The Buddhist Experience

Bangkok Travel Blog

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Wed 28 January 2009

Mom woke me up around 9am.  I didn’t want to be bothered. I knew I should get up, but I didn’t have much motivation.  Sleeping was nice and my leg hurt.  Sometime when I was home, I strained my right calf muscle like I did in Australia.  I’ve had the same feeling and been really worried.  That injury lasted  a month and that’s all the time I have here. I don’t remember the pain relief medication I received for that, so I’m using some old back spasm medication and over the counter stuff.  So I have to take special care of my leg, not walking too much, propping it up and bandaging it up.  I’m an unhappy gimp again.  Of course, this also means I can’t take Muay Thai (Thai boxing) classes, which I’m very disappointed about.

Anyway, when I didn’t get up, Mom brought me breakfast in bed.  I could get used to this, I thought.  I ate, then showered and waited to for Pa Tu to get ready.  Then, Pa Tu, Mom and I went to the city to visit the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.

I thought we were just going to go to a regular temple, but we went to one of the most popular touristy ones.  The Thai name is Wat Phra Kaew.  The area consists of several temples which are extremely ornate and glisten with gold, mosaic pieces and glass.  Everything is so shimmery.  The art is very complex and it must have taken ages to decorate.  In some places, the walls are chipping, and some workers were busy with restoration.  A plethora of tourists were walking around, many of them English speaking, some with tour guides. I tried listening in on the guides, but it was difficult as they spoke broken English and I had to keep an eye on my aunt so that I wouldn’t lose her.

Since I was with my aunt and mom, we surpassed the ticket lines and walked right into everything.  Apparently Thai people get in for free and we also get the privilege of using separate doors at a couple of the temples – surpassing groups of tourists.  My mom though, still worried that I wouldn’t be able to pass at the entrance, told me not to speak.

The first temple that we visited was the central bot (chapel) that houses the Emerald Buddha.  There is so much decoration within that it’s easy to be distracted from the main focus, the Emerald Buddha (which isn’t even made of Emerald). My eyes were all over the place as I looked at the decorations and people-watched. My aunt and mom prayed and as I sat awkwardly with my bum leg bent underneath me, feeling it cramp up.  When we left, we picked up our shoes and moved on to other temples.

I felt lucky to have personal escorts who could somewhat translate for me and show me a part of their heritage.  My mom though, told me this was the first time she had been here.  She was just as lost as I and her sister did all the navigating.

We exited the area and walked down the road to Wat Pho.  Immediately upon walking in, I saw a couple of classrooms with students in blue uniforms.  I wondered how they could focus with all the tourists making a racket.  We passed the ticketing area again and entered the building with the longest reclining Buddha – 46m long, 15m high.  I felt that since it was housed in a building, it really didn’t do justice to its size.  You can’t see the whole thing in it’s entirety due to the supporting columns of the building.  The image is very simple. Strangely enough, its toes are all the same size.  On its backside, there’s a wall of metal cups for offerings.  People drop coins into each bowl.

We passed a Thai massage building and  my mom said that her younger sister received a massage here for $200USD.  I would have to search for a cheaper place for my treatment, even though will one was world reknown.

A marble wall with 152 bas-reliefs provided respite from the sun’s hot rays. The artwork was again, very intricate. Small figures in battle and prayer adorned the walls. They were painted in gold and fanned the expanse of the walls.  They told dozens of stories, but I couldn’t on my own deduce what they really meant.

We walked around some more and I received my fair share of temple views.  Each temple was designed with different patterns and colors, but all in the same style.  My aunt and mom prayed at a few more temples as I soaked in the views.  Then, we bought some fresh fruit from one of the stands and relaxed in one of the gardens.  I had my first taste of jackfruit – it has a rubber outer core, a thick skin, and is hollow on the inside.  The yellow fruit would taste so much better cold. I chewed up my piece enjoying the taste, but not the texture. The cold pineapple was absolutely delicious.

During our wanderings, we had to take a short ferry for 3 baht each across the river.  The views weren’t all that astounding, but the ride was fun. As we waited for the ride back, Mom and I ate some sticky rice. When I unwrapped the leaves, the rice was partially melted together. As I bit in, it was warm, gooey, and sweet. Inside the rice was a cooked banana. Yummy.

We tried catching a cab, but 2 cabbies refused to take us there. So we waited for a bus. I was very tired and couldn’t keep my eyes open. I kept falling asleep, not sure if it was due to the jet lag, travel exhaustion, the heat, or a combination. Finally, mom woke me up and we took a cab the rest of the way.

When I came home, I was still really tired.  I greeted my family and went to my room intending to te a short nap.  My aunts greeted me with inner and I quickly ate in my room, then passed out.  Screwing up my sleep schedule even more, I slept from 6pm-1am, then 3-6:30am.

Thurs 29 January 2009

I woke up and went downstairs to make myself breakfast.  When I opened the cupboard, I spotted 3 bowls with cooked meals just sitting there at room temperature.  “Interesting,” I thought to myself. I wondered how long they had been sitting there.  A minute later, my youngest aunt intercepted and served me one of those dishes with a bowl of rice. My first Thai breakfast. She told me to eat at the TV and left me alone.  I practiced eating according to Thai custom even though no one was around – first bite is rice.  Then, eating with the spoon in my right hand and pushing food onto my spoon with my left hand. I wasn’t sure whether to put the rice in the soup or the soup in the rice. I chose the latter and made a mental note to ask Mom.

I told Mom I wanted to go biking and originally she was going to go with me but her sisters were afraid she’d fall down, so she walked instead. We went to the pond about 1 ½ blocks away and I circled around it a few times until I was too anxious to stay put. Just maybe, I could go a little bit further without getting lost. Unfortunately, my GPS wasn’t picking up signal, so I had to rely on my own mind.  I strayed a bit, then came back, and wondered if I could get to the neighborhood entrance and back again.  These neighborhoods are the kind that confuse me, with the houses blending in and the streets are circular. I had experience from the other day of going to the offering site, so I had seen part of the neighborhood already. I decided to go for it and found the entrance gate quite easily.  The offering site was quite near, so I tried taking the short cut route back that we had taken on our walk. That’s when I began running into park after part and began getting confused.  Then, low and behold, I became lost and suddenly found out just how many dead ends there were in the neighborhood.  After biking around for quite a while, a security officer stopped and asked, “Home.” I used my fingers to indicate “205” and he pointed me further than I thought I needed to go, but eventually, I found home.

I waited for Pa Tu to get ready and her, Mom and I went to the Chinese temple.  There were several Asians there paying their respects.  This site was quite different that the one downtown. It was definitely more local.  Pa Tu got me some offerings and we paid our respects to the Buddha.  I still kind of feel odd kneeling down and praying before a Buddha image, but I don’t pray particularly to the Buddha, so I guess it’s okay.  On the other hand, I don’t want to look disrespectful either.  On top of that, I want to engage in the cultural experience.  So I wrote my name on this little prayer sheet written entirely in Thai and received help awkwardly tying it together with thread to some incense, which I pretended to burn.  Then, I had nine thin squares of real gold wrapped in tissue paper.  So, one at a time, I unwrapped a sheet of gold and stuck it onto a glistening golden ball as an offering.  There were 9 offerings, 3 of which were Buddha statues. By the time I was finished, I had specks of gold all over my hands – like glitter that won’t come off – yet in this case, I wasn’t perturbed having it stuck to me.

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photo by: halilee