Tuesday, November 7, we arrived in Bangkok for a 24-hour stay in the city. Bangkok is a sprawling metropolis of contrasts which includes very modern colorful skyscrapers and lavishly ornate temples, to dilapidated buildings on streets wrapped in bundles of wire and trash. In many respects, it reminded me of India.
We were told the three most purchased products in the city are jewelry, elephants, and silk fabrics. Any takers?
Our tourist dollars were spent on sight-seeing. On Wednesday, we purchased all-day boat passes on the Chao Praya river, which took us to most of the top sites in a much quicker and more scenic route than tuk tuk or taxi would have managed. Below are some views from the river:
Wat Arun was our first stop and is the most symbolic landmark in Bangkok. While it caught my eye from afar, it was not until I was looking at the Buddhist Wat (temple) up close that I could really discern it's beauty. The "Temple of Dawn" is decorated with thousands of tiny sea shells and pieces of Chinese porcelain. Construction of this temple occurred from 1809-1851. The central tower is 76 meters (250 feet) high, and the steep narrow steps to the top, afford the fearless some pretty amazing views of Bangkok.
Across the river we visited another impressive and significant temple known as Wat Pho. This royal monastery is best known for the 46-meter (160 feet) long Reclining Buddha housed there. It is built upon a site which was the historical center of Thai medicine and several statues display yoga positions and Thai massage. The bottom of the feet of the reclining Buddha is inlaid with mother of pearl figures which teach the basis for their treatments.
The final stop on our day tour of Bangkok was The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaeo. As the day wore on, it became intensely hot and humid as clouds filled with rain. What added to our discomfort was the dishonest manipulation we encountered on multiple occasions by people trying to secure business for themselves. On our way to the palace, "guards" standing at various gates, tried to dissuade us from going there, "because it was closed for a special Buddhist prayer service". Instead, they would be happy to take us to their buddy's shop or some other tourist trap. Unfortunately, because of this and similar experiences, our perception of Bangkok was negatively tainted. To future visitors, I would use caution in trusting the many "well-meaning" people you may encounter in the city. Thankfully, I had read about such tactics prior to our arrival and knew that the palace was open. What I didn't know, however, was that shorts and capri pants were not allowed, so we were compelled to rent pants and a skirt upon our arrival.
The palace was constructed in 1792 and served as residence for the first kings of the current Chakri Dynasty. It is nicknamed "the westerner with the Thai hat" because of its combination of western and Thai style architecture.
Wat Phra Kaeo is situated within the palace compound and is known as The Temple of the Emerald Buddha, The Buddha is carved from a single block of jade and is Thailand's most revered religious possession. No photos were allowed of the treasure, but it was housed in an ornate and brilliantly tiled building where we found a bit of shelter from the rain.
The grounds of Wat Pra Kaeo showcase three enormous stupas of distinctly individual design, which align perfectly for a signature photo of the complex. But there were many more marvels to behold as well.
I admire and appreciate the devotion of good people of every faith and their desire to build beautiful temples. Over the past couple of years, I have had the privilege of visiting many kinds of temples around the world, and I can't help but wonder about the purpose of these magnificent buildings. As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, our temples are sacred and holy places of worship wherein we are taught the gospel of Jesus Christ, and receive the necessary saving ordinances of the gospel. If you would like to learn more, please click on this link.
Our brief visit to Bangkok came to a conclusion that evening with a short one-hour flight to Siem Reap. We would be on another temple hunt - this time with an Indiana Jones and Angelina Jolie flair for adventure!