Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Bangkok '06: Wat Vistas

Bangkok is a diverse and cosmopolitan city like no other. Modern skyscrapers share the skyline with majestic Buddhist temples. Tucked away in hidden corners are tranquil spas and boutiques hotels while their brazen sister establishments, the massage parlours and all-night pubs, hog the limelight on main shopping thouroughfares. Ordinary Thais in the smart western suits share the same BTS (subway) carriage as saffron-yellow robed monks and wide-eyed foreign tourists in sweaty t-shirts and baggy pants.

In the old city area, Wat Poh is one of the largest temples in Bangkok and boasts the largest reclining Buddha in the world. Hmmm ... and I thought that claim belongs to Penang's Reclining Buddha temple.

Regardless, I have to admit that it really was very, very long. Even the toes (all ten of them stacked up together) were at least as high as a two storey building. As life-like as it was, it wasn't anatomically correct though.They're of the same size and shape. I guess the sculptors figured nobody would be too bothered with the feet as most would have dropped their jaws at the head and torso - because it's completely covered in GOLD. Opulent, gaudy and strangely beguiling.

In the main bot (main hall) a group of monks were holding their daily prayer session. No shoes were allowed, and cameras also weren't encouraged, but everybody were busily snapping away, at times distracting the monks from their trance-like meditation.

Employing a cornucopia of strong earthy colours, and inspiringly imaginative motifs, traditional Thai architecture spares no expense to impress, eg. the antelope-like chofahs on the roofs. Jes says they look more like birds' wings.

These strange structures are chedis, bell shaped towers that
actually house the remains of monks, or kings. Some may even contain relics of the Buddha. And I thought they were merely to provide shade for us poor tourists. haha.

A lot of the treasures recovered from ships that sink in the Gulf of Thailand are given to the temple authorities. Because most of the ships are chinese junks, a lot of medieval chinese sculptures are recovered as well, like this pair of dragons that stand guard at the entrance to a small wiharn (small prayer hall).

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