One day near the end of our stay in Bangkok I left Henry to get on with some work and went on a day out by myself. There were two major temples we had not seen so I resolved to put that right and visit, taking enough photos for the both of us.
The first on the list was Wat Arun. Located on the other side of the Chao Phraya river, it is an iconic structure we had seen from the ferry on many occasions. It is also featured on the 10 Baht coin and is one of the most important wats in the whole of Bangkok. It is on the tourist map so was not quite as quiet and peaceful as many of the other Wats we have visited here. (For info, it costs 50B to get in (£1) and polite dress is required)
Before enjoying the main attraction I investigated the grounds of the complex where I found this elephant.
I then had a look at the temple where the main Buddha (big one at the back) is said to have been created by one of the kings.
I then felt ready to take in the main attraction: the 86m prang (tower type thing) and four satellite prangs that dominate the area. The first impression as you walk into the gate and give your ticket in is pretty impressive…
Once you get up close you realise quite how detailed the work on these rather large towers is. They are covered, right to the very top, in broken pieces of porcelain. According to something I read, the pieces were a waste product that came over from China as ballast on a ship. What an excellent example of early recycling!
This was the scene in a little alcove in one of the satellite prangs.
The stairs were really steep, especially the second set. I went up like a toddler, holding the steps with one hand and the rail with the other and I had to come down backwards, holding on with both hands!
This was taken from halfway up the tower, it is the roof of one of the smaller prangs. I think it is amazing how the detail is carried on all the way to the top. Also on this photo you can see the little bells. There were hundreds all over the towers and all tinkling away the whole time.
The view from the top was pretty good although by then it had become distinctly overcast so I missed the blue sky picture opportunities unfortunatly. In the first one you can see Wat Po, my next destination.
Once I had fully explored the area and taken far too many pictures I had a refreshing ice coffee and headed back to the pier for the 3B ferry over the river.
Ice coffee served in a bag
The ferry stop which serves Wat Po (and the Grand Palace next door – see earlier post) is called Tha Tien and the area around the pier is now the main place to buy dried seafood in Bangkok. Here are some of the delights on offer… (the man is only offering his smile, mind)
I made my way to Wat Po which is really very close to the pier, paid my 100B fee and entered amid a coach load of Indian tourists. It is the oldest and biggest temple in Bangkok and has more Buddha images than any other temple here. It was even busier than Wat Arun and most of the people seem to be there to see the main attraction – the giant reclining Buddha. As that area was so busy I decided to explore the rest of the complex first. It is enormous! There were seemingly endless mini temples containing hundreds of Buddhas in different poses, courtyards, statues and dozens and dozens of chedis. Most of the rest of the complex was devoid of tourists, I just came across some people actually there to worship and a school group sat on the floor listening attentively to their teacher. I think the tourists were missing out by just seeing the reclining Buddha, look at what they missed! (By this point it was also raining, a drizzly British sort of rain that made you damp rather than wet and has made most of the pictures look rather dull.)
As the battery in my camera was running rather low I thought I had better get in and see the reclining Buddha. I queued up, took a bag for my shoes (it was so busy I suppose the pile of shoes would have been an organisational nightmare – their system is that you take them with you) and trudged in. There were so many massive lenses, compacts and camera phones in the air you had to be careful where you were walking (not just because of blocking other people’s pictures but avoiding getting clonked around the head.) It was packed. The Buddha though was very impressive, I think the largest we have seen. In the second picture the little dots in the bottom left hand corner are people – to give you a sense of the scale of this thing. (Wikipedia has just informed me it is in fact the largest Buddha image in Thailand at 15m high and 43m long)
The Buddha’s feet are also quite special – they have symbols to show the 108 ways that Buddha can be recognised, all inlaid with mother of pearl.
The final part of this temple to show you is the collection bowls. There are actually 108 of these as well, lined up behind the statue. People drop money in for luck and it was quite a popular thing to do.
Bangkok, 19th June 2012