Princess Sirindhorn is also an avid traveller to China and is proficient in Chinese. She has been to China at least 25 times. And there are still many places in China that she want to go. She said, "There are so many other places in China that I can’t wait to travel around. The only worry is that I may not have so much time to do it." So am I.
"It is my first ever Olympics opening," Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn told Xinhua, referring to her planned attendance at the opening of the Beijing Olympics next week.
"It is Beijing’s first ever Olympic Games, too. That has made me even more eager to be part of it," the Princess said in an interview with Xinhua on Wednesday.
The Princess said she wanted to join the grand event so much that she once joked about disguising herself as a Thai athlete.
"I once said that in case the ticket is too rare to get, I would dress myself with the Thai national team outfit to walk into the opening venue."
In fact, Beijing was by no way reluctant to tender an invitation for the Olympics opening ceremony to the Thai Princess, who is often amiably referred to in China as "an old friend of the Chinese people."
Known for her long and keen interest in Chinese culture, and her frequent and extensive journeys to China — more than 25 times by now, the Thai Princess has acquired a proficiency at the Chinese language in speaking, reading and writing, and developed skills at the more sophisticated arts of Chinese calligraphy and traditional Chinese painting.
The Princess has personally translated some masterpieces in ancient Chinese poetry into Thai verses for Thai people, among many other cultural exchange projects Her Royal Highness has conducted or supported that won her the reputation of "Thai-Chinese Friendship Ambassador" among Chinese.
"After I learned for a while from teachers from the Beijing University, I became obsessed with the idea of going to China … My interest in China has grown consistently as the country heads forward into a new era," the Princess told Xinhua at her office at the Chaipatana Foundation in the Chitrada Palace,
A sponsor for all kinds of art in Thailand, the Princess revealed that she used to be a sports lover, too.
"I used to like playing football (or soccer) and Sepak Takraw (a popular ball game in Southeast Asia) very much as a child. It made me happy even when I got only the part of drawing the zone lines for my fellow players."
Her father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, known for his athletic talents, would "throw his children into the sea for learning swimming, or personally teach them playing badminton. We were trained in volleyball, basketball and tennis," recalled the Princess.
But not much of sports for now, "I just walk a lot," the 53-year-old Princess said.
Thailand is dispatching a team of 51 athletes, who are departing on Aug. 4, to compete in 13 events during the Beijing Olympics August 8-24.
Speaking about Her Royal Highness’ expectation for Thailand’s achievements in the Beijing Olympics, the Princess said she appreciates a proper attitude more than a basket of medals.
"I can’t predict how many medals we will get. But for me, if everyone in our team makes real good effort and shows their sports spirit, I will call it a good performance."
After the Olympic trip, the Thai Princess has planned to continue her exploring journey to China. "There are so many other places in China that I can’t wait to travel around. The only worry is that I may not have so much time to do it."
The Princess’ next destination in China very likely would be Sichuan, a northwestern province which was hit by a 8-magnitude earthquake this May and has seen tens of thousands of people killed, injured or left homeless.
This is not the Thai Princess’ first trip to the province. "I’ve always liked Sichuan since I last visited it years ago," the Princess recalled, "so I was so shocked and sad when I heard the news about the earthquake. But I felt comfort for Chinese people when I learned that all the rescue and relief work were prompt and successful."
Her Royal Highness said she was touched when a group of 83 residents in Thailand’s southern resort island Phang Nga, who were survivors of the 2004 tsunami that hit Indian Ocean coastline countries, made a donation to Sichuan earthquake victims — slender the amount might seem but it was all they have saved from their households displaced after the disaster.
They did so "because Chinese friends have helped rebuild their homes after the tsunami, and they wanted to repay the kindness by helping Sichuan earthquake victims," she said.
The Princess herself was among the first to make a personal cash donation as a foreign royal to the earthquake victims in Sichuan. Her Royal Highness also instructed two royal charity funds to donate.
by Shen Min and Ling Shuo