April 3 2017
In 64 days of travel my wife only asked for 2 days off. Her first was in Siem Reap, Cambodia last month. Today, our last day in SE Asia before we leave for home tomorrow morning, was the 2nd. Being the magnanimous ruler that I am (in my own mind and don’t even start with me about that because I am very happy in my bubble world) I granted her request. I am a benevolent ruler. (God – if she reads this I am in SO much trouble).
To prepare for her day off, she made me steal a napkin at breakfast so she could wrap up a smoked salmon & cream cheese sandwich that she’d made from breakfast buffet ingredients and then she snuck it into her purse and brought it back to the room and put it in the mini-fridge to have for lunch later on. She is now fully qualified to be a bubby. (Again, if she reads this I am a dead man).
When I returned about 6 hours later, she was (as I expected) watching soap operas and eating bon-bons on the sofa in our room. She said she had moved from the sofa at some point while I was away but couldn’t remember where or why. (Maybe I should just take my own life. Yeah, that would be better. Then at least I’ll know when & where it’s gonna happen).
While my wife enjoyed a relaxing day, wat do you think I did? That’s correct. (It never gets old, does it?).
Wat Po and Wat Arun, to be exact. Wat a double-header it was for me today, in honour of the start of the new MLB season. (Go Blue Jays; Go Cubs!).
As was the case with our visit to the Grand Palace yesterday, re-visiting these two incredible sites was also high on our list of things we wanted to do in Bangkok. She is happy with the photos and will live vicariously. I, on the other hand, in the never ending search for authenticity, needed to be there up close and personal.
There was a wat on the site of Wat Po going back to the mid 1600’s, well prior to the building of the new Palace complex by King Rama I in 1782. It is located immediately south of the Royal Palace.
Wat Po is first on the list of six temples in Thailand that are classed as being the highest grade of first-class royal temple. This makes it, according to my math, first of the first’s. Among its firsts: It has more Buddha’s in its numerous temples, shrines, stupas, wats & chedi’s than anywhere else in Thailand.
As you enter the complex, you get a sense of deja didn’t I just do this yesterday? This is the first sign that you simply cannot believe anybody needs as many temples as it appears these people needed. Or need. And ornate? Don’t even ask. Just look at the photos and you tell me.
But there are a few important things that are very worth noting about Wat Po and its temple precinct. First, it is home to Phra Buddha Saiyas – The Reclining Buddha.
Yesterday, you will recall that we visited the Emerald Buddha. Measuring a full 66 cm. in height in high yogic heels, the Emerald Buddha is like a teeny tiny point of Emerald Light in the aura of the Reclining Buddha at Wat Po. He stands a full 46 metres from topknot to toe!
Well, ‘standing’ would be an exaggeration. He’s a reclining Buddha, after all. But I can tell you that compared to the length of my wife all reclined out on the sofa in our hotel room, this Buddha would need a MUCH longer sofa.
Wat I learned from my visit with him is this:
1. The reclining Buddha represents the entry of Buddha into Nirvana and the end of all reincarnations. This I don’t fully understand but I’ll accept the statement as a fact and leave it at that.
2. There are 108 bronze bowls lining the length of the corridor on the back of the reclining Buddha. Pilgrims donate 20 Baht and receive a small bag containing 108 ‘coins’. They walk the length of the corridor and drop one into each bowl. The bowls themselves represent the 108 auspicious characters of Buddha.
This last bit of information was actually news to me. As you may recall, I had learned from our guide Jiang (call me “Yan”) in Hue (hu-which hu-we visited about a month and a half ago now) that there are 108 different ways in which pain can be inflicted and the 108 gongs that wake me up every morning are needed in order to assist in either alleviating or preventing each one of them.
It is possible that both things are accurate and that 108 is just a really, really important (albeit random) number in Buddhism. More investigation is warranted. I’d be obliged if you did it this time and let the rest of us know what you find out.
Next, it turns out that during the reign of King Rama III he decided that Wat Po would be the site of a collection of knowledge in various disciplines and it has thus become known as “The Memory of the World”. The memory is inscribed on stone plates that decorate the buildings and temples throughout the complex and deal with things such as history, religion, customs, literature, linguistics, proverbs, poetry, traditional medicine and Thai massage.
It will not surprise you to hear that UNESCO just had to get into the act here and so, in 2008, they included Wat Po in their Asia/Pacific Memory of the World Register. I had no idea such a thing existed. Or maybe I did and I just forgot.
Finally, Wat Po is well known for its School of Thai Massage Therapy. There are a few stone fountains around the grounds with koi ponds and dotted with statues demonstrating various yogic positions which apparently have some tie-in to Thai Massages. I looked closely at the yoga statues. It was apparent that these statues are in pain.
As you pass by the building that houses the School of Massage, all of the massage students are just kind of hanging around waiting to practice on unsuspecting tourists. You never heard such yelps of pain. Lucky for me, I was able to convince them that I’d already put on tefillin this morning.
Almost directly across the Chao Phraya River from Wat Po is the Wat Arun temple complex. Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) is highlighted by 5 prangs (towers) built in the Khmer style. The central prang is almost 300 ft. high and the colourful porcelain in which the 5 prangs are encrusted give off a distinctive glow with the first light of the morning, giving the entire complex its name.
For me, Wat Arun presented one final chance for me to kill myself during our visit to SE Asia. I actually pondered not climbing to the top of the stairs that (and this will not come as a surprise to you) were not built in accordance with the protocols suggested by The Stairs Calculator.com.
But I could not resist. Something impels me, after about 5 hours in the blazing hot sun and ridiculous humidity, to turn into a mountain goat. It’s our niece Lani’s birthday today and I think in the spirit of my niece, the mountain climber, I just did it because it was there. (Happy Birthday, Lani!) I will say this about the climb up and down Wat Arun: It’s over and I don’t have to do it again. Until next time.
As I did with yesterdays’ photos, I hope you’ll enjoy the ‘throwback Tuesday’ photos inserted from our last visit to these iconic Thai spots 34 years ago. I’ll leave it to you to figure out which ones are the throwbacks.