Category Archives: Bangkok

Ciao Phraya

Here is a collection of photos from Thailand that didn’t quite make the other blog posts.

Daytime

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Nighttime

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Kwai

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Wat Pho

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Thai Transport

Whether it is by boat, bus, taxi or tuk tuk, getting back to your hotel after a day tramping around the city is simple.

A word of advice though, make sure your cabs are metered and that you establish the price with the tuk tuk driver before you commence your journey. Otherwise you could be in for a horrible surprise and an empty wallet.  We got smart – one taxi driver reduced his fare (to what it should have been) on the condition that on the way we got out at a mall to ‘buy him ‘something’.  We got out of the taxi.

Tuk tuks can also be good to get around, however, nothing moves quickly in rush hour, except perhaps the scooters which are prevalent in large numbers all over south-east Asia.

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Wat Ratchaburana

Wat Ratchaburana was built by a Chinese merchant named Liab in late Ayutthaya period, and formerly known as Wat Liab. In the Thornburi period the temple was the residence of ecclesiastical dignitaries but it fell into decline. In 1793 during the reign of Rama I Chaofa Krommaluang Thepphitak (the King’s grandson) had the temple restored with the King’s support. It became the Royal Temple and was named Ratchaburana Ratchaworawiharn.

Wat Ratchaburana01The temple was seriously damaged during World War II and deleted from the official list of royal temples. The Abbot, Phra Khuna Charawat, rallied support from the local community to restore the temple in 1962 and in 2007, on the 80th birthday of His Majesty the King Bhumibol, the Metropolitan Electricity Authority restored the main pagoda.

Wat Ratchaburana02

The Grand Palace

Next to the amazing Buddhist temple complex of Wat Pho are the grounds of the Grand Palace. Originally built in 1782 by Rama I, the palace is no longer occupied by the royal family and is mostly used for official ceremonies.

Royal Reception Hall

Underneath the Royal Reception Hall (pictured above) is a military museum housing the royal family’s collection of antique weaponry and fire arms, many of which were gifts from visiting dignitaries over the years.

Emerald Buddha Photo D Ramey Logan [1]

Emerald Buddha Photo D Ramey Logan [1]

The palace is in fact a collection of different buildings, the most important of which is Wat Phra Kaew – the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. The actual statue is carved out of a single piece of jade and the term ’emerald’ refers to the deep green colour of the stone and not what it is made out of. Unfortunately photos of the Emerald Buddha are forbidden – the one on the left was taken by D Ramsay Logan is hosted on Wikipedia and is used here under the Creative Commons License [1].

The Emerald Buddha was discovered by accident after a lightning storm struck the temple in which it was housed. Originally the statue was covered in plaster that replicated the image underneath and it wasn’t until the monks went to repair the damage from the storm that they discovered the original statue.

The size of the statue is approximately sixty-six centimetres tall and around forty-eight centimetres wide. It is believed to have been carved sometime in the fourteenth century. The statue has three ceremonial costumes that are changed three times per year to coincide with the winter, summer and rainy seasons. Only the King or the Crown Prince are permitted to touch the statue.

Directly outside the temple is the bell tower (pictured below) built by Rama IV.

Bell Tower

The palace grounds are laid out in a similar style to the Ayutthaya palaces with many other buildings located within the complex, such as the prayer hall Wiharn Yod (pictured below) which always seems to be closed to the public.

Wiharn Yod

In the centre of the grounds lies Prasat Phra Thep Bidorn, the Royal Pantheon. Originally built to house the Emerald Buddha, it was later decided that the elevation of the Pantheon was not high enough and, with other structures looking down upon it, would not be a suitable place for the statue. Next to the Pantheon is Phra Mondop, the library that houses the revised edition of the Buddhist Canon. It is a replica of Wat Phra Buddhabat in Saraburi province that purports to cover Buddha’s Footprint [2]

Pantheon and Mondop

Entrance to the Royal Pantheon on the left and Phra Mondop on the right. Like Wiharn Yod, the Mondop is always closed to the public.

Opposite Wiharn Yod is the model of Angkor Wat (see below), commissioned by Rama IV at the same time as the bell tower.

Model of Angkor Wat

Outside Wat Phra Kaew is Hor Phra Khanthara Rat (pictured below), a small pavilion that houses the Buddha image used in the Royal Ploughing Ceremony. Known locally as Phra Ratchaphiti Pheutcha Mongkhon it is a Buddhist ceremony held every year to bless the plants, raise morale and generate a good harvest.

Hor Phra Khanthara Rat

On the eastern side of the Wat are eight chedis (see below) that are purported to represent the Noble Eightfold path of Buddhism, which is the fourth of the Buddha’s Four Noble Truths [3].Chedis in the Palace Grounds

Each entrance to the palace is guarded by towering stone Yaksha (below), benevolent nature-spirits who protect the treasures of the earth.

Guardian

All in all the Grand Palace and its surrounds are an impressive sight to see and a ‘must visit’ for any traveler in Bangkok.

The roof of Wiharn Yod

The roof of Wiharn Yod

Architecture

Phra Mondop on left with the Royal Pantheon in the background and a small pavilion to the right

[1] “Emerald Buddha Photo D Ramey Logan” by WPPilot – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/

[2] Bangkok For Visitors – Phra Mondop – http://bangkokforvisitors.com/ratanakosin/grand-palace/emerald-buddha-temple/phra-mondop.php Accessed 17 November 2015

[3] Buddhist Studies – http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/8foldpath.htm – Accessed 15th November 2015.

 

 

 

 

 

Phra Maha Chedi Si Rajakarn

This is a group of four large stupas at Wat Pho, each standing 42 metres high. The first one was built by King Rama I whereby the remnants of the golden Buddha from Ayutthaya, that was melted down and stolen by the Burmese c1767, was to be kept. King Rama III built two more for himself and his father, Rama II. the final stupa was built by Rama IV.

From what I have read these were the first four kings of the Chakri Dynasty who all happened to be alive at the same time although King Mongkut, who eventually became Rama IV, would only have been five years old when King Rama I died. It is believed that King Mongkut ordered all four pagodas to be enclosed and grounds around them to be walled so that no more stupas could be built. According to literature King Mongkul believed that no more stupas would be required.

Guardians of Wat Pho

Information about the guardian statues is difficult to find as there are no inscriptions around the site. Some of them have top hats and walking sticks, others look like ancient wizards, warriors or animals. These statues adorn not only the sixteen entrances to Wat Pho, but many of the chapels as well. I believe their origin to be China or at least Chinese in nature. Regardless of where the came from, they are very impressive.

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Phra Rabiang Buddha Cloister

Within the grounds of Wat Pho lies Phra Rabiang, a cloister of approximately four hundred different Buddha statues some of which date back several centuries. These statues are covered in gold leaf to protect them from the elements and many are adorned during times of celebration such as Buddhist lent.

The cloister surrounds Phra Uposatha, the Ordination Hall used for Buddhist rituals. Constructed by King Rama I this is the most sacred building within the grounds of Wat Pho. If you get a chance to light some incense and reflect upon life at Phra Uposatha, I strongly recommend it.

Phra Uposatha the Ordination Hall

Phra Uposatha the Ordination Hall

Wat Pho Grounds

The large grounds of Wat Pho contain more than 1000 Buddha images in total, most from the ruins of the former capitals Ayuthaya and Sukhothai. [1]

What a lot of people don’t know is that Wat Pho also houses Thailand’s first University, it is the centre for traditional Thai massage instruction and it also has a primary school onsite. All of which is set amongst architecture that in many instances is older than the city of Bangkok itself.

 

[1] Into Asia – Wat Pho – http://www.into-asia.com/bangkok/attractions/watpho.php Accessed 8th November 2015.

Wat Pho

Wat Pho (Thai: วัดโพธิ์, IPA: [wát pʰoː]), also spelt Wat Po, is a Buddhist temple complex in Phra Nakhon district, Bangkok [1]. The official name of the temple is Wat Phra Chetuphon Vimolmangklararm Rajwaramahaviharn, but many also refer to it as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. It resides on an area of 20 acres to the south of the Grand Palace, with Thai Wang road in the north, Sanam Chai road in the east, Setthakan road in the south and Maharat road in the west. Separated by a tall white wall on Chetuphon road, the monastery has two main quarters: the sacred or a chapel section, Buddhavas, and the residential or the monk’s living section, Sangghavas [2]

It is one of the largest temples in the city and is famous for the forty-six metre long, gold leaf covered, reclining Buddha. The Buddha’s feet are 5 metres long and decorated in mother-of-pearl illustrations. Unfortunately they were undergoing restoration work during our visit and we never go to see them properly.

Dress code for visiting Wat Pho is very important. Shirts with sleeves are required (no singlets) as well as long pants. Short skirts are unacceptable and shoes should have closed in toes whilst walking around the grounds. The temples will require you to go barefoot – or in your socks 🙂 and if you are not dressed appropriately, shawls are available on site.

Many tourists flock to Wat Pho for its grandeur and its serenity. Even with the hordes of people and the occasionally loud tour guide, Wat Pho is a peaceful experience. More info ion Wat Pho to come.

[1] Wikipdeia – Wat Pho – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wat_Pho Accessed 8th November 2015

[2] History of Wat Pho – http://www.watpho.com/history_of_watpho.php Accessed 8th November 2015