Kade kneels next to a stream formed by the San Francisco Glacier, about two hours outside Santiago, Chile.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Wat Ratchanatdaram


1:27 - chimes ring for meditation service, 2:10 - Kade and I enter the temple
 
This temple complex, Wat Ratchanatdaram, is the first significant piece of Siamese architecture I saw on my trip to Bangkok fourteen years ago.  I was on an unairconditioned bus coming in from the airport, all windows down, chatting with a young lady from Germany who was "holidaying" in Thailand for the second or third time.  There was a bit of excitement in the air!  As we made our way down a congested highway and some busy streets, the driver eventually got us onto a multi-lane avenue that cuts through the heart of the city.  On our left, just before reaching the Democracy Monument and less than a half-mile from the area where we'd find a guesthouse, was a spectacular cluster of buildings with a large courtyard, lovely gardens and a monument to someone important.  The designs of the buildings were what wowed me really - the straight lines, tiered roofs, striking colors, gold leaf art.  It was just so unusual.  And then there was the metal "castle" with all those spires.  I had never seen anything like it!  Turns out that the "castle" (Loha Prasat) was built to honor the birth of a Thai king's granddaughter, and its design was styled after Sri Lankan and Indian temples constructed over 2000 years ago.  Incidentally, it's this same king (Rama III) whose monument sits prominently in the temple's Royal Pavilion. 



 

 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

This visit to Bangkok Kade and I did a pretty thorough tour of the Wat Ratchanatdaram complex.  We even walked to the top of the "castle" (Loha Prasat) for views of the city.  Afterward, once the monks opened the temple for chanting and meditation, I moved quietly - no shoes, of course! - to the front to have my photo taken near the big Buddha.  Mission accomplished!
 
Towards the end of our time in Bangkok, one evening we rode back by this temple, and I took this image.


3 comments:

  1. The temples and buildings are stunning - much more impressive than those in Singapore. I also love the Thai Buddhas. I have a small Buddha collection and I believe the Thai ones are the most beautiful. Sylvia

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  2. Any chance to dialogue with any Buddhists about their beliefs? (Aug 2014)

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  3. I personally haven't, but I am sure it's possible. The language barrier would be my biggest frustration. Even with Kade, her English is not that specialized. So even talking with her about her Buddhist beliefs or upbringing is very general and basic. But I do have some Australian, British and American friends who are practicing Buddhists, and they would be good ones to dialogue with. But I haven't really sought to do that, honestly. When I travel, whether it's here in Thailand with the temples, or in Russia with the unique onion-domed churches, I am more intrigued by the history and architecture. Just the idea someone could conceive of such unique building designs, and then see them constructed is quite remarkable....perhaps especially in the era they were built. And then if I can walk inside and wander around without breaching any protocol and making folks upset, I'm happy. Once in Indonesia, at a Hindu temple during an important festival, I unintentionally upset a few people. Maybe it would be like someone barging into a Sunday baptism at the Headland Baptist church and taking photos. lol Something along those lines. People here, from the cleaning folks to the curators to everyday people to the monks seem to be very open to my interest in visiting the temples. They mostly smile, and some will say "hello." Of course, Thailand gets millions of visitors every year - Bangkok is the most visited in the city in the world based on one report - and tourists from all over the globe visit the temples, which are truly like museums and art galleries. We saw close to fifteen this trip....the really "important" ones in Bangkok. Oh, one thing I do know is that no one belongs to a particular temple - no membership. And maybe other than special "religious" holidays, there's not a specific day or expectation of regularly going to a temple. Perhaps you could say it's more freestyle. This is my understanding anyway. (August 2014)

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