Bangkok part 2: Wat´s up? Of temples and treasures

Have you ever watched the movie “Anna and the King” with Jodie Foster? Bangkok takes center stage in this charming film based on a true story, which tells the glorious tale of a very brave English woman in the 19th hundreds, Anna Leonowen, who takes the role of English teacher to Thai king Mongkut´s kids. In many aspects based on a true story, the movie is lovely, entertaining, and exotic – and you´ll get an idea of the real location´s magnetism when heading to Bangkok´s imposing and unbelievably majestic neighborhood Ko Ratanakosin, the former royal quarter. Some of Thailand´s oldest and holiest sights can be found here.

My first stop is the Bangkok National Museum (Th Na Phra That), truly a cultural heavyweight, and one of South East Asia´s biggest museums to date. In-between colorful masks, royal thrones and other alluring artefacts, I am getting a pretty good insight into the former Siamese kingdom´s history and culture, including intriguing insights into the history of the ancient royal cities of Sukhothai and Ayutthaya. When you think Bangkok National Museum, think glitz and glamour with a side dish of chaos, or at least that´s how it felt to me when I had the privilege to visit.

Stepping out of this culturally inspiring place, I am embraced by Bangkok´s hot, humid air and its usual soundscape consisting of a melange of persistent honking sounds and other unidentifiable noises. I gather my strength, greatly helped by a quick and delicious Pad Thai, a stir-fried rice noodle delight and a staple-dish of the world-famous Thai street food, and onward to the mighty Grand Palace I go!

I´ve barely got time to cover my shoulders and check that I´m wearing appropriate, respectful attire, aka long trousers/ a long skirt, when I hear the familiar sound of Spanish in its quickest pace and with its characteristic Andalusian accent. A warm, homely feeling floods my being- this is, after all, an accent I have come to know and love since I was a little kid eating delicious gambas, prawns, while sitting on my grandma´s lap! I locate the source of the roaring laughter that follows the Andalusian chatter, and decide to approach the group of kind-looking guys who are standing close by. The next hours are spent exploring the dazzling Grand palace with my new amigos. The palace is a spectacular sight to behold indeed and served as the home of the Thai king, the Royal court and the administrative seat of government for 150 years. It´s still considered the spiritual heart of the kingdom of Thailand!

The next day, it´s Wat Phra Kaew calling me. Also known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and officially named Wat Phra Si Rattana Satsadaram, it´s regarded as the most sacred Buddhist temple in Thailand. Bangkok´s old regal splendor is truly transporting me to a different world, a world in which peaceful vibes, equanimity and benevolent smiles from golden Buddha-statue-faces reign and in which a deep silence seems to unveil itself behind Bangkok´s unceasing noise background. An other-worldy seeming place in which the eternal stillness beyond the thoughts seems to call out to busy temple-visitors, ever so gently reminding them to come home to themselves, to go beyond the visible and to the invisible place of existence, to inner peace, acceptance and yes-to-all-that-is. Was I maybe a Thai monk in a past life? Maybe. I definitely love being in their presence and feel very much at home in their temples.

Be it as it may, monks dressed in orange-colored robes are definitely a big part of Bangkok´s and Thailand´s ethereal charm – monks that I am careful not to get too close too when travelling on the same ferry on the overflooding Chao Phraya river! Why? Well, my friend, the reason is that women are not allowed to touch a monk, not even by accident on an over-crowded water taxi! If you so much as brush against a monk, the Buddhist doctrine dictates that the monks return to the temple and perform rituals to cleanse themselves of your touch. Hello, people, women are truly not that bad! Maybe it´s time to revise a few of those old patriarchal mindsets? But I am getting off-topic.

Back to Thailand, its approximately 460.000 monks, and its fantastic temples! While carefully monitoring my distance to the monks on the ferry, I take a look at my phone and realize that it´s almost too late to pay a visit to Wat Po, Bangkok´s oldest temple! What can a culturally interested woman with a thirst for peaceful vibes do? She can certainly hurry up and go for a nice, sweaty run! My determination is rewarded – I manage to snap some quick pictures in front of the 44 meters (!!) long, reclining golden Buddha. Cheese and cheers to Thai selfies! I know, selfies are not cool anymore. But it was a 44 meters (!!) long reclining buddha! What can I say…

Inspired by the statue´s utterly relaxed demeanour, I decide to take it easy and hop onto a colourful Tuk-Tuk, whose driver convinces me to pay a visit to glittery Chinatown and its phenomenal eateries. Boy, that driver surely missed his true calling as a daredevil-race-car driver! I can barely hold on to my seat while I try to answer his slightly irritated question as to why I am out on town on my own. At long last we manage to arrive in mostly one piece, and I almost get a little dizzy while taking it all in: Chinatown´s neon-coloured-explosion of lights, its unceasing hustle and bustle, myriad food stalls and inviting restaurants…

Surrounded by crowds of Thais and tourists, I stroll through the busy streets and stop by a humble stall to taste a delicious, freshly pressed pomegranate-juice on the side of the road. No trip to South-Eastern-Asia is complete without at least a string of street-food-experiences, my friend! The taste of the sweet pomegranate-drink is so good that I zone out and almost get hit by a car. Lesson learned: You better remain alert when out and about in Bangkok town! I sooth myself from this shock by joining some locals at one of the much-sought after tables lining, well, basically the middle of the road, and indulging in some more typically Thai culinary delights. Laa kawn Bangkok – I´ll be back!

What about you, dear reader, have you ever been to a Buddhist temple? What were your impressions?

Categories: Posts in English, Reiselust- Hungry for travel, Reisen | Tags: , , , , , | 30 Comments

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30 thoughts on “Bangkok part 2: Wat´s up? Of temples and treasures

  1. Wonderful post. Now, you have added another destination to my list. This was a perfect sequel to your first Bangkok post. In the first one you introduced us to the people and lady boys, the scents and flavor.
    Now you are providing the sights. The musuem art looks breathtaking.
    Hey, be careful not to touch a Monk.
    This was such a pleasure to read.
    You gave your blog the perfect name.
    Abrazos.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Drew, your feedback means so much and is truly motivating! I feel honored to evoke such beautiful reactions. Thanks for all your wonderful kindness! There´s a documentary on Netflix called “The kindness diaries”, have you heard of it? Makes me think of you 🙂 Mil gracias de corazon, from one writer to another! Abrazos

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    • True,my dear!!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Absolutely stunning. Both the images and your wonderfully penned descriptions. 💜
    Enjoyed this so much!
    X

    Liked by 1 person

  3. So much amazing experiences in Thailand.yeah.it is a Buddhist country.you know-i like very much the philosophy of Buddhism,my dear Gipsy Soul!!💝💕💕💕💕💕💕

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much for taking the time to read and giving me feedback, dear Aruna! I agree, the philosophy of Buddhism is just wonderful. I especially like the focus on compassion including self-compassion, with the latter often being neglected in the monotheistic religions. What do you like best about Buddhism, dear? ❤

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  4. Hi – I’m stopping by via Drew’s encouragement on his blog. Your post is a joy to read, and full of tidbits I hadn’t heard before – never been to Thailand. I agree with you on the need to update traditions – women aren’t bad, we don’t often bite either. Your selfies and the smiles show how much fun you had!! Congrats on a wonderful trip that entices you to go back!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Shelley, thanks so much for visiting my little corner of the Internet and for your thoughtful and detailed comment! I am really glad to hear you enjoyed the post – Thailand is one of my favorite destinations ever, and I hope for everyone to experience its lovely people and culture. Haha yes, we women only bite occasionally, maybe on a full moon or so? 🙂 It´s good, though, to honor our fierce feminine sides once in a while as well, I reckon…thanks again for stopping by, will check out your blog these days as well!

      Liked by 1 person

      • You’re welcome – I enjoyed my visit to your blog. It’s my way of travelling the world – checking out fun new blogs on my way around the internet! Your wonderful reply will encourage my return visits! Happy blogging to you!!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Shelley, thanks, that´s really so lovely to hear! That´s one of the main reasons for my blog to exist – to inspire and to take other lovely beings like yourself on a virtual journey with me. It´s also a dedication to my beloved grandmothers, who used to longingly browse through atlases of the world but never had the chance to travel much. I love the design and logo of your blog, by the way! Very elegant and inviting, and there is a lovely peace and contentment vibe to your whole blog, which I find wonderful. Happy blogging to you, too!:)

        Liked by 1 person

      • Aw, that’s wonderful story to the background of your blogging efforts. Your grandmothers would be smiling I’m sure. I bet you can imagine their faces glowing as you tell them about your tales of adventure. I can tell you write from your heart, and your voice is unique. If they were sitting here, they’d tell you to never lose your voice!
        I’m touched by your compliments for my blog, thank you so much. I appreciate the encouragement of my efforts!
        Happy blogging to you – I’ll be back again to visit you hear soon! xx

        Liked by 1 person

      • Your comment honestly brought a tear to my eye, thank you so much for such deep and meaningful lines! I feel very connected to my grandmothers and often think about how lucky we women are nowadays. Of course there´s still lots to do/ change, but we do have possibilities now that our grandmothers could only dream of… I also appreciate your comment about never losing my voice .. I can barely express to you how much that comment means to me! So beautiful, thanks so much, dear Shelley. I again feel it´s especially important for us women to learn to use our voices…I could go on and on talking to you about this lol. Your blog is beautiful! Keep up the great work, and I look forward to connecting with you again soon! xx

        Liked by 1 person

      • Aww, I’m touched by your appreciation of my comments. I agree with you – women encouraging other women to pursue their dreams and to use their unique voices are gifts to each other we should always share. I appreciate your encouragement – it means a lot to me! Ditto to you – keep up the great work – I look forward to connecting again soon too! xx

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you, Shelley! Talk soon 🙂 xx

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  6. Great write-up and photographs, Maria Elena, and while I have not been to Thailand in a while, I love the hot, humid air and the smells of great food 🙂 It seems if all of SE Asia was built up on overwhelming the senses ~ And after all my travels in Asia, I am surprised to learn about women touching a monk. I’ve got to send the following to all 3 of my sisters 🙂 “If you so much as brush against a monk, the Buddhist doctrine dictates that the monks return to the temple and perform rituals to cleanse themselves of your touch. Hello, people, women are truly not that bad!” Pretty funny, but also agree some rules need to enter the 21st century. Cheers to a great day.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Randall, thanks so much for your kind and very thoughtful feedback! It´s honestly exciting to have such a seasoned traveler and photographer/writer as yourself commenting 🙂

      Yeah, the smells of great food and the vibrancy and liveliness in SE Asia can´t be beaten! Isn´t SE Asian streetfood just the best? I had my most fabulous streetfood yet on a back street in the middle of Kuala Lumpur. Incredible stuff!

      So glad my post served you with new input – yes, do warn your sisters about the monk issue, haha!:) Thanks again for commenting, wishing you a fabulous day also!

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      • The food, atmosphere, and I love the warmer/sultry weather SE Asia offer which is one reason I like HK ~ it feels very alive. It is always fun to connect with someone with similar interests as well as writing/photography skills. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, I totally agree with you, it´s very enjoyable:) I gather from your blog that you lived in Asia/ Hongkong for a while? I was blessed to visit HK some years back and you are right, it feels very alive ! To me, HK constitutes such an intriguing mix of British cool and Asian finesse, the vibe was very unique in that cultures-melting-into-each-other kinda way, but that was just my first impression as a one-time-visitor… gotta check out more of your posts to learn more about it:) Have a wonderful day!

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      • Yes, I am actually still a permanent resident and I go back a few times every year – it is such a cool, laid back place actually, with so many islands. A perfect blend of East – West for me, and food that is out-of-this-world. If you travel to HK again, let me know – a few great places to see 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks so much, Randall, that´s very kind of you 🙂 Will definitely get back to you on that if/ when I go back! HK does sound like it has so much to offer, and like a great fit for me, love myself a relaxed place with top-notch food:) Makes me miss Asia lots to write with you about it! Btw loved the whole Yuan-Fen concept you mentioned on your page, very intriguing. Thanks again, talk soon 🙂

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  7. Pingback: Calming Chiang Mai: An elephant always remembers | A gypsy at heart

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