Thailand – Bangkok – Part 1

For the two and a half years,  David has been working in the desert of Saudi Arabia building a copper mine.  In June he turned 60 years old and for whatever reason, the Saudi government will not renew a work visa for someone who is 60 or older.  David’s contract was through December 2018.  So, that meant he would be off of the project at the end of the year.  He had “compensation time” coming to him of over 100 days that if he didn’t take it, he would lose.  Those 100 days started September 17, 2018.  

Due to the tax laws for someone working outside of the United States, he needed to stay out of the US until November 12, 2018.  If he returned early, he would have to pay more in taxes.  We decided, rather than pay the taxes, we would take advantage of the time he had off and travel throughout Southeast Asia, a part of the world that we had never been to.  

We really didn’t make many plans for this 2-month adventure.  We were able to arrange our flights so that we met at the Dubai airport.  From Dubai, we flew together to Bangkok, Thailand where we had arranged to stay for 6 nights.  The only other plan that we had for our trip is that we were flying back to the states from Hanoi, Vietnam on November 12th, 2018.  

Thailand – Bangkok

We landed in Bangkok around 8:00 AM and got a taxi to our Airbnb apartment.  For all the traveling I have done in my life, I was totally overwhelmed by this city.  We seemed to take so many different twists and turns on highways to get to our place that I didn’t know if I would ever be able to get my bearings.  

After a day or two, the city made a little more sense and we were able to get around on the Skytrain system and the river taxis.  I believe that we stayed close to the Silom and Riverside area.  We were close to the Saphan Taksin (Central Pier) on the Skytrain and were about a 20-minute walk to the river taxis docks.  

We did see several popular sights that Bangkok had to offer.  I must say though, that the temperatures were so very hot and humid.  The week that we were there, the temperatures were easily 90-plus degrees Fahrenheit (about 33 Celsius) and the humidity about 100%.  After spending a day outside, we were totally drained.  

One day, we took the water taxi (15 cents per person) to Wat Arun, Wat Pho, and the Grand Palace.   In Thailand, “Wat” means a type of Buddhist temple. 

Wat Arun

We stumbled on this temple quite by accident.  It was our intentions to visit just Wat Pho and the Grand Palace.  When the water taxi stopped at this temple, we hopped off thinking that we were close to our destination.  I am glad that we made the mistake.  This was a beautiful spot. 

Originally, it was known as Wat Makok after the Bang Makok village that it was situated in.  After the fall of the ancient capital, Ayutthaya in 1767, King Taksin moved the capital to this area in 1768.  It is believed that he arrived at dawn after sailing down the Chao Phraya River.  He renamed the temple after the Indian god of dawn, Aruna to honor the symbolic and literal founding of a “new Ayutthaya.”  

We didn’t actually visit the temple but just walked around the prang (tower) that is done in the Khmer style.  We were afraid that we wouldn’t have enough time for Wat Pho and the Royal Palace.

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The prang stands 270 ft (82 meters) high and is very impressive.  It is decorated in shells and pieces of colorful porcelain that were from the ballast on boats from China.  It didn’t always stand this high.  During the reign of King Rama II (1809-1824), that the king had it raised about 230′ (70 meters).  At the corner of the main prang are four, smaller satellite towers.  I just don’t feel that my words will give this magnificent structure the true appreciation it deserves, so I will stop rambling and share my photos with you.

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One of the satellite towers.

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Chinese soldiers and animals are used to decorate the prangs.

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An example of the broken pieces of porcelain used to decorate the prang.  Just a work of art!

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Looking back towards the Ordination Hall (Ubosot).

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Hopefully, this will give you an idea of what the main prang looks like with the four satellite towers.

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The gate entrance to the Ordination Hall guarded by Yakshas.  Yakshas look imposing but they are believed to be benevolent creatures who strive for goodness to prevail over evil.

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Yakshas are important in Thai art, literature, and architecture.  Throughout Thailand, these large giants are used as guards at the temples.

Wat Pho (Reclining Buddha) 

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This is a model of Wat Pho to give you an idea of the many buildings in this temple complex.  To the left are the temples and to the right is where the monks reside.

To get to Wat Pho we hopped another water taxi to ferry us across to the other side of the river where this temple and the Grand Palace are located.  I read somewhere that this reclining Buddha is the third largest in Thailand…I cannot imagine a larger Buddha…this one was very big!  

This temple also boasts having the largest Buddha statue collection and was the country’s earliest center for public education.   Here are a couple of photos showing some of the many Buddha statues that were located throughout the complex. fullsizeoutput_302bfullsizeoutput_2f95

There are different sections of this temple that sits on about 20 acres of land (8 hectares).  Most of the tourists’ sights are on the northern sections, the monks’ facilities are located on the southern side of the grounds.  The temple compound is also the center for the teaching of traditional Thai medicine and Thai massage.  This was mandated by Rama III when they were in danger of extinction.  Today, you can get a massage at one of the two massage pavilions.  A Thai massage is highly recommended if you need to be revived from a day of sightseeing!  

The Phra BuddhaIMG_8279

This Buddha image is one of the best known and one of the most popular icons in Thailand.  It is 150 ft (46 meters) in length.  From the base of the statue to the topknot, it is 49 ft (15 meters) in height.  The feet are 16 ft (5 meters) long and 10 ft (3 meters) high.  The feet are decorated with mother-of-pearl inlaid patterns depicting favorable signs from The Buddha. 

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The mother-of-pearl inlays on the statue’s feet.

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A close-up of the art work on the statue’s feet.

This statue of Buddha reclining represents the historical Buddha during his last years of illness.  He was close to death and about to enter parinirvana, which is nirvana-after-death for those who obtained nirvana during their lifetime.

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The backside of the statue showing Buddha resting his head.

This reclining Buddha is revered and worshipped by Thai and foreign Buddhist who believe that this image can bring them peace and happiness.  

As I was walking around looking at this remarkable statue, I heard this “plinking” sound. It was consistent and in a rhythm….”plink, plink, plink.”  What on earth was it?  Along the back wall, I saw the source of the “plink.”

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People had purchased 108 coins to drop in these iron bowls.  It is to bring them good luck.  I didn’t participate because I guess I was already feeling very lucky and blessed that particular day! 

Phra Maha Chedi Si Rajakarn

This group of four large chedis (also known as stupas they hold relics and are a place for meditation) honor the first four monarchs of the Chakri Dynasty.  The Chakri Dynasty is the current royal ruling family in Thailand and has ruled Thailand since 1782 when the city of Bangkok was established as the capital.  King Rama I was the founder of this dynasty.

One of the chedis was built by King Rama I to house the remains of a Buddha statue from the ancient capital Ayutthaya.  It was burned, to remove the gold,  when the Burmese army destroyed the capital.  image of Buddha brought from the Royal Palace in the ancient capital of Ayutthaya.  There is a chedi built by King Rama III to honor his father, King Rama II.  Another chedi is for King Rama III.  The fourth chedi was built by King Rama IV for himself.

Along with the four main chedis in the complex, there are 91 smaller chedis throughout the grounds.  fullsizeoutput_3024

Phra Buddha Chinnasrifullsizeoutput_3025

This seated Buddha is protected by the seven-headed naga.  In India, a naga is part of the semi-divine race and is part human and part cobra.  This statue represents the time in Buddha’s life that Buddha spent seven weeks in euphoria.  During the sixth week, while seated under the Mujarin tree, that there was an off-season rainstorm that lasted for seven days.  At this time, a naga named Muchalinda saw Buddha in meditation and wound his body and expanded his hood about the Lord’s head to protect him from the rain.  After the rain subsided, the naga unwound his body and turned into a young man to worship Buddha.  

Phar Buddha LokanatIMG_2095

This statue came from the Grand Palace in Ayutthaya.  King Rama I had it brought to Wat Pho.  This image is in the standing position with the right arm lowered and the left is raised to the chest level.  The story behind this statue is that King Pasenadi was missing Buddha when he traveled to see his mother in Tavatimsa heaven.  The king ordered an image of Buddha to be made out of sandalwood.  

Guardians of the temples

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Throughout the complex, there are these large Chinese statues guarding the gates to the various temples.  Some of these statues have European features.  These statues were originally used as ballast on ships that traded with China….even back then, there was recycling going on in the world from using ballast statues to the ballast ceramic that was used to decorate the chedis.

Parting shots 

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It was a cloudy day when we visited Wat Pho so it was challenging to take photos and not have the color come out “flat.”  I love this photo of the young monks for the way their orange robes just “pop” in this picture!

These whimsical statues were in the garden.  I just liked them and wanted to share them with you….fullsizeoutput_3011fullsizeoutput_300f

The Grand Palace

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The Royal Palace is situated on approximately 55 acres (approximately 23 hectares) of land.  The layout of the palace grounds resembles the grounds of the Grand Palace in the ancient capital of Ayutthaya.  There are 4 courtyards, forts and a variety of buildings for religious and government purposes.

From 1782 to 1932, Thailand was ruled by absolute monarchy.  The Grand Palace was used as the official residence, government and religious center.  After the revolution in 1932, the government of Thailand was by constitutional monarchy where the monarch has to rule within an established legal system. Today, the Grand Palace is the ceremonial residence of the royal family as well as a museum and major tourist attraction.  Their private residence is the Dusit Palace which is located about 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) from the Grand Palace.   

The Grand Palace is divided into three sections.  The Outer Court, Middle Court, and Inner Court.  The Inner Court is not open to the public and was once used by the King and his harem.  The practice of polygamy was stopped by King Rama VI (reigned from 1910-1925).  

The Outer Court

The Outer Court is probably the most visited area.  It houses the most important Buddhist temple in Thailand – Wat Phra Kaew or Temple of the Emerald Buddha.

Wat Phra Kaew

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                      The front of The Temple of the Emerald Buddha.

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The decorations of the outside walls of the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.  Can you imagine the hours that it took to complete this?

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The Emerald Buddha, which is actually made out of jade.                                        Sorry that this is blurry but flashes were not allowed for taking photos.

The origin of this statue is not known.  Some believe that it was made in the 14th in Thailand, others believe that it came from India or Sri Lanka. For a while, the statue was housed in Chiang Mai, in northern Thailand.  It was taken to the area where Luang Prabang, Laos is today by Prince Chao Chaiyasettharthirat, when he ascended the throne, in 1551.  In the 1560s, it was moved to the new capital of Vientiane where it stayed for 214 years until King Rama I removed it and took it back to Thailand and installed it in a shrine at Wat Arun.  When the palace was moved across the river to the current location, the emerald Buddha was moved, with great pomp and ceremony, to the Wat Phra Kaew, where it remains today.

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These yakshas appear to be guarding the entrance to the Ramakien Gallery that surrounds the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.  The Ramakien Gallery has a mural that tells the story of good conquering evil.  The statues are facing the Temple of the Emerald Buddha to make certain no evil spirits harm it.

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In this picture, you see a corner of the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.  Rising up behind the wall that surrounds the Outer Court are 8 towers or prangs (only four are shown here).  Each prang is a different color and they were erected by King Rama I and represent the eight aspects of Buddhism.

Prasat Phra Dhepbidorn and Phra Mondop

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Prasat Phra Dhepbidorn, The Royal Pantheon, on the right and Phra Mondop, the Buddist Library


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This is a close-up of the mosaic decorations on the column of the Royal Pantheon.

This building is located across from the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.  It was built in 1856 by King Rama IV, who intended to house the Emerald Buddha in it. Once the construction was completed, it was evident that this building was too small to hold ceremonies in.  In 1903, due to faulty wiring, a fire broke out.  During the reign of King Rama VI, the restoration was completed and he determined that the building be used to honor the previous Kings in the Bangkok period.  There are 8 statues of the Kings who are enshrined inside the building.  The building was closed when I was there. I am not certain if it is open at other times. 

To the right of the Royal Pantheon is the Buddhist Library, which was built during the reign of King Rama I in 1789.  The description says that the King built the library to house the Buddhist scripture in the mother-of-pearl bookcase.  This building was closed as well, so will have to believe what the pamphlet said.

The Hor Phra Gandhararat is my favorite building on the Grand Palace Grounds. It was constructed by King Rama IV for Phar Gandhararat, which is the Buddha image for agriculture and rain.

Chakri Maha Prasat was built by King Rama V starting in 1868 to use as his palace. It has a unique style of European Renaissance design on the bottom and a traditional Thai rooftop with gold and orange tiles and gold spires. Today, it is used as a reception hall for government functions and state dinners.
Elephant statues are common throughout all of Asia. It is believed that elephants bring good fortune because they symbolize strength and power, stability and wisdom. There is a debate as to whether the trunk on the elephant brings good luck if it is up or down.  
The Amarindra Winitchai Hall is part of the Phra Maha Montian. It was built in 1782 by King Rama I and used as an audience hall for the King to meet officers of the state and foreign ambassadors. Today the hall is used for mostly ceremonies such as the King’s coronation and birthday ceremony.

Odds and Ends

Sri Mahamariamman Temple

On just about every other corner in Bangkok, there is a temple. It is hard to see how they can support them all. Most of the temples are Buddhist but occasionally, you come across a Hindu temple. I had forgotten how colorful and intricate in their decorations that some Hindu temples are. We came across the Sri Mahamariamman Temple walking along the street. I love the colors and decorations!

This temple was built around 1879 by a group of Indians who were living in Bangkok. It is a temple to honor the goddess Uma, consort to Shiva.

Wat Yannawa – Temple of the Junk

The Temple of the Junk is an old one that dates back to the Ayutthaya Period (1350-1767). No one really knows the origin of it but it is a Buddhist temple that was originally called Wat Khok Khwai (temple of the buffalo stables.) During the rule of King Rama III (1824 to 1851) trade with China thrived and Chinese boats, called “junks” were used to transport goods between the two countries. King Rama III feared that the junks were disappearing and ordered a monument built so that other generations would know what the boats looked like.

This is the entrance to Wat Yannawa. I love the contrast between the traditionally tiered roofs on the gate and the large skyscrapers in the background.

Thailand – Bangkok, Part 2 will be posted soon.

Until then I wish you joy and sparkles

6 thoughts on “Thailand – Bangkok – Part 1

  1. Shar. You had to have taken unbelievable notes to be so detailed. I live here and get a lot of those details about the history and never that detailed
    I have follen in love with this country. Glad you had the chance to see a lot of it.

    • Thank you, Peter, but I must confess I do the historic research when I start writing the blog. It takes forever to make certain I get the facts correct. I do take notes when we are on tours but I often find that when I do the research as I am writing the blog, often the tour guide gives the wrong information. It is a beautiful place and the people were lovely. My favorite place was Ayutthaya….along with the elephant sanctuary!

    • Yes, it was an amazing trip and that was only the first 6 days! I am anxious to share the rest of the trip with everyone. There is so much that we did and saw. Thank you for your kind words, Auntie. I hope you are having a great winter.

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