*This post was originally published on October 8th, 2011 on amywarcup.com
On Friday I had the great pleasure to be accompanied by four local Thai people. We visited the Grand Palace, Wat Phra Kaeo, and Wat Pho. This has been my favorite day in Bangkok so far, mainly because I had the opportunity to get to know some of the Thai people, and learn about many of their customs. I also practiced speaking some Thai, but my attempts to speak Thai definitely needs refining.
Thailand’s most sacred sight, perhaps, is the famous Wat Phra Kaew, a beautiful and ornate Theravada Buddhist Temple that houses the Emerald Buddha, which sits enshrined atop of a Thai-style throne. 95% of Thailand’s people are Theravada Buddhists. There are various sects of Buddhism that exist (I will share some of these on another post). Theravada Buddhism is the oldest lineage, sometimes referred to as being the “Southern school” or “lesser vehicle.” It is very important when visiting Thai temples for both men and women to dress modestly (covered to elbows and below knees) and remove shoes. Photographs should not be taken posing in front of the Buddha, and feet should never point toward alters. Photographs are not allowed to be taken of the Emerald Buddha, but I will share that visiting the temple is quite amazing, as the architecture is stunning.
Also located on the grounds is the complex of the Grand Palace, which was established in 1782 during the reign of King Rama I. Thais began integrating contemporary architecture in their buildings during this time, which exemplifies influences from the French, Portuguese, and English. One of my new Thai friends, Ariya, shared with me that the Thais refer to the Grand Palace (shown right) as being a Western building with a Thai crown. She added that the Thais appreciate Western culture, but also hold sacred their traditions, too. This belief is threaded through many aspects of Thai culture, including the architecture.
Next, we took a tuk-tuk ride to the Wat Pho, which is another of Thailand’s largest and most ornate temples. The Wat Pho also holds the national headquarters for teaching and preserving Traditional Thai massage. The grounds to the Wat Pho are stunning, and include a sculpture garden of figures in various Reusi Dat Ton poses, which is a form of traditional Thai exercises that resemble (though are different from) yoga asanas. The most famed figure at the Wat Pho is the enormous Reclining Buddha statue, which lies 150 feet long and 49 feet high. The statue illustrates the Buddha’s passing into death. Perhaps the most beautiful part of the statue is the bottoms of the Buddha’s feet, which is made of mother-of-pearl and displays 108 positive characteristics of the Buddha.
October 8, 2011 at 11:27 am
I like to pose like I’m holding up a temple, too- I just don’t get to do it in front of an ACTUAL temple!
Amy Warcup says:
October 9, 2011 at 5:48 am
We’ll have to come back to Bangkok together so you can have the opportunity!