Monday, February 15, 2010

So Many Temples, So Little Time...

Bangkok has 400 temples. Today, I could only get to three of them--the top three, according to guidebooks.

Each is unique and fabulous in its own way.

Temple of the Golden Buddha (Sukhothai Traimit):

This is another solid gold 18 karat Buddha weighing 7.5 tons. It is 700 years old and comes from Sukhothai, where the monarchy reigned for several centuries. (Ayutthaya and Sukhothai both preceded Bangkok as the capitol of Thailand.) It is twelve feet, five inches in diameter and fifteen feet, nine inches tall. (Larger than the previous--but oldest--Buddha I told you about.)

At one point in this Buddha's long history it was completely covered in plaster to hide the fact that it was gold from an invading army. Not until 1955 was its full value rediscovered when some of the plaster chipped away during a move from one wat to another.

Honor paid to this Buddha is believed to bring you good luck and to fulfill all of your wishes.

A young monk adjusts his robe.

Wondrous artwork is easy to miss when there's so much else to see.

A monk pays his respects to the Golden Buddha.

The Golden Buddha had a string tied to his finger that I did not see until I downloaded this photo. Wish I had noticed and asked why!

Looking down at the side temple

Interior of the side temple

Reclining Buddha:

The famous Reclining Buddha is 42 meters long and entirely fills a huge temple called Wat Pho, the main teaching center for Thai massage and herbal healing. It is said that as his life was drawing to an end, the Buddha lay down facing west but continued teaching his followers. His wisdom at this time was the greatest of his entire lifetime and he died, as he had lived, peacefully instructing his followers on how to live a good, fulfilling life.

This enormous, amazing Buddha is made of concrete covered with 24 carat gold leaf.

On the grounds of this temple, the ashes of the first four kings of the present dynasty are interred in "chedis" adorned with the highest expression of the art form of Chinese porcelain.

Several other temples and Buddhas could also be found in this huge compound where everywhere you looked was something marvelous. (I'd better leave Bangkok soon; I'm running out of superlatives!)

Columns supporting the roof of the temple partially block the view of the Reclining Buddha--but here, he appears to be peeking at me from between two massive columns.

Every square inch of the interior of this huge temple has gorgeous paintings depicting the life of Buddha.

Giant gold feet.

Trying to get the Buddha all in one photo!

Offering pots where the faithful can deposit coins surround the Buddha on all sides.

Looking down the length of the Buddha's back.

Huge golden hand supports the head of the Reclining Buddha.

The Egyptians buried their important dead in pyramids. The Thais use fantastically decorated chedis.

This unusual Buddha was tucked away in a side temple.

Buddha images line the galleries of almost all of the buildings. You make offerings by purchasing 24 carat leaves or squares of gold and pressing them into the images.

Lotus buds and incense sticks also make acceptable (and less expensive) offerings.

This wonderful Buddha was in a large temple clear at the back of the compound. So many people come to see the Reclining Buddha that serious Buddhists and monks need a more quiet place to meditate and make offerings, the guide told us.

The Marble Temple:

Built by one of the kings who fancied rare marble, this lovely temple is a masterpiece of symmetry. Even the Buddha inside is made of marble. However, the marble has been covered with 24 carat gold leaf just like the Reclining Buddha.

As a Westerner viewing these National Treasures that Thais so cherish and of which they are so justifiably proud, I walk around pinching myself just to remember that this is all real. Real gold. Real jewels. Genuine artwork and artistry, so perfectly hand-done that it looks like a computer must have designed and executed it.

American kids grow up believing that Disneyland is a cherished place to visit. Thais kids grow up dreaming of one day seeing the Temple of the Golden or Emerald Buddha and other centuries-old marvels. My Western inclination is to wonder if this is all fake--kind of a Thai-style Disneyland. And how can these treasures just sit out like this and not get ripped off somehow?

Well, they can and do here in Thailand--and they are no fake Disneyland, either, but the real deal.

Inner courtyard of the temple.

Gold-covered marble Buddha.

This gentle monk is Rama V of "King and I" fame. Buddhist males, including kings, spend at least three months of their lives as monks, so that they can learn the tenets of Buddhism and live a worthy life. (You will note that he looks nothing like Yul Brenner.)

Throne or chair of Rama V, just sitting there, with some stuff on it.

The attitude of each buddha means something. Most that I have seen sit in the "meditative" position. Some have one hand draped over a knee and pointing downward. This indicates that it is has cast down temptation and evil.

Buddha offering

More wisdom of the Buddha


  1. Thank you for posting all these wonderful photos and stories. You almost have enough for that how-to-see-Thailand-on-a-budget travel book! Keep up the good work!

  2. WOW.....WOW...... and WOW !!!!! Enjoy your blog immensely ! Are you sure you have to leave? Barb

  3. Hi: I'm amazed at how neat and clean everything looks besides beautiful .... is it that way all over? jan

    Ps: Do think Yul Brenner is cuter.

  4. Wow! Such amazing architecture. It's one thing I despise about Orlando. It doesn't have exciting history, culture, or architecture.


    p.s. You really should be a guidebook writer/photographer