Sunday, July 15, 2012

Thailand, A Day With Buddha


Now familiar with the canal boat system, we are back at the Chid Lom stop for a longer trip down the canal towards the Grand Palace.


SAM_2061This requires a quick boat transfer at Thai Si Phraya and once again we are enjoying the scenery of the city that at one time was called “The Venice Of The East”.




Leaving the pier near the Grand Palace, I strike up a conversation with a local who turns out to be very helpful in planning our day. Using our map, he informs me that this is a good day to tour the temples around the city. This is the last day of a special tourism promotion that happens once a year.

I don't know why he assumed just because I am wearing knee high white socks and plaid shorts that I am a tourist. Anyhow, he plots out a tour then leads us to a tuk-tuk driver. Some words are exchanged and then he tells us that for 20 baht (less than one US$1) this driver will take us around to all the temples he has marked on our map. What a deal!


002Our first stop comes with a pleasant surprise, free food.

Now I am glad I wore my knee high white socks. Friendly conversation with a lady and her daughter and soon I am eating a delicious bowl of Thai pork soup.


Pork balls, fish and noodles mixed with green onions and seasonings that gives it a nice flavor. Wanting to kick it up a notch, I add a little Thai chili. I soon realize I may have added too much as my forehead begins to break out in a sweat.

Now filled with lunch, I stroll the grounds of the world's tallest Buddha, standing at about 100 feet high and 30 feet wide. Also on the grounds are various temples and Buddha statues that display amazing craftsmanship and beauty.



154Big Buddha


Before, we visit our next temple we are taken on an unsolicited and almost mandatory stop for the tuk-tuk driver.

Part of the Tourism Promotion week is that foreigners are allowed to purchase one set of ruby or sapphire jewelry without paying tax. I am told this can be a significant investment as all rubies exported from Thailand have a 195% export tax. You can take the stones you buy here during this week and sell to your local jeweler for an easy 100-150% profit. The only catch, you have to have the thousands of dollars available to make the initial investment.


469At our next stop I am admiring a Buddha that makes my mind drift off to the sand and beaches of the tropics. Sitting against a soothing blue background and decorated in shinning gold, I cannot help but think of the clear skies and warm sun of the Caribbean.



Another awe-inspiring temple in Bangkok is The Marble Temple with it's unique displays of Buddha's from around the world. My favorite, the Japanese Buddha.



165Japanese Buddha


Walking outside of The Marble Temple our tour hits a snag. Apparently, our tuk-tuk driver no longer wants to be a part of Tourism Promotion week. He now wants to take us to a tailor shop and other merchants where he gets money for bringing us there. I am quite comfortable in my plaid shorts and 20 baht later we depart ways.

I don't know if a curse is cast on me for refusing to be taken for a ride or if the grasshopper I ate last night is returning with vengeance but I set off in search of a WC. As in most countries of the world, gas stations are a nice refuge for many things besides gasoline. With an outside temperature in the 90's, I am in a sweat box inside the WC. However, it turns out to be the most comforting sweat box I have been in, even though I end up leaving a knee high sock behind.

With my detour crisis over, another tuk-tuk ride and we are headed for The Grand Palace. Unfortunately, we arrive too late for an entrance ticket. Although it closes at 5pm, the last tickets are sold at 4pm. However, The Reclining Buddha is within walking distance and it stays open until 6pm.


017There is an entrance fee of about 100 baht to visit Wat Pho, home of “The Reclining Buddha”.

I am disappointed to see that there are posted signs to be aware of pick pockets. However, I guess it can be expected at such a popular tourist spot.




183For many years, I thought I had a “Big Head” until “Fat Heads” came along.

However, neither of us compares to the head I am now standing under.





176Reclining Buddha



184Made from over 5 tons of solid gold, no matter the size of your head, this Buddha will leave you breathless.





Wat Pho along with being the most extensive temple in Bangkok is also considered the birthplace of traditional Thai massage. No wonder I feel a relaxed connection to this place.



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