bangkok: wat wat wat

20 12 2007

in our time in bangkok, we’ve been to four wats: wat phra kaeo, wat pho, wat arun, and wat ratchapradit. interestingly, most of the temples in bangkok were built around the late 1700s, 1800s. ancient style, not so ancient ages.

wat pho: bangkok’s temple of the reclining buddha.

IMG_5741.jpgreclining buddha

the buddha statue is about 15 meters across from head to feet. like most of the statues, it’s bronze, covered in black lacquer and then covered with a layer of gold.

it’s also home to the famous massage school — the art of thai massage was first taught at wat pho. we’re not talking about a patpong, rub-and-tug kind of massage, but the pressure point, stretching thai massage. near the temple that houses the reclining buddha is a gallery of paintings used to teach students the technique, along with herbal remedies to alleviate pains and aches.

IMG_5737.jpg

IMG_5739.jpg

wat pho is still a place to learn and become certified in thai massage. the program is either one month or one year. i can’t remember.

wat arun: temple of the dawn.

this is a crazy temple. the architectural style is khmer, but the details on the temple are created from thousands upon thousands of fragments of broken porcelain. much of the porcelain was donated by bangkok families during the building of the temple.

wat arunwat arun, as seen from the ferry boat

detail of wat arun

the other interesting thing about the temple is the steep climb to the top level. people literally haul themselves up the steps to get to the top two levels.

steep climb up

skyline of wat arun

the last wat that we saw was wat ratchapradit. built by rama iv, known mostly by western audiences because of the musical the king and i. incidentally, the musical and the book that inspired it are banned here in thailand.

rama iv was pretty cool. he had 18 wives and 82 kids. he was also the first king of thailand to invite foreign (western) teachers and missionaries into thailand. his children were western educated — his son, king chulangkorn (rama v), would be the first to adopt more western dress, as well as the first true diplomat king of thailand.

back to ratchapradit.

given that this was built by a king, the crown of the king is prominently featured in the wat’s details. it’s hard to see because of the shadow, but you can see it here at the entry way and in one of the marble carvings.

wat ratchapradit

detail of crown in marble

there’s a statue to rama iv housed in a building that features the four faces of buddha on the roof. in thailand, royalty is revered, and this place is certainly no exception — offerings are left at the base of his statue.

four faces of buddha

offerings to rama iv

at the back of ratchapradit is a chinese pagoda. it’s a guardtower in the royal garden.

chinese pagoda in the royal garden

at this point, we’re watted out. we’ve got to save ourselves for chiang mai. . .

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