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Big Buddha in Bangkok

Having seen the buddha on Instagram, Elena and me decided to hop on a local bus and head over. We literally had to jump into the bus as the driver swerved over 2 lanes to get to us, opened the back door but barely slowed down. Elena jumped in first then helped me inside while hanging on a seat for dear life. Good grief! The ticket lady looked slightly amused. Well, we were not. We were relieved to be uninjured. But now we have a dramatic tale to tell, right?

The Royal Wat Paknam Phasi Charoen temple on the outskirts of Bangkok dates back to 1610 and is located on an island created by canals flowing from the Chao Phraya river.

In 2022 construction on a 69-meter-tall (230 ft) Buddha statue that will be visible across Bangkok finished. 69 meter, that’s like a 20-storey house. Paid for with $16 million worth of donations. Wowser.

Isn’t he gorgeous?

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Wat Ratchanatdaram Worawihan

This big Buddhist temple complex near the Golden Mount contains a Loha Prasat, known as the “metal castle” for its 37 iron spires.

The architecture is unusual, almost like a maze. Every level represents a level of meditation. The view from the top is worth the climb.

Temple complex
The Loha Prasat
The Golden Mount peeps over the roof of the temple
Fascinating architectural style
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River Cruise and Chinatown

One evening I helped a girl with too much luggage to get to her hostel. That’s how I met Elena from Miami.
The next day we hopped on a local ferry and headed down river to Chinatown. We both were not impressed, having experienced Chinatowns of NYC and London before. It also rained which didn’t help.

Here some impressions from the river:


And here some impressions from Chinatown:

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The King and Us

On November 7th, the King & Queen of Thailand visited the temple Wat Bowonniwetwiharn Ratchaworawiharn.

I had witnessed the preparations for an event on my visit to the temple and had asked a lady cleaning golden carvings with a soapy toothbrush for details. So on the day of the royal visit I was amongst a handful of tourists allowed to sit together with hundreds of locals on the street curbs opposite the temple to watch the royals arrive.

As one would expect, there was a lot of military, security, spectator group leaders but also tourist officers. The latter questioned me and other tourists coming up to the barriers about our intensions. “We would like to see your King and Queen”. That seemed to be the right answer and he guided us to places were mats had been put down to protect our clothing. As with lots of other places, especially temples, you had to take off your shoes.

Group leaders looking after the locals
The first marching band of two arrived, and so did the first drops of rain.

We tourists all scrambled under awnings. Mats were rolled up. Hardcore locals did not get up. They had been waiting for hours to ensure first row curb seats. They came prepared. Rain ponchos were handed out.

The locals were shouting the King’s name. He is well liked amongst his people.

My friend Malcolm will appreciate the beautiful Rolls-Royce. It reminded me of his novel, The Tiger’s Ghost; a Rolls-Royce plays a prominent role in it. Great story. Check it out on Amazon.

I got a proper look at the King and Queen when they left and drove past us again. I just forgot to turn on my video, blonde me.
And yes, we all waited over an hour for the whole entourage to come back. But it was raining anyway and nobody wanted to get drenched.

I later saw a report of the visit on TV. I felt very lucky to have witnessed this in person, on my first visit to Thailand no less.

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Wat Bowonniwet

This was the first temple I visited in Bangkok. Located not far from my hotel and close to Khao San street I walked past it on my way to the Grand Palace.

Full name Wat Bowonniwetwiharn Ratchaworawiharn is a major buddhist temple under patronage of the Chakri Dynasty. Many royal princes and kings studied and served their monk hood here. This includes the late King Bhumibol (Rama IX) who is also laid to rest here, as well as the current King Vajiralongkorn (Rama X).

Another former king of the Chakri Dynasty, King Vajiravudh (Rama VI), is also laid to rest here.

The day I visited a lot of cleaning (all the intricate golden carvings with toothbrushes!), tree cutting (health and safety would have had a fit) and decorating was taking place. The reason will become clear in my next post.

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Wat Pho

This temple is just behind the Grand Palace. Its many pagodas have ceramic decorations. Just beautiful.
The main attraction though is the longest reclining Buddha. 46 meters! They surely must have build the temple around it.

The temple complex is one of the six top royal temples and houses the largest collection of Buddha images in Thailand.

On site is also the school of Thai medicine which is attributed to be the birthplace of Thai massage. A museum informs about uses of different spices and herbs as well as anatomical techniques. It also had air condition which drew in even uninterested tourist. You can book a walk-in massage session at the school on site.

Wat Pho
Reclining Buddha