BANGKOK -- The fragrance of sandalwood fills the air in a well-lit room in a government compound in Bangkok's historic quarter, rising from an ornately carved coffin and a giant urn placed on stands in the center of the room. Visitors troop by in respectful silence.
Thai craftsmen have spent months producing these funeral artifacts, with exquisite attention to detail, blending slivers of delicately carved wood and miniature figures of the mythical Garuda, Thailand's bird-like national emblem. Each Garuda comprises 53 slender pieces of sandalwood. The urn is even more elaborate: it has 10,000 pieces.
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