post written by chichai@empire
What I learned from my few days in Thailand is that it is not only the land of smiles, it is a land of strong spiritual traditions and history. Majority of my visit to Thailand was spent visiting temples and palaces– both deemed as sacred to not only the people of Thailand but to its visitors from all over the world.
The first temple my mother and I went to is the home of a golden Buddha statue– yes, a literal gold Buddha– in Wat Traimit.
Phra Phuttha Maha Suwan Patimakon (the official name of the gold Buddha) is extraordinary and extraordinarily huge. At 5 meters tall and 5 tons, Phra Phuttha Maha Suwan Patimakon is the largest golden statue in the world.
As if its physical features weren’t astonishing enough, its origins comprises of a remarkable discovery story. The tour guide explained that Phra Phuttha Maha Suwan Patimakon’s golden complexion was found merely by accident. It was theoretically built in either in the 13th or 14th century and withstood the Burmese invasion in 1767. How did it avoid being stolen? Well, know one knew it was gold until the 1950’s.
Plaster covered its sheen until– as rumor has it– the statue fell during its transportation into a new temple. Only then did people discover the Golden Buddha underneath. And, coincidentally, its unravelling occurred with Gautama Buddha’s 2,500 death anniversary.
Up next: the Grand Palace
Bangkok became Thailand’s capital city in 1782, as honored by King Rama I (the current king is King Rama IX!) While establishing this newfound capital, King Rama I began building the Grand Palace as the home and center of governance.
Kings and government officials stopped living in the palace during the 1920’s when the government transformed from a monarchy to a constitutional monarchy. However, it became a center for royal events instead and… a huge tourist attraction.
Our guide explained to us that although Thailand was never colonized, its kings’ relationships with China and European countries can be shown in the architecture throughout the Grand Palace.
These are two of the palace’s guardians
I wish I could tell you more about each building and its significance but, quite frankly, I was overwhelmed by the structures’ beauty, detail, symmetry, and glow.
To end our day, our tour guide took us south of the Grand Palace and into Wat Pho.
Wat Pho houses Phra Buddhasaiyas, also known as the Reclining Buddha. This Buddha– although not real gold like Phra Phuttha Maha Suwan Patimakon– attracts visitors with its grandness. The Recling Buddha stretches at 15m high and 46m long!
How does one photograph Phra Buddhasaiyas in its entirety?
I may not identify as Buddhist (nor Thai.) However, after visiting these sacred places, I can say that one can connect with Thailand regardless of one’s religious background. Its doors are open to anyone from anywhere in the world as long as it is treated with upmost care and respect.