizing glimpse of the decorative art that is integral to Thai culture. Do you feel you own one of Israel's most beautiful homes? Please e-mail gloriadeutsch@gmail.com.