Recently I made a conscious effort to see some of the more obvious tourist attractions in Bangkok and one that seems to be at the top of most of the lists of ‘things you must do before you die in Bangkok’ was a visit to The Temple of the Emerald Buddha.
So I packed my bag with a few of the essentials when going out in Bangkok, sun lotion, money, a bottle of water, three pairs of clean underpants, a towel, a life-size cut out of Demi Moore, a cap (baseball), a metal coat hanger for picking locks (only use if really needed), a torch, a needle and thread, three days worth of Kendal Mint Cake and a phrase book with just one phrase, ‘I am dehydrated, please can you contact Susan at the British Embassy’, and I was off!
The temple sits on the banks of Chao Phraya River which splits Bangkok like a Yoko Ono. The best way to get to the temple (I am not going to write ‘temple of the emerald buddha’ every time I mention it as I have a deadline to keep and writing it out full every time will only slow me down, it’s also quicker and easier for you to read too, you’re busy people, you’ve got things you need to be getting on with, you don’t want me taking ages to get to a point using what can only be described as ‘appalling’ grammar, their hasn’t been a full stop in ages, for example!) is via one of the many boats that transport people up and down and from one side of the river to the other. I love travelling this way as you get to see so much of the city and the river is still a hive of activity.
I’m not sure the boats and the amount of people they allow on them at one time would pass the safety standards in other places in the world but I am enjoying that aspect of this country. Travelling by boat is also pretty cheap too which is something that should be employed across all cities (or ones with rivers running through them at least!). I can only really talk about London as that’s the only other city I’ve had to commute in regularly but it cost so much to travel by boat there that it was deemed as something only tourists did. I think we need to start getting more people off the roads and into boats. Anyway, I’m not running for London Mayor (…yet!) so I shall move on.
I stepped off the boat at Tha Chang pier and I was instantly hit by the throng of people (why is throng and thong so similar and yet mean such different things? I might write a blog trying to answer this question at a later date!), all heading the same way and I instantly began to sweat. I used to hate sweating when I was living in the UK as it made me feel uncomfortable but here, I seem to have grown used to it, which is just as well as I do it a lot…a hell of a lot. Today my level of wetness was a bit worse though because everyone entering the entire site must have their legs covered so I was wearing trousers – I may be a total bad ass rebel but I’m also a respecter of following rules and regulations to the letter!
Once inside the grounds of the temple I was blown away by the beauty of it (I’m being serious now), it took my breath away and I soon forgot about the sweltering heat. The entire place is filled with GOLD! Everything is gold and shiny and…well, look at it…
I’m not really good at describing architecture but flip me it was big and so impressive and the photo above is just one part of the whole site. The whole place literally sparkles due to the sun bouncing off the walls. Here’s another photograph that shows the colours perfectly, it also includes some guy who I think is maybe a famous celebrity or something – he certainly looks incredibly cool and sophisticated.
Ok, so the in the interest of trying to also be a blog that people can learn from, here’s the history bit (it wont go on for long, hang in there!). The Temple Of The Emerald Buddha sits in the grounds of The Royal Palace which is still used for royal occasions such as coronations and bingo. The temple was built by King Rama 1, the first king of the Chakri dynasty which has ruled Thailand since 1782 and was completed in 1784, the date of the emerald buddha is unknown but is believed to have been crafted in the 14th century. The temple is considered to be the most sacred Buddhist temple in Thailand and the buddha so sacred that only the King is allowed to touch it. The emerald buddha is so sacred that no photographs are allowed to be taken of it so…you’ll just have to come and see it for yourself.
As I began to leave the temple, sweaty and dumbstruck, I glanced over to my right side as something had caught my eye…something totally unexpected and almost unbelievable – about 15 feet from where I was standing was the musician and professional eccentric Bjork. I am a huge fan of Bjork from her early days with The Sugarcubes right through to her more…’testing’ and ‘experimental’ material. I normally don’t approach famous people as I always feel they must get sick of people pestering them all the time…I know I do…I tried to be as laid back as possible and I felt that I wasn’t being rude to her but she completely blanked me. She just seemed to stare blankly ahead as if I wasn’t even there and what made it even more odd was that she stood incredibly still, it was almost as if she wasn’t breathing. I said ‘hello’ a couple of more times and told her I loved her work but she refused to acknowledge my very existence so I rather awkwardly stepped back from her and made my way back to the pier. I did manage to get a photograph of her before I moved on and as you can see, her dress sense is just as eccentric off stage as it is on!
The episode with Bjork tarnished my day somewhat but the beauty and wonder of the temple and the emerald buddha was wonderful to see and I wholeheartedly recommend you go if ever you are in Bangkok. I have been to many historical sites such as The Tower of London and Wrexham football clubs home ground The Racecourse next to the bypass that leads you to the motorway to Chester but there was something more majestic and magical about The Temple of The Emerald Buddha and some of the images will remain in my memory long after the hurtful snub by Bjork.
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