Wat Phra Kaew
We arrived in Bangkok at 12:30 and headed for the Twin Towers Hotel for check-in. Around 15:00 we headed immediately for Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha) and Wat Pho (The Temple of the Reclining Buddha) which are considered the main historical attractions to see in Bangkok. Since we were only going to be in Bangkok for 1 day we thought that these temples were our best option.
The Wat Phra Kaew is regarded as the most important Buddhist temple in Thailand. The construction of the temple started when King Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke (Rama I) moved the capital from Thonburi to Bangkok in 1785. Unlike other temples it does not contain living quarters for monks; rather, it has only the highly decorated holy buildings, statues, and pagodas.
The main building is the central ubosoth, which houses the Emerald Budha. Even though it is small in size it is the most important icon for Thai people. Legends hold that the statue originated in India, but it first surfaced in the vassal Kingdom of Cambodia and was given as a gift to the King of Ayuttaya in the 15th century 1434. The image disappeared when Burmese raiders sacked Ayuttaya and the image was feared lost. A century later, the Emerald Buddha reappeared in Chiang Saen, after a rainstorm washed away some of its plaster covering. It was then moved to Chiang Rai, then Chiang Mai, where it was removed by prince Setatiratt to Luang Prabang, when his father died and he ascended the throne of that Siamese vassal state. In later years it was moved to the Siamese vassal state of Vientiene. During a Haw invasion from the North, Luang Prabang requested Siam's help in repelling the invaders.
The King of Vietienne traitorously attacked the Siamese army from the rear, so the 'Emerald' Buddha returned to Siam when King Taksin fought with Laos and his general Chakri (the later King Rama I) took it from Vientiane, which at that time had been brought to its knees by the Thai Army. It was first taken to Thonburi and in 1784 it was moved to its current location. Wat Preah Keo, in Phnom Penh, is considered by many modern Cambodians as its rightful resting place, whereas, Haw Phra Kaew, in Vientiane, is considered by many Lao people as the Emerald Buddha's rightful place.
The Reclining Buddha
The wall surrounding the temple area is painted with scenes from the Thai version of the Ramayana mythology, the Ramakian. Several statues in the temple area resemble figures from this story, most notably the giants (yak), five-meter high statues. Also originating from the Ramayana are the monkey kings and giants which surround the golden chedis. The Temple also contains a model of Angkor Wat, added by King Nangklao (Rama III), as the Khmer empire of Cambodia and the Thais share cultural and religious roots. Despite the hot weather most of the year in Bangkok, long trousers are required to enter the wat. This rule is strictly enforced. If you don’t have pants they will “generously” rent a pair.
Wat Pho is a Buddhist temple in Phra Nakhon district, Bangkok, Thailand, located on the Rattanakosin Island Rattanakosin Island directly adjacent of the Grand Palace.
Its official full name is Wat Phra Chetuphon Vimolmangklararm Rajwaramahaviharn. The temple was created as a restoration of an earlier temple on the same site, Wat Phodharam, the work beginning in 1788. The temple was restored and extended in the reign of King Rama III, and was restored again in 1982. Wat Pho is the largest and oldest wat in Bangkok (80,000 square meters), and is home to more than one thousand Buddha images, more than any other temple in the country, as well as the largest single Buddha image: the Reclining Buddha. Made as part of Rama III's restoration, the Reclining Buddha is forty-six meters long and fifteen meters high, decorated with gold plating on its body and mother of pearl on its eyes and the soles of its feet. The temple is also known as the birthplace of traditional Thai massage Even prior to the temple’s founding, the site was a centre of education for traditional Thai medicine, and statues were created showing yoga positions.
During the Rama III, restoration plaques inscribed with medical texts were placed around the temple, while in 1962 a school for traditional medicine and massage was established. The Wat Pho complex consists of two walled compounds, bisected by Soi Chetuphon running east-west. The northern walled compound is where the reclining Buddha and massage school are found. The southern walled compound, Tukgawee, is a working Buddhist monastery with monks in residence and a school.
We had read that the tickets to visit these temples could be purchased until 17:00. However when we arrived we sadly discovered that the ticket booth had closed at 15:30 and therefore it was impossible to enter. Anyway, we contemplated the temples from the outside walls while we decided what we would do with the rest of the afternoon. There were a couple of guys outside the temples that organized some alternative tours. We decided to do a 1 hour boat tour along the Chao Phraya River and end at Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn). The boat ride gave us a chance to see typical Bangkok people’s way of life. On the river banks we could see people resting, talking, swimming in the dark polluted waters and fishing. Occasionally there were women that would approach our boat trying to sell all sorts of products. We finally stopped off at Wat Arun for about 15 minutes.
Wat Arun is a Buddhist temple located in the Bangkok Yai district, on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River.
The full name of the temple is Wat Arunratchawararam Ratchaworamahavihara. The outstanding feature of Wat Arun is its central Prang. The height is reported by different sources as between 66, 80 m and 86 m. The corners are surrounded by 4 smaller satellite prangs decorated by seashells and bits of porcelain which had previously been used as ballast by boats coming to Bangkok from China. Around the base of the Prangs are various figures of ancient Chinese soldiers and animals. Over the second terrace are four statues of the Hindu god Indra riding on Erawan. At the riverside are 6 pavilions in Chinese style. The pavilions are made of green granite and contain landing bridges. Next to the prangs is the Ordination Hall with the Niramitr Buddha image supposedly designed by King Rama II. The front entrance of the Ordination Hall has a roof with a central spire, decorated in colored ceramic and stuccowork sheeted in colored china.
Chao Phraya River
There are 2 demons, or temple guardian figures in front. The temple was built in the days of Thailand's ancient capital of Ayutthaya and originally known as Wat Makok (The Olive Temple). In the ensuing era when Thonburi was capital, King Taksin changed the name to Wat Chaeng. The Wat had a brief period as host of the Emerald Budda, which was moved to Wat Phra Kaew in 1784. The later King Rama II. changed the name to Wat Arunratchatharam.
He restored the temple and enlarged the central prang. The work was finished by King Rama III. King Rama IV gave the temple the present name Wat Arunratchawararam. As a sign of changing times, Wat Arun officially ordained its first westerner in 2005: Sean Sean Patrick from the United States. The central prang is symbolizing mount Meru of the Indian cosmology. The satellite prangs are devoted to the wind god Phra Phai. The demons at the entrance way to the ubosot are from the Ramakien.
The white figure is named Sahassa Deja and the green one is known as Thotsakan, the Demon Ravana from Ramayana.
João & Leonor at Wat Arun
After visiting the temple the tour boat dropped us off on the left bank of the river. Our next stop was Bangkok’s Chinatown. We got 3 tuk-tuks to take us on a great ride through the bustling and frantic Bangkok city streets. We arrived in Chinatown at dawn when the neon lights were starting to flicker all over the streets. Like any Chinatown in any country in the world, here you felt as if you were in a typical Shanghai Street. There were small family stores everywhere and Mandarin was the spoken language. We went up and down the street taking in all the strange lights and faces. It was now dinner time and we had to choose a place to eat. Some Tuk-tuk drivers gave us a hand and suggested what they called one of the “best” Thai restaurants in town. After dinner we felt completely conned! The food wasn’t that great and it wasn’t cheep, but the Tuk-tuk drivers had gladly received they’re commission from the restaurant. We headed for Patpong, the Bangkok “red light district”.
Here prostitution and strip joints flourish; there are markets everywhere and tourist abound. We walked around, did some shopping and officially celebrated Susana’s 31st Birthday in Patpong as she specifically requested. After our Patpong “adventure” we returned to the Hotel. The next day our official trip to Cambodia and Vietnam would begin.
Susana, Miguel and Daniel having a good time on a Tuk-tuk