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Wat?

September 18, 2011 1 comment

Inevitably, wherever you travel it seems that you wind up in religious buildings. In Europe you see one massive Cathedrals after another and in Asia you see Buddhist, Taoist and Hindu Temples. Religious buildings are usually some of the best preserved buildings as offering a look at what is important to the local population. With more travel you are able to tell the subtle differences between locations and beliefs and also likely to get tired of seeing similar buildings repeatedly. In Bangkok there are Wat’s scattered all over the city. These range from the grand to the more basic. There are a number where tout’s promise you good luck and fortune with a visit, but most are calm, filled with contemplation. This trip we kept our visits limited, seeing just two. This left us wanting to visit more and promised some additional sights on a return trip to Bangkok. The most magnificent that we visited was part of the Grand Palace, the sometimes home of Thai Kings, including the current ruler, King Rama IX. As befitting Royal grounds, the collection of temples and monasteries were incredibly ornate. The most important religious site in the complex is the Royal Monastery of the Emerald Buddha, featuring a giant carved jade buddha. The other buildings featured gold leaf, intricate carvings, numerous religious artifacts and a wide variety of gems. Like cathedrals in Europe, the Wats in Thailand were designed to honor Buddha without sparing expense. The other Wat that we visited was right next to the Grand Palace, Wat Phra Chetuphon, that featured a massive reclining Buddha. Far less crowded with tourists than the Grand Palace, this had more of the feeling of a working religious building, rather than a tourist attraction. The lower visitor numbers allowed for a calm, reflective pace as we walked through, sharing the space with practicing Monks.

The Wat’s in Thailand differed enough from Tibetan and Chinese Monastaries to really feel unique. The fact that we only saw these two also ensured that we did not have Temple overload. What they did not do, however, was give that close of a view into the life of a Thai Monk. When I plan my return to Thailand I would really like to see this aspect of Buddhism in Thailand. Have you been to Thailand? If so, where is the best place to observe this?

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Ode to Weekends Away

I love vacation…or more accurately, I love travel.  Just getting up and going.  This could be as simple as a day away or as complicated as a multi continent weeks to month long itinerary.  I get excited for either one.  

This weekend was one of those times to get away.  With an extra day off school and the possibility of a double red eye flight, Bangkok was my home away from home this past weekend.  The weather was hot and rainy but just being in a different place, a different environment was a great break from what has already been a busy school year.

This was my first trip to Thailand but I do not think it will be my last.  The food was incredible, the massages were great and cheap and I barely scratched the surface of the tourist sites.  There were of course downsides, I am not a fan of hot and sticky weather and Bangkok’s traffic makes Beijing’s traffic situation look almost non-existent.  There were also times when we felt like we were being cheated but this is all part of the experience of exploring someplace new.

The travel schedule I have been able to keep has led to somewhat unrealistic expectations of continuous travel but it also makes me desire this even more.  Hopefully it can be sustained, but for now I have a big trip to look forward to in just more than two weeks!

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