Sunday, December 23, 2012

Bangkok and the Golden Budda!

 After waving a sometimes silly and glorious goodbye to the Phuket Paradise we had been sharing, with it's gorgeous sunsets and sunny skies we were off on the next leg of our junket!  Off to Bangkok and the big city!
 Yep, those are "golden" boxing gloves I am wearing, and unfortunately one of the few things the W Bangkok had done right for their "Grand Opening."  When we arrived the brand new W Bangkok had only been open for three days, and it soon became obvious that they had "rushed" it a bit! Oh, the WOW bar and lobby were beautiful and upbeat, and the service as always was off the charts....but then.
Only 100 rooms were actually available for occupancy when we arrived, and even those were not quite ready.
 The DVD players and other electronics were not yet installed.  The curtains in our room did not close, and there was a broken office chair.  When we went to breakfast the next morning, there were more chair malfunctions.  Again, the staff was wonderful, but it was obvious they were struggling with a lot of glitches.  The food was absolutely off the charts terrible.  I had the most awful runny scrambled!  I hate runny eggs, and these were barely run across the frying pan!  Aauuuggh.

But, I am sure the W will pull it together and fix all these glitches in the near future.  Their Whatever/Whenever policy is fabulous, and they do respond quickly to every little need you express wherever you are in the world.  So, it was time to book some tours in the fascinating City of Bangkok.  Charles scheduled a car and driver for Melanie and I for the following morning.  We would have eight glorious hours to explore everything we could in Bangkok and the surrounding countryside.  Ready, set, GO!!!

The next morning we met our Guide, Leena, in the Lobby for the beginning of a truly awesome, fascinating day exploring Bangkok.  It is going to take several blogs to put all we saw into perspective.  One of the places which was recommended we go first, was the Golden Budda.
I had done some research the night before our tour on the appropriate way to dress when visiting Temples in Bangkok.  

These are places of worship for the Thai people and in spite of the fact that Bangkok is extremely HOT, one needs to wear clothing which is appropriate to the location.  That means no short shorts or halter tops ladies!  You need to be dressed modestly and make sure to wear shoes which are easily removed, as you are not allowed to wear shoes within the temple walls, and you are going to get pretty tired of taking those Nike's off and on!  Comfortable sandals or flip flops work best, as you will be leaving them on racks outside the temple each time you enter, and believe me you want to enter!
-->This temple is well known for its 3-metre tall, solid gold Buddha image, constructed over 700 years ago during the Sukhothai period. Originally the gold image was covered with plaster to conceal it from the invading Burmese and was just rediscovered accidentally about 40 years ago.

 It was obvious upon arriving at Wat Traimat, near Bangkok's Chinatown, that this was going to be an extraordinary day.

The temple compound is huge and quite beautiful.  There are hundreds of people all around the compound. Lotus flowers, candles and incense are available for purchase by those who intend to worship here, and there are many worshipers present.  There are places where you can "contribute" to the upkeep of the Temple Grounds by purchasing small souvenirs, or receiving a blessing from a Monk.

Melanie and I accepted our Tour Guide's offer to receive just such a blessing.  Hey, you should never pass up a blessing!  You sit before the Monk as he says a blessing over you, and then ties a small hand made cotton bracelet around your wrist for good luck.  He is very careful to not actually "touch the skin of ladies" as this is forbidden to all monks.  
This is a view from the top of the Temple of the  area where the Monks of this particular Temple are housed.  The buildings are immaculately kept, and their tile and gold roofs are amazing.  The gentleman to the right is purchasing/lighting incense in the area outside the Temple where offerings are left for the Budda.

Mounting the stairs we came across this beautiful copper relief of Lotus Blossoms.  Isn't it lovely?

Just a little information about the Golden Budda which you might find really interesting:

Did I say that this Budda  weighs in at 5.5 TONS of solid gold.  It is an interesting fact also that the gold content is different in different parts of the Budda body.  -->
The purity of gold is 40 % from the base up to the neck, 80 % from the chin to the forehead, and 99 % for the hair and the topknot, weighing 45 kg. It was estimated that the gold Buddha was built in the Sukhothai period (1238-1438). But there are no written records of its origin.

Notice the beautiful walls
surrounding the inside of the Temple?  That isn't wallpaper people... it is actually hand painted stroke by stroke...quite amazing when you consider the size of the inside of this building. 

There are amazing and beautiful things to see inside the temple and it is also very interesting that the story of this Budda is shrouded in a mystery of it's own.   -->
Towards the end of the 18th century after King Rama I estabished Bangkok as the new capital, he ordered the removal of all important Buddha images from the North to Bangkok lest they might suffer damage since the northern region was not yet pacified. And among the statues moved to Bangkok was this gold Buddha. But it was covered with stucco and placed at Wat Phraya Krai without arousing any special interest among the worshippers.

Later, Wat Phraya Krai became dilapidated and was ordered closed by King Rama V(1868-1910). And this statue was moved to Wat Traimit. The abbot of the temple then asked other monasteries for a possible transfer. But nobody was interested because of its huge size and plain look. So the abbot decided to keep the statue in his own temple and built a special vihara to house it.

On the eve of its scheduled removal, a heavy rain soaked the stucco covering. In the act of moving, the statue was accidentally dropped and the stucco cracked, revealing the shining gold inside.

Nobody knows the true reason for the cover-up of the gold Buddha. It was presumed that the statue was covered up just before the invasion of the Burmese in the mid-18 century, so as to conceal its true value from the enemy.

 Can you just imagine the shock of finding that this "ugly duckling" of a Budda was actually 5.5 Tons of solid gold! 

Our day had just begun, and we had already learned and seen so much in this one location.  It was going to be a truly amazing day!

To the right you can see some of the unopened lotus blossoms offered for sale to lay at the offering station for the Budda.  We would see thousands of these when we journeyed next to the Bangkok Flower Market.   Below left you can see more of the beautiful flower offerings which are hand made at the Flower Market. 
As we left the Temple compound we were met by our driver, who had ice cold scented washcloths and icy cold bottled water available for us as we climbed into the car!  Believe me when I say Bangkok is extremely hot and humid (a river runs through it!) and the icy cold cloths and water would be lifesavers on this busy day of touring this incredibly interesting City!  

Also, take my advice, in a City the size of Bangkok and with all the history and culture available, you do need at least a guide, if not a guide and driver.  It would be a shame to miss the background information available when you have someone who speaks the language and knows the stories and history behind these incredible sites.  

Next up - Bangkok Flower Market!

GOD BLESS - Peace, Love and Joy!

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