Monday, July 03, 2006

Wat Pho in Bangkok

Wat Pho in Bangkok

What for should we visit Bangkok?
Its a truly great city. Quite clean for the most part but
turn a corner and there'll be this amazingly filthy canal,
absolutely black, stinking to high heaven. Otherwise there
are quite a few waterways and plenty offerries and many
transport options. The people are quite nice and there's
plenty to see.

So then, after an excellent time in coma at Peachy, we
decided to visit a few more sights. We had been forewarned
that there would be many confidence tricksters about.

We went down to the Chao Praya River Express dock to get
onto the ferry toTha Thien, the stop for the Wat Pho and Wat
Phre Kaew temples - and also the Palace. Along the way we
were accosted by a confidence trickster (who I asked for
directions - a mistake) who assured me that the Ferry stop
was closed and he would accompany us to the next place.
We ignored him. Sure enough, the ferry stop was right there
and functioning well.

It was a pleasant enough ride along choppy waters and we got
off without incident at Tha Thien. First stop - Wat Pho, famous
for its gold-plated reclining Buddha.

As we crossed the road to the Entrance, a gentleman accosted us.

"Wat Pho? Closed today. You come this way", he said, pointing
vaguely,far away.

We ignored him and walked on, which was good. The Wat Entrance
was Open. We bought our tickets and went in.

Here is a glimpse of the huge Reclining Buddha, an absolutely
mind boggling sight.

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The wonderful thing about many Buddhist temples (Wat/Vat) are the lovely paintings and murals on the walls, reaching to the ceiling. It takes an enormous amount of time to fully understand how the narration goes - for it is a narration, not one static painting. Wat Pho has such paintings.The Buddha itself is reclining, in the state of near death. The feet are decorated with mother of pearl and the designs have esoteric significance.

I decided to take a National Geographic-suitable photo of the temple and setup the angle and spoke for some time about perspectives, light, composition etc. I finally got the frame I wanted to. I clicked.

Sadly, the batteries had run out.

I purchased very expensive batteries and returned. But now it was raining, so I failed to get that once in a lifetime shot.

Onwards to the Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, both of which happened to be nearby.

Along the way we were accosted by many individuals who offered to show us the Emerald Buddha. We strode on.

As we turned the corner heading to the entrance of the palace, we found this huge sign

Entrance to Temple of Emerald Buddha

0.0 m (<---- zero point zero metres)

We had apparently reached. It seemed credible.

A smart lady and a smart guy came up and asked us what we wanted.

"We want to see Palace and Emerald Buddha", I announced.

"Closed today", said the man, shaking his head, grieving for me. The lady clicked her tongue, disappointed for us.

"Why?" I asked.

He pointed to his watch and said "Look at time! Now ceremonies. Closed!"

He laughed a gay light laugh, rubbing it in, incredulous that I didn't know this elementary fact.

It was 11 am and it seemed a strange time for ceremonies.

The lady said "No problem. I show you Standing Buddha. I belong to Royal Palace. Don't worry. Standing Buddha that way." She pointed to an area away from the Palace.

Smelling rats, we declined the offer and strode on, feeling sad that we had missed seeing the Emerald Buddha.

But wait, right in front of us were a bunch of tourists streaming in andout of the Palace gates. I was befuddled. I inquired with the guard and he waved me in saying "Tickets inside".

So evidently we had just escaped being victims of a rather brazen scam. (On a serious note, scam artists are really doing well in Bangkok, announcing the closure of attractions and then taking you elsewhere and getting you mixed up in buying fake gems. Here is a link to a story about exactly that.)

Wat Phra Kaew is the Temple of the Emerald Buddha within the Palace Grounds. It seems to have a very interesting history, having been found centuries ago and been taken away by marauding Laotian soldiers to Vientiene and then recovered after almost three centuries. The Buddha is actually made of Green Jade, not Emerald, but the name has stuck.

The Palace is quite fantastic with way too much to describe here. Worth mentioning are the Indian legends beautifully painted on all four walls. The Ramayana is particular is very important to the Thais. Here is an example of a mural. Its a scene from Ayodhya though I don't recall what it is about.

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And here is a picture of the palace from an unusual angle.

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Then there is a museum with Royal Jewellery, coins and memorabilia. I was surprised to learn that the King was actually born in Boston. He is the oldest reigning monarch and the 60th anniversary of his ascension to the throne had just concluded.

We finally left, determined to reach this exotic Vegetarian restaurant called Alloy near the palace. After a lot of meandering about, we did reach it. The fare was disappointing; the staff and management were engrossed in a discussion and were not pleased to have clientele.

We left, ate Guavas and Pineapples, and retired to Peachy

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