After the tour of the floating market, we returned to Bangkok and visited a few of the most unusual and interesting Buddhist Temples.
Wat Po is the oldest and largest temple in Thailand. By now you probably understand that the term "temple" does not refer to a single building but to one or more buildings and the area surrounding them that makes up the temple's grounds. Some of the buildings are primarily for meditation while others house the monks and novices studying to be monks.
Wat Po was founded in the 16th century and was a favorite of the early Chakri Kings At its prime in the 18th century, Wat Po was the home to more than 500 monks and 750 novices.
Today Wat Po has the largest collection of Buddha images (i.e., statues) in Thailand as well as the largest reclining Buddha image.
A couple of photos of buildings of Wat Po:
Wat Po's reclining Buddha is a very stirring image of Buddha. It is 46 meters long and 15 meters high. "The figure is modeled out of plaster, around a brick core and finished in gold leaf. Mother-of-pearl inlay ornaments the eyes and feet, the latter displaying 108 different auspicious laksana (characteristics of a Buddha)."
After visiting the huge reclining Buddha image, many Buddhists change a 100 baht note into 100 1-baht coins and then do a walking meditation. They walk down a line of 100 buckets pausing at each bucket to deposit a coin and meditate. Here is Sueann meditating.
The grounds of Wat Po include a large number of stupas (cones containing ashes of monks):
We also visited Wat Traimit primarily to see the Golden Buddha, "which gleams like no other gold artifact we've ever seen" according to Lonely Planet Thailand.
Here is a description of the history of the Gold Buddha I found on the Internet.
"The Golden Buddha was probably a product of the Sukhothai period in the 13th century that eventually was placed in an Ayutthaya temple. To camouflage it from Burmese invaders, it was given a thick plaster coating and was consequently 'lost.' The encased statue was moved to Bangkok and installed as the principal Buddha image in the main building of the Choti-naram Temple, or Wat Phrayakrai, during the reign of the third Chakri king, Rama III [Phra Nang Klao], (1824 - 1851). The temple was deserted about 1931, and plaster-covered Buddha was moved to a temporary shelter in Wat Traimit. In the mid-1950's (some say 1955; others say 1957), as it was being moved to its permanent building, the rain soaked figure was dropped, and the stucco cracked to reveal the figure inside."
The statue alone (without its base) is about 10 feet high. It is 12 feet 9 inches in diameter and weights 5.5 tons. The photo above does not at all do justice to the grace and beauty of the Gold Buddha.
Next time We leave Bangkok and begin our bus tour to the north.
Jeff February 3, 2007
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