Through my eyes

living my life without regrets

Saturday, April 04, 2015

25. Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok, Thailand
Temple for the Golden Buddha with Rama IX's Portrait in Front

“The Imperial Treasures of Bangkok” is a good title for what we saw today. Foremost among the treasures is the Incredible Golden Buddha statue in Wat Trimitr; Five and a half tons of pure gold literally sitting around. The story about this sitting Buddha is out of a story book, but it is true.

Solid Gold Buddha

In the 1950’s some repair men wanted to fix a crack in the plaster of a giant Buddha statue and scraped away some of the plaster. What they found beneath all the plaster was gold. They dug a little more and lo-and-behold, the whole 10 feet tall Buddha was not plaster but solid gold. A bit of digging by historians uncovered the fact that during some Burmese attack, monks covered this statue with plaster to hide it from the Burmese enemy. They placed the
The Golden Buddha
date of this occurrence sometime during the 200 year empire of the Sukhothai period. Nobody knows the exact date but the statue revealed its true core around 1950 and it is beautiful to look at. The gold is dark and one just knows it is true gold. I was impressed.

The Grand Palace

Proceeding from there, we stopped at the Grand Palace and within the nearly one square mile palace grounds visited the Emerald Buddha too. A large, carved, jasper (not jade) statue, originally thought to be emerald by the abbot of the monastery, is displayed in the throne room. Three times a year the King will dress this statue with appropriate gold clothing according to the season (summer, rainy-season, and winter). We saw the winter clothing.
Part of The Grand Palace

Part of The Grand Palace

Part of The Grand Palace

Decoration on the Building Above

Guardians of the Building Below

Part of The Grand Palace
The actual statue is carved from a single block of green jasper and is about 30 inches tall. It was created in India in 43 BC and according to legend; it was taken to Sri Lanka to save it from a civil war. In 457 AD, the Burmese King asked for Buddhist scriptures and the Emerald Buddha to support Buddhism in his country. The requests were granted but the ship lost its way in a storm and ended up in Cambodia. When the Thais captured Angkor Wat in 1432, the Buddha was taken to Ayutthaya, then Laos, and finally to
The Emerald Buddha in Gold Winter Clothing
Chiang Rai where the ruler of the city hid it. It was rediscovered in 1434 in a stupa in Chiang Rai. Again, at the time of discovery the statue was covered in plaster and only because some plaster fell off the tip of the nose was the whole revealed. It has since been part of the Royal Treasury. In 1552, the statue was moved to Laos where it remained for 226 years until Chao Praya Chakri, the first King of today's dynasty, better known as Rama I, returned it to Siam after conquering Vientiane, Laos.

Postcard Showing the Gold Clothing
for the Different Seasons

The Grand Palace where the Emerald Buddha resides, was established in 1782 by King Rama I and was totally refurbished and restored in 2003. Some work is still being done today but most is open to the public and the Palace is a huge tourist attraction. Very, very crowded so we looked for some peaceful spot.

Teak Houses on Stilts Over the Water
We found that spot on a canal boat taking us down river a bit and then into some canals. We saw wonderful old teak houses sitting on stilts guarding the water's edge. Some in not such great shape but the location was certainly great for us to see the stilted houses. Bangkok used to be a swamp before areas were drained and then filled in. Water is still a threat when the rivers over runs its banks. In high flood stages dykes or storm walls contain the waters today. With 8.2 million people living in the metropolitan area of the city of Bangkok I just hope the dykes will hold when needed.

Some Stilted Houses Need Help

Thailand has some odd laws and other odd things I learned:
The King is Revered
His Image is Everywhere
·        One is not allowed to step on its currency, for example. Every bill has an image of the King and you would disrespect the King that way. Yet how do you reinforce that law?
·        One must wear underwear. Again, how do you check that one?
·        A woman is not allowed to touch a monk.
·        Bow lower to authority or older people when doing the Wai (greeting with nodding and hands pressed together in front of chest).
·        Only 7% of Asian elephants have tusks.
·        90% of the people in Thailand are Buddhist.
·        Rice must be served with the meal or it is considered only a snack.
·        Drink only bottled water from a factory sealed cap. (some re-seal the cap with a bit of glue)

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