Monday, October 13, 2008

Bangkok 2008: Tale of Two Temples or How We Got Taken For A Ride

Between The Grand Palace and Wat Pho (just next door) we got talked into taking a tuk-tuk on a two hour tour of the 'other' temples in Bangkok as Wat Pho was 'closed' for the afternoon due to a religious ceremony taking place that day.

So there we were being hustled through the narrow streets of downtown Bangkok, almost getting into collisions with other tuk tuks and cars and buses and even bicycles, till we arrived at the Marble Temple or Wat Benchamabopit.

Constructed by King Chulalongkorn in 1901, it is made of Italian white marble and is adorned with European accents such as stained glass windows and Roman architecture. Being one of the lesser known temples, it was almost deserted, which was a welcome respite for us.

The main hall was quite small by Bangkok temples standards, but no less beautiful in a trippy sort of way with its huge golden Buddha statue, incense burning and monks chanting away in the corner. Legend has it that the ashes of King Chulalongkorn is buried underneath the statue.

Surrounding the central courtyard was a collection of life-sized bronze Buddha statues, collected from various locations throughout Thailand, Indochina and other Buddhist kingdoms.

The one I found most unforgettable was this statue of the Emaciated Buddha, symbolising an aging deity who has just undergone months of fasting and uninterrupted meditation.

There was a scenic moat around the temple, complete with a very red bridge and the 'three gabled water pavillion'.

OK, back to the main businiess at hand. After being literally taken for a ride, we arrived back at the front gates of Wat Pho, only to discover that there wasn't any 'special religious ceremony' going on that day and the temple was open all day long.

Wat Pho is the oldest and largest wat / temple in Bangkok and is home to more than 1000 Buddha images and statues, and also to a few not so Buddha statues.

Wat Pho is also home to the largest reclining Buddha statue in the world! It's so huge, my camera couldn't take it all in one shot!

One thing I liked about the temple was that because the statue was so bigass big, the hall that housed the Buddha had to be even bigass bigger. And as a result the temple was very airy, shady and cool, perfect for people like me who sweat buckets at the mere suggestion of the sun!

A row of big bronze urns lined the temple walls. Worshippers purchase a certain amount of beads and drop the beads one by one into the urns as they chant their prayers around the statue.

Outside the main temple stood many stupas and chedis that look like pyramids but with really long and pointy pinnacles.

Beauty is definitely in the detail when it comes to Thai temple architecture. If I wasn't already all 'templed out', I'd use my Tamron zoom lens to take shot after shot of the intricate desings and motifs that adorn every square inch of the temple walls, pillars and roofs.

And finally, what better way to end the day than with a much deserved traditional Thai massage complete with herbal steam bath? Plus, the massage hall was airconditioned as well! Phhwoar!