Bangkok Trip - Day 2
Our second day started with a great view of the busy freeway and a heavy breakfast at the hotel, after which we were almost thinking of getting back to the room for a nap.... but then we recluctantly set off to find the taxi we had hired for the day. At the lobby, we met our driver and guide for the day Mr. Keno, who turned out to be a valuable source of info abt the local life and culture. Armed with the map of Bangkok, water bottles and sunscreen, we started for our first destination the Wat Phra Kaew or the temple of the emerald buddha.
From the net I had gathered that this temple housed within the Grand Palace was the largest in Bangkok and the most popular tourist destination, so we were quiet excited to see for ourselves the beauty and grandeur of the temple. Enroute to the temple we noticed a lot of monuments like victory monument, democracy monument on the wide main roads and numerous dedications to the Thai King. From our limited 3 day stay itself, we could make out that the Thai people are dedicated towards their king and treat him with the same respect as that of God. The Thai king was under medical supervision during our visit and you could see people really wanted him to get better...there were huge hoardings and placards placed all over the city wishing for his speedy recovery. [Below : Grand Palace]
So after a quick 20 min skim through Bangkok traffic, we reached the Grand Palace. Our driver left us at the entrance and promised to meet us after 2 hours, we went in hoping 2 hrs was ample time to look around. At the entrance were royal guards giving a once-over to all the visitors, some tourist who were not properly attired (sleeveless or feet exposed or sexy tops) were directed to borrow sarongs from the conviniently placed booth by the entrance. Once inside, the temple chedis or mounts on the left and the palace towers directly ahead along with the well manicured lawns and trees make a spectacular view, transporting you to a different era. It is not hard to imagine how it would have been some 100 years back.
[Below: Murals depicting Ramayana on the walls of Wat Phra Kaew]
Next, we lined up at the ticket counter, paid 200 bahts for entrance to the temple. Incidently the entrance is free for Thais, and there are plenty of guards to make sure non-thais dont pass off as locals. Inside the temple first thing we noticed were the lovely murals on the walls, we gathered later that these were the scenese from Ramayana and in the courtyard are these huge statues of demons each vibrantly painted with a ferocious face. Looking around the temple we realised we would be wasting time not hiring a guide so immediately we signalled for a english speaking guide. The guards introduced us to an retired army officer who for a price of 500 bahts guided us through the temple.
[Below: Temple decoration, Wat Phra Kaew]
The temple has many areas with lots of statutes and smaller shrines strewn across the courtyard. Some architectural features like the edges of the roofs are inspired by Naga, the king of snakes and Garuda, the king of birds. Throughout the temple influence of Ramayana is very evident, in fact the Thai ppl even call their king Rama. The temple decoration is done mainly on wood with gold leaf and porclein to add the vibrant colors. An interesting feature of the temple is that three different styles of buddhist architecture are seen here - the srilankan solid gold chedi, the thai style chedi and the camodian or khmer style chedi. Another interesting feature is the seals of all the kings and the white elephants owned by them are also represented in various corners of the temple. There is also an replica of the Angkor Wat here, so for me it was half dream come true. (I hope to visit Angkor Wat some day..it has always fascinated me...maybe i was born there in my previous birth...god knows!!!) Next we went into the inner scantum housing the emerald buddha, actually the idol is made of jade, it was quiet a spectacular room with floor to ceiling murals and numerous buddha statues.
[I can keep writing abt the Wats....and this post will keep growing so me cutting short the descriptions...maybe will write a detailed post later...]
[Below: Reclining buddha at Wat Pho]
Before we knew it one hour was up and we bid goodbye to our guide. We spent another half hour walking around the palace grounds and I even got to click a snap with the palace guard! IAnd soon it was time for our next stop Wat Pho, this temple is in walking distance from the Grand Palace. The speciality of this temple is that it housing the largest reclining buddha. I didnt expect much when I went in but the scale and beauty of the reclining buddha at Wat Pho took my breath away. It is a small shrine but it has some interesting chedis built by the first four kings Rama I through Rama IV. Each of these chedis is a tapering structure with lovely porcelin adornments. One thing I noticed about the buddisht temples is the omni present lily pond and bells. Lovely water lillies...my grand favourites....everywhere around the temple. Had a great time taking snaps of bees in those lillies...drove my husband crazy!!! Btw I almost forgot.....that day being my bday I wanted to do something special, so I lined up to get loose change for 20 bahts and dropped coins into the 108 urns kept there.
[Below: Wat Arun]
Our next stop the grand Wat Arun. After seeing the temple outline at dusk, I was more than eager to visit this temple. Lots of surprises awaited us! The central chedi is a tall structure with intricate workmanship, the structure wows you in a different way in daylight. And when u climb the really steep steps and see the view from the top terrace, you get a broad view of the city, the river and the life around the temple. Simply marvelous. Btw this temple is dedicated to Indra and most of the work is covered with broken porcelin.
Moving to the next temple location, its the Wat Saket, temple of the golden mount. When we saw the spiralling staircase, we almost decided not to go ahead but then, what's the point if you dont see all the places. Anyways off we went climbing the steps of Wat Saket, and pleasantly after 10 mins the spectacular view of the city just made it so worthwhile. Just to keep my mind off the climb, I rang every bell I saw on the way to the mount...! The actual shrine is very small and houses a golden mount but the best part of the temple is the killer view of the city.
It was already 5 and time for us to head back to hotel and our taxi hire ended at 5:30. But on the way, we did hope into one of the handicraft "showrooms". Surprising the range of handicraft we found were very less so we settled for a peuter mask of a king. Then we headed back to the hotel. Actually we were quiet glad to get back as we were quiet tired and sweaty. And then I had a special surprise, the hotel staff had placed a cake and card for me in the room....I was so happy! It really made my day so special.
After a quick change, we were back out again, this time we took a taxi upto the night bazaar. It was this huge shopping area that reminded me of Ranganathan street at night....fully packed with ppl mostly tourist. We spent a lot of time visiting the stalls but didnt find anything spectacular...and to make matters worse, we found the same artifact we bought in the showroom for less than half the price! I was so pissed, but then its all a learning experience!! Anyways we got a glimpse 0f the vibrant night life and the best part was the live band at the hawker centre style eating place.
It was a very eventful day with some of the best moments of the trip. I was specially happy to have spent my bday visiting beautiful temples and doing the things I love most....photography and exploring temple architecture. An unforgetable birthday for me.