Thailand: Wats in Bangkok!

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Before you begin reading any further I need to give a disclaimer regarding the title (Incase my English teacher is reading this as I know my spellings as taught 🙂 ) : This is not the alternative spelling of ‘What’ from a random text message of the age. Also you have to read further along to find out what is Wat. Thank you.

 

As the world was stepping into 2014, I was setting foot on the 14th country on my travel list. Thailand it was, as it offers a perfect blend of crazy and quiet. We decided to take in some craziness in Bangkok and then scoot away to a small island to have some time out (Coming up in subsequent post).

 

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Wat Phra Kaew Temple Complex

 

It is a hot spot for our desi  Indian tourists, for it was my first realisation on reaching Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok. As I pushed open a door to a restroom, I saw a group of ten Indian ladies occupying each of the ten wash basins with tooth brush in their hands and the carton of Colgate toothpaste was lying on the side of basin, which had Tamil script on it. As the toothpaste was passed along from sister to sister and basin to basin a long queue formed.

Well, I have had my share of waiting in washroom lines but the basin queue was something new. While the waiting bee lined ladies exchanged ‘I-know’ & ‘Really???’  looks and occasional ‘can-you-believe-this?’  smiles, the brushing brigade carried on, with no noticeable urgency in their brushing strokes. All we got was an occasional glance from  the corner of their eyes and they continued the ablutions at a ‘sunday’ pace.

Oh Boy! The holiday had just begun. 

I helplessly watched an award winning photo opportunity slipping by (while my husband helplessly waited) thanks to the ingrained lessons of hygiene and importance of hand wash. Also I would have cleared the immigration and visa formalities by this time and be on my way to the hotel.

So after a good taste of being in India, we finally arrived in Bangkok. We checked into Oriental Residence and with the first ‘Sawadeeka(p)’ itself, they took a lot of tiredness off a sweaty, sleepless, frizzy haired ‘us’. The Oriental Residence was one of the best surprises in terms of stay. It is an oasis of calm and comfort and it descends on you the very moment you step in. It is such a beautiful hotel with nicest, politest, most hospitable of people ever, down to each and every staff member we met during our 3 day long stay. It is cutting edge modern and categorically efficient. We would not even consider another option if we return to Bangkok. (You can read further about this place and view more pictures at my review on Trip Advisor)

 

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A sneak peek into our room

 

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A tasteful seating area in the room. My first thoughts were,’Wow! that could accommodate a lot of shopping bags’ :P

 

After a battle of sorts at the airport, there was another one waiting. It’s called jet lag. To loose it would mean to land on the farthest corner of the room that you see in the picture above, to win it would mean to land oneself somewhere in a happening part of the city. Well, we won.

Priorities were poker straight – Shopping (age old synonym of Bangkok), Temples, Food, Thai Massages and to squeeze in a bollywood flick if possible (all these, in this particular order). However, I’m going to write about them in an order different from one followed.

‘Wats in Bangkok’

Bangkok is a city of temples, for both – body and soul. Having been to the Wats (as temples are called in Bangkok) of only latter kind, I will be talking about that in this section.  There was a dauntingly long list of temples to visit but for the given time we could manage to see only a few.  It was very difficult to push ourselves out of the bed at the earliest owing to the jet leg as I had been lying wide awake till 3am listening to the Bangkok city traffic. But we were still happy we made it before noon.

The first one we saw is called Wat Phra Kaew (in the first picture above) and is the biggest in the league. It is in the same complex as the royal Grand Palace. To get a closer look one needs to buy tickets which are available at a short walk inside the main entrance. The first reaction after entering the main temple complex area would be a frantic search for sunnies! The temples are dazzling bright, right in your face. And once your eyes get accustomed there is nothing left but an escalating emotion of being overawed.

 

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Just after entering the complex

 

Immediately on entering I was a bundle of bemusement and disorientation and stayed planted where I was. I didn’t know where to look. Every little brick in there was worth a nice long look!

So we started with giant gate keepers guarding the entrance, which are taken from the epic ‘Ramayana’.

 

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Giant Gate Keepers oR ‘Yaksa Tavrnbal’, legendary guardians of natural treasures.

 

The temples have such mind boggling details on them with materials as delicate as tiles and mirrors, among other things, that you are bound to bow you heads in salutation and appreciation of the creativity. You need to see them from all angles and at all ranges.

 

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The domes and pillars of the temples are highly ornate.

 

 

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The gold tile and mirror work was an amazing contrast background to what I was wearing. :)

 

 

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A replica of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, is also housed in the same complex.

 

 

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Not just the work but the colours used are absolutely brilliant.

 

The following two pictures are my most favourite pictures from Thailand. A rugged and ragged, furrowed stone statue of Buddha against a highly flamboyant and flashy background. This picture summed up a lot of what I understand of Buddhism. I have been tremendously amazed and moved by this image.

 

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Simply amazing.

 

 

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An image highly revered by me.

 

The temple complex is peppered with many  gold-soaked mythological figurines or kinnaras, with beautiful stature and adornments.

 

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Part human, part bird statues of Kinnaras

 

 

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An amusing conversation between a pradigmatic lover and a pragmatic one, while some equally amused tourist look on.

 

The temple complex is usually a busy place throughout the day but early mornings would be a great time to visit. Less heat, beautiful light for pictures and a little less crowd.

 

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Spectacular facade of a temple

 

 

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The lion is another important figure in Buddhism symbolising the power in the Buddhist teachings.

 

The temple complex has both Hindu and Buddhist elements. Murals depicting legend of ‘Ramayana’ can be seen in its entirety along a shaded corridor.

 

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A section of mural depicting Ramayana

 

 

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A beautiful and shady corridor alongside the ‘Ramayana’ legend.

 

 

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More ‘Yaksa’

 

 

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I have to say the patterns, colours and design beats any top of the line designers.

 

The grand palace has been home to the Thai royalty for over a century. However, one can only admire it from the outside, no entry is allowed inside the living premise.

 

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The Royal Pantheon within Grand Palace complex. Very Majestic. Very Regal.

 

The Temple of Emerald Buddha is the most sacred of the shrines for Buddhist followers in all of Thailand. It is also one of the few buildings in Grand Palace complex where entry is allowed. The temple houses a cloaked statue of Buddha, carved out of a single block of jade and hence the name. Only the King is allowed to be in close quarters with the statue to perform the cloak changing ritual with the change of season. Photography is prohibited inside. However you can try your luck from the outside.

 

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The outer facade of the Temple of Emerald Buddha.

 

Well, these were the two major landmarks of this complex or Thailand for that matter. Further along there is a Royal reception hall and well manicured gardens with beautiful bonsai trees.

 

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This way to the Royal Reception Hall…

 

Although the daily turnout of the tourists in this temple is quite a big number, the temples are meticulously maintained. The whole environment, is very peaceful and calming. There are a few things to be taken care of, dressing in accordance of the code (covering shoulders and knees). Strictly speaking even feet should be covered, as in no sandal or slippers are welcome but this rule is clearly not implemented very strictly.  You do need to take off your shoes before entering the temple of Emerald Buddha. The unsaid rule of maintaining the decorum in a holy place like this goes without saying.

 

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A blossoming tree in the complex

 

 

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Near the royal reception hall. Elephant, a very important icon of Thailand, has a permanent place in most of Hindu and some of Buddhist temples.

 

The temple complex is a huge place, so be prepared to walk. But don’t worry it is going to be a memorable walk. To enjoy and appreciate all the nooks and corners of the area would take up a little more than half a day. But the time will just fly while you’ll be overcome with amazement. We thoroughly enjoyed this experience and I can say, hands down, this is the BEST and MOST BEAUTIFUL temple, I’ve seen so far.

 

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Lotus flower, another important Thai symbol captured in its absolute glory by my husband.

 

Near the exit, a small cafe was just what we needed to reboot before heading on to another temple. This cafe serves a huge variety of beverages and if you have a sweet tooth, ice-creams await you. A coconut and aloe vera juice drink is a very interesting refreshment and I would highly recommend it.

We continued our temple tour here onwards to Wat Pho or Temple of Reclining Buddha. It takes about seven to ten minutes on foot to the temple, but might seem longer when the sun is at peak.  The entry to the temple is paid and we even got a free water bottle with the ticket. Same dress code follows here. I would suggest you pay heed to the dressing advice here else you’re game for being photographed in a neon green plastic sheet tied to your waist with a rope.

A 46m long, gold leaf covered, peacefully reclining Buddha is the crowd puller of Wat Pho. This temple felt more crowded since it is smaller than the one previously visited.

 

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The Reclining Buddha

 

 

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The warm yellow glow emanating from Buddha is all the mood lighting you need for the day.

 

 

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The temple is incredibly beautiful, right up to the ceiling

 

Buddha’s feet are engraved with mother-of-pearl depiction of 108 actions that aided Buddha to attain perfection.

 

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At the feet of Buddha. Delighted :)

 

You can take a perimetric walk around this Reclining Buddha and drop in some coins in 108 bowls (an auspicious number in Buddhism) that will bestow some good luck upon you. The money collected goes in the upkeep of the temple and its premises, incase you don’t buy the former reason stated.

While most people take a detour from here straight to the school of massage situated in the same complex they miss out on another beautiful temple and a peek into a monk’s life.

 

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108 different Buddhas from all over Thailand. Buddha and I, are in our standard poses. Again.

 

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Monks at work.

 

 

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We sat in this temple for sometime for peaceful, restful time.

 

Finally, after walking all day, we made it to the school of traditional Thai massage, very hopeful and eager for the same. Well, one because they say if there is a place to get Thai massage in Thailand, it is here and two, because by this time our tired selves were asking out loud for it. But all the hopes were soon squashed by an hour and a half’s waiting time given to us. It could be shorter, but they could’t promise it. It would have been late evening by that time and all the masseurs must’ve been tired at the end of the day. And everyone knows that a tired, frustrated masseur could be as dangerous as an angry barber. So we called it quits and returned back. Also it is not possible to book for a slot for the following day or so we were told.

 

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A very happy and hopeful self, up for Thai massage.

 

Well, this happened because I had been thinking too logically! It simply made more sense to me to get a massage done at the end of the trip and go back happy and as refreshed as we came. But I hadn’t been taking into account all those people who not only had similar thoughts but better timings as well. So my advise is to see the Wat Pho first, get a massage of your choice and then proceed to Wat Phra Kaew or the Temple of Emerald Buddha. Saves time and energy and covers it all.

This leaves us with the very beautiful Temple of Dawn or Wat Arun. Wat Arun is situated on the other side of the river as opposed to these temples and one needs to take a ferry to reach there. Well, it was late in the evening and so we gave it a miss. Although it looks at its spectacular best in evening. But we missed it. 🙁

I know, I know, I KNOW! That’s like …almost sinful. But we had no choice here. I had big time shopping plans and just a day left!

Nevertheless, we feel truly happy to have visited these temples. They are ‘magnifique’ to say the least.

 

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Buddham Sharnam Gachhami!

 

There! One down from the bucket list. Umm…not quite yet. I’ll be re-visiting this place, sometime.  🙂

Read the next post to Thailand here