Suitcase and World: Wat Pho.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Wat Pho.

My first day's itinerary for Bangkok had us visiting Grand Palace, Wat Phra Kaew and Wat Pho all in one day. We had done the first two in the morning and although I, the newly nicknamed *Wilted Lily* was ready to escape to a cooler place, I had to trudge on.  The light the end of my tunnel of misery was the hope that we could have lunch in an air conditioned restaurant.

Our Grand Palace guide had given us directions on how to get to Wat Pho.  She assured us that there were plenty of eateries along the way.

I was glad to finally escape the horde of tourists inside the Grand Palace complex.  Unfortunately, there was as big a crowd outside as well.  Free space was not meant to be for me.

We walked along the main road, next to a row of shops and restaurants.  Every place was filled with people, it was lunch time after all.

Bro made a pit stop at one place. He spotted the fresh coconuts and who doesn't want to try some juice?  Okay, the stupid Wilted Lily opted out.  I don't know why.   Bro and Ayşe got one each.  As they sucked down the refreshing juice, I was regretting not getting one.  Ayşe's first time having coconut juice was in Mexico and she didn't like it much -  I had a sip of that one and I told her it wasn't good.  Thankfully, she gave it a second try because she did enjoy this one.

We walked a bit before spotting an Au Bon Pain....yes, they exist in Bangkok!  We decided to step inside.  I needed the cold air and the other two didn't mind joining me while they continued to drink from their coconuts.  Bro soon finished his juice and wanted to scrape out the meat.  Not easy to do with no utensils so he went back to the shop hoping that the guy who sold the coconut to him would cut it up.  But no luck, he got a plastic spoon.  Lucky me, I got the spoon and the coconut!

Once the Wilted Lily was revived, we continued on in search of a place for lunch.  We soon found one.  Not much of a place.  A few dishes (e.g., fried rice, fried noodles) for a reasonable price but more importantly, at least for me, it was air conditioned.

Ayşe digging the meat out of her coconut while we waited for our lunch.

I munched on a banana or two or was it three?  They're so teeny but delicious!
Lunch truly was a non affair.  After we left, we continued our way to Wat Pho.  This time, it wasn't hard to either find the entrance or the ticket line.

Wat Pho is one of the largest and oldest wats in Bangkok  and is home to more than one thousand Buddha images, as well as the famed reclining Buddha which measures 46 meters (150 feet) in length.

The Wat Pho complex consists of two walled compounds. The larger northern walled compound, the phutthawat, is the part open to visitors and contains the finest buildings dedicated to the Buddha, including the bot with its four directional viharn, and the temple housing the reclining Buddha. The southern compound, the sankhawat, contains the residential quarters of the monks and a school.

The temple grounds contain 91 small chedis (stupas), four great chedis, two belfries, a bot (central shrine), a number of viharas (halls) and other buildings such as pavilions, as well as gardens and a small temple museum. Architecturally the chedis and buildings in the complex are different in style and sizes.

Ayşe getting our tickets.

Since we didn't have a guide to show us around or explain anything to us, we just wandered around and took in the sights. Hopefully, we hit the highlights.

Right off the bat, we spotted a beautifully framed door.  The frame itself was worth a closer inspection.  Peeking inside, I got a glimpse of the reclining Buddha that is famously housed here. 

I see you!

We decided to walk around a bit before entering the temple.  The perimeter wall of the main temple complex has sixteen gates, two of which serve as entrances for the public.  A number of large Chinese statues, some of which depict Europeans, guarding the gates of the perimeter walls as well as other gates within the compound. These stone statues were originally imported as ballast on ships trading with China.

One of two Chinese guardian statues flanking one of the public entrance gates to Wat Pho.

Locals praying.  The women are clasping joss sticks and lotus flower buds in their hands.

Bundles of joss sticks and candle can be had for a small donation.

Lighting joss sticks.

As a sign of devotion, people apply small pieces of gold leaf to the Buddhas.

There was some sort of a special taking place at Wat Pho.  One of the courtyards was filled with tables and people handing out flyers.  Perhaps it was something related to Chinese New Year?

A pair of monks were offering blessings. 

For a donation, you would receive a small band of string, tied around your wrist....

...and have a monk tap you on the head and shoulder with a brush dipped in water.

Peeking above a wall, I could see Phra Maha Chedi Si Rajakarn, a group of four huge pagodas.

Each pagoda stands 42 meters (138 feet) high ending in a tall spire and is elaborately decorated with mosaic tiles from top to bottom.  Each pagoda was built by a different King - from Rama I to Rama IV.

It was Rama IV who ordered all four pagodas to be enclosed and surrounded with the wall so as to leave no space for more pagodas.

As for most people, the highlight for most people visiting Wat Pho is the Reclining Buddha.  We took our shoes off to enter the small temple.  Well, it looks small because the Buddha pretty much takes up all the space!  It was pretty dark narrow and dark corridor we walked down but it was ornately decorated with wall and ceiling murals.

He reclines behind a row of tall columns so it's not possible to taken him all in in one glance. 

I took a few photos and then decided to shoot a short video to try and capture the full image of the Buddha but my arms got tired holding up the camera so I only have about 40 seconds of video. Need to work on my arm muscles :-)

The corridor you walk down.  Buddha is on the right hand side.

108 bronze bowls line the length of the walls of the temple corridor. They are for wishes and prayers.  You can either bring your own lot of 108 pennies or buy them at the entrance. 

Dropping the small coins in makes a nice ringing sound and even if your wishes don’t come true, the money goes towards helping the monks renovate and preserve Wat Pho.

Where there is space, there is an altar.

Another altar and another Buddha image.

Unfortunately for us, the soles of Buddha's feet were being renovated so we really didn't get but a small glimpse of them.  Otherwise, we would have see a pair of 5 meter (16 feet) long feet, exquisitely decorated in mother-of-pearl illustrations of the 108 auspicious 'laksanas' (positive actions and symbols) that helped lead Buddha attain enlightenment.

A  glimpse of the soles of Buddha's feet.

You can walk all the way around the Buddha so you can see him from front and back.  For me, the most interesting thing about the back side was seeing the back of his head partially resting against a beautiful stone *pillow* decorated with bas relief work.

He's got a spiky hairdo.  Looks like a golden durian.  No disrespect intended.

You can see the arm and hand that he rests his head on.

Back outside, we continued our wandering about the temple complex.

Wat Pho was intended to serve as a place of education for the general public.  Today,it holds the reputation as being THE center of knowledge with regards to the methods and practice of Thai massage.  Visitors to Wat Pho have the option of having a Thai massage and being a fan of Thai massage, Ayşe was curious if she could have a session.  The small massage center was already filled with waiting patrons but we urged her to go ahead and inquire.  Turned out it would be an hour wait and then another hour for the massage.  I wanted her to go but she was concerned about me.  The Wilted Lily was not looking comfortable.  I assured her that I would find a shady spot to sit in and would get water to cool off.  But that was not enough to get her to go in and put her name down on the wait list.  I told her there would be other opportunities for a massage in the coming days, especially when we go to the beach.  With that, she walked away.  I now have to make sure that we set aside time for her to go.

Posing for the obligatory *I was there* photo :-)

Phra Rabieng is the double cloister of Wat Pho.  It encloses a large courtyard. Installed in the cloisters are seated as well as standing Buddha statues. There are 150 Buddha statues on the inner side of the cloister and another 244 on the outer side. 

We took a few minutes to rest.  Just so happens the spot we picked was right in front of Phra Ubosot which is situated in the center of the courtyard enclosed by Phra Rabieng.  Phra Ubosot is the ordination hall, the main hall used for performing Buddhist rituals.  It is the most sacred building of the Wat Pho complex.  It was constructed in the reign of King Rama I and  then reconstructed and enlarged during the reign of King Rama III.  We didn't go inside.  I think we were temple'd and Buddha'd out by this point in the day.

The one nice thing about Wat Pho are all the rock gardens that are in the complex.  In all, King Rama III created 24 gardens/hills. The gardens are decorated with many plants and Chinese stone statues.

One of the many Chinese stone statues at Wat Pho.  I liked the smile on his face.

Another Chinese guardian statue. This one flanking a gate that is closed to the public.

Last views on our way out of Wat Pho.  By the time we left, the Wilted Lily was more than ready to call it a day!

There will be more temples, chedis and Buddha's tomorrow.  But for now, it's back home to the apartment and dinner!  As it turned out, getting home was more ultimately more tiring than need adventure unto itself :-)  More about that in the next posting.