Thursday, April 2, 2009

Temples of Thailand - Wat Pho, Wat Arun

I went to Bangkok the second week of March for a work trip expecting to eat authentic Thai food and not much in terms of attractions. Unless green curry macaroni classifies as authentic Thai, I didn't eat good Thai food. I was at a conference where they served breakfast lunch and dinner and it was mostly continental food. I am not complaining too much because I got to eat a lot of salmon and cod that I don't get in India.

Bangkok city surprised me. It was not quite Singapore, but pretty darn close in terms of cleanliness, skyscrapers and infrastructure. I did see some poor dwellings, but it was nowhere near an Indian city. My only complaint was that the traffic was terrible. None of the attractions were close to their Metro Rail stops, so I had to travel by taxis and was often stuck in traffic.

I was in Bangkok for work, so was able to take only a few hours a day to visit the attractions. The first two places I went to were Wat Pho and Wat Arun. Wat in Thai means 'temple'.

Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha)

Wat Pho is a 17th century Buddhist Monastery that houses the famous reclining Buddha. The buddha statue is 46 meters long and 15 meters high and covered in gold leaf. An interesting fact about this temple is that the Buddha statue was built first and then the hall to cover it. A 50 bhat tickets lets you gain access into the sacred hall that houses the Buddha. I walked in and was stunned by the art that covered every inch of the hall. The roof had a maroon and golden floral design and every inch of the walls were covered in murals describing the past lives of Lord Buddha. Areas around the statues were covered in gold plated metallic designs. It was very overwhelming to be in this hall surrounded by ancient Thai art. I don't think I felt this way about art after Italy!

Murals on the Temple Walls

When you walk out of the hall, you are welcomed by a number of intricately decorated chedis or pagodas. There are about a hundred pagodas in the complex, some in Cambodian Style, some in Chinese and the rest in Thai style architecture.

The pagodas and bells in the courtyard were intricately decorated using Chinese porcelain. The courtyard itself has a lot of Chinese Statues that were brought by traders as gifts to the King.

One other thing that struck me most about the temple compound were the brightly colored roof tiles and gold leaf decorations giving it a very rich look.

What Pho is also considered to be Thailand's first public university. This is the birthplace of Thai medicine and the famous massage technique.

Vam: Hey Saru, Can I give you a Royal Thai Massage?

Saru: Do I have to get naked for that?

Vam: Do you want to get naked?

Saru: Do I have to?

Vam: No, it is normally done with clothes on. Lie down and close your eyes. I will start from the toes and work my way up.

Saru: Should I even ask where you learnt this ancient art?

Vam: I remember some details from my massage and the rest I will wing it.

Saru: Oh God!!

Vam: So, they use their fingers, hands, elbows, feet...

Saru: Feet?? She uses her FEET?? Does she also jump on you?

Vam: WHAT?

Saru: You know, like when Lucy Liu does a cart-flip, lands on the villian's back and massages it with her feet before rendering him unconscious in Charlie's Angels.

Vam: It is quite sad how most of your knowledge is based on bad action movies. Any way, she did not jump on me, but she sat on me.

Saru: She SAT on you?? Oh my God!! Then what happened?

Vam: She pinned me down, tied my hands and ran away with my purse! Am I telling you a story here?

Saru (shaking his head in dis-belief): I can't believe you allowed a woman to sit on you!

Vam: Well...she didn't exactly sit on me.She almost sat on me.

Saru: Almost?

Vam: She sat in the sitting posture, but didn't put her weight on me. Anyway, it is part of the massage. For 450 Bhat (~700 Rs), I got a 2 hour massage.

Saru: TWO HOURS? What did she do for two hours?

Two hours might seem like a long time, but time flies when you are getting massaged by magic hands . Based on recommendations from my Thai colleague, I went to Health Land Spa. It was a wonderful experience not to be missed. On subsequent days, I went back to the spa for a foot massage and a facial and was transported back into heaven!

Wat Arun - Temple of Dawn

My next trip was to Wat Arun or the Temple of Dawn, which ironically is best seen at dusk. The temple is situated on the east bank of Chao Phraya River. I took a ferry that cost 3 Bhat and exactly 3 minutes to cross the river to get to Wat Arun. Built in the early 18th century, this temple has a massive tower decorated in colored porcelain from China.

The tower is supported by rows of demons and monkeys. Steep knee-busting steps lead way to a balcony with great views of the monastery complex, the river and the modern Bangkok.

I also took this night picture when we were on a dinner cruise. I had to change ISO to 800 to get this image, so it is not a good one.


  1. Beautiful pictures, and it was funny (and informative) to read your dialog. :) Do you know what the gold leaves signify?

  2. vam, I relived my trip thru you......Wat Arun took my breath away...even tho' the reclining buddha and the art in that complex is overwhelming.

  3. Lovely post, Vamsee! Exquisite photographs! I really feel like visiting Thailand now - what beautiful temples!

  4. Awesome place and you should probably take Saru for a massage there.

  5. whew... lovely shots those... not a temple man but this looks interesting !

  6. Wow, fantastic pictures! Waiting for the Corbett post :-)

  7. wonderful post and splendid pictures. The one of Wat Arun is a masterpiece. Thanks for sharing


  8. you been to corbett ???

    lucchi !! (pardon me...) but i have to say that...

    where are the pics !!!! yu didnt even tell me !!!

  9. I've passed through Bangkok on my way to Cambodia, and have enjoyed the ferry rides on the Chao Praya. Interesting write up and very beautiful photographs Vamsee. So..did you finally end up giving a massage? lol

  10. Vamsee : As usual your post is beautifully written. But this time around Saru takes the cake!!! To say that the coversation, between you and Saru, was entertaining is an understatement...Thomas

  11. Murals are absolutely beautiful. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us.

  12. The conversation between you and Saru was as usual hilarious...I love how you incorporate them into your posts..they make me laugh out loud. :D

    Did enjoy your tour of Thailand's two famous temples. I have a close friend who recently moved to Thailand and I keep hearing about how beautiful the country is...your post gave me some more glimpses of it. But green curry macaroni?! ...who died in the kitchen that night?

  13. I know what Ive missed ...the massage sounds heavenly :)

  14. I can only dream about the place. Nice composed images especially the second one. If possible, go to Halong Bay, Vietnam. :)

  15. Great mix of information, humour and beauty in your post! Your conversations are always hilarious. I love the golden hues in the buddha pictures. Makes me want to pack my bags and leave for Thailand at once!

  16. Good One...I enjoyed reading this post and pictures.

    Thanks for dropping in my blog...keep visiting.

  17. Nice snaps. Especially I liked the one taken in the night.

  18. Exceptional fotos...I liked all of them...Wonderful BTW I am also an ardent traveler.
    I have started a new blog that shows my passion for traveling—unseenrajasthan

  19. Capturing post, amazing pictures. You actually take the readers on a ride through interesting places.

  20. Hi Vamsee! Wonderful pictures. Sightseeing and Thai massage; you can't complaint of your «work» trip... ;))

    Blogtrotter is showing you Brasilia. Enjoy and have a great long Easter weekend!

  21. Such a contrast in the photos - old verses new architecture... beautiful captures...

  22. Just catching up on your travelogues...The pagodas are beautiful and the paintings are so colorful. Very nice pics. No comments on Saru's Thai massage...lets reserve that for our phone call :)

  23. Did you ever try to cross a street? I thought everybody was out trying to kill me :) Your conversation is hilarious, though I don't share your enthusiasm for Thai massage (or maybe I'll have to try your therapist next time). It hurt like hell and I had problems with water retention for days afterwards. (Maybe I just have a wired body:)
    Brilliant pics!

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