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As I mentioned in my last post, I spent Chinese New Year Day hiking through Bangkok and visiting a few special temples along the way. Here are some pictures and descriptions of the five temples I visited.

goldenbuddha.jpgI started the trip by taking the subway to the end of the line at Hualamphong. After a short walk, I was on the edge of the Chinatown area and my first stop: Wat Traimit. This temple was built in 1832 and houses a beautiful solid gold Buddha that was supposedly built in the Sukhothai period (around 1300). No one realized that it was gold until 1955 when the plaster covering broke off and showed the gold underneath.

The image is currently housed in a small temple building, but construction has started on a very impressive looking new building. The small room and the hordes of red-shirted visitors (celebrating Chinese New Years) made it difficult to view and fully appreciate the image, so I look forward to seeing it in its new home soon.

noodles.jpgAfter leaving the temple, I walked down Charoen Krung Road a bit and was starting to get a bit hungry. So, I stopped for a bowl of noodles. They were, of course, delicious. I ordered the very simple dish of sen lek nam (thin white noodles with soup). You can see that they also added a few pork and fish balls to the mix. The soup is served with sugar, chilis, vinegar, and fish sauce in the yellow container (which, by the way, is advertising Lipton Ice Tea)

wat_mangkon.jpgAfter refueling, I continued my walk down Charoen Krung Road and noticed a lot of activity in a vaguely Chinese looking entranceway. A multitude of red shirts were pushing their way in and out, so of course I had to go find out what was going on. It turns out that the entrance led to Wat Mangkon Kamalawat, a huge Chinese style temple. It was built in 1871 by followers of the Mahayana Buddist sect (as opposed to most Thai temples, which are Theravada Buddhist).

The picture here is of the courtyard, which was decorated with red Chinese lanterns for the holiday. The temple buildings were packed with people, almost all of whom were crying. But it wasn't from emotion, it was from all of the smoke from the burning incense!

giant_swing.jpg I made my way through Chinatown and turned north towards Ratchadamnoen Road. I took a small detour through a park that used to be the site of a large jail. There is supposedly a "Penetenary Museum" here, but I did not go inside.

Eventually I made it to the Giant Swing and the very large Wat Suthat. The Giant Swing (Sao Ching Cha) is one of the symbols of Bangkok. I had seen it before, but had never been inside the adjacent temple. Inside the temple is a very large Buddha image from the Sukothai period. But I thought the coolest part of the temple was the amazing colored paintings that covered the wall. I wish I knew more about the stories shown, like one scene of two elephants fighting a giant crab.

wat_rakang.jpgMy next two stops were on the other side of the river, in Thonburi. So I walked past the Grand Palace and to Tha Chang (Elephant Pier), where I boarded a 2-baht (5 cent) ferry across the river to Wat Rakhang Khositaram. Rama I lived here before he became King, and the wooden building where he slept is still standing. Also of interest, are five large bells that Rama I gave the temple. (Hence the name Rakhang, which means bell.)

talat_put.jpgThe next and final temple on the tour was on the same side of the river, but it was a bit too far to walk. So I took the ferry back across the river, then walked a bit, and then boarded another ferry to take me to Temple #5. But the walk turned out to be an interesting stroll through the famous flower market near Sapan Put. It appears that it's mostly a morning market, and by late afternoon most of the activity was cleaning and moving produce around.

new_year_stars.jpgBy the way, if you are visiting multiple temples in one day, make sure that it is an odd number of temples. That way you maximize the "Good Luck" that you deserve for your dilligence. So I was quite relieved to arrive at my fifth temple of the day, Wat Kalayanamit, as the sun was nearing the horizon.

It also was packed full of red-shirted worshipers, including one who had the same great taste as myself. The temple houses a very large sitting Buddha and one of the largest bells in Thailand, which of course I had to ring with a huge wooden mallet for good luck.

Tired, a bit dirty, and hungry, I headed back to the river to take the boat downstream to Sapan Taksin and the end of the Skytrain. I rode back home from there in air-conditioned comfort after a great Chinese New Year hike.

A Hike Through Town To See Five Temples


So since I was not allowed to clean house today, or to work, I did the next best thing and headed out on foot to explore Bangkok. The idea was to visit as many important temples that I have never seen as possible. I got the idea from the Dasa Bookstore's Bangkok's Other Temples page. (Thanks, Don!)

(Actually, exploring town is way better than cleaning house or working, but I've been so focused on my company lately that work was the first thing that came to mind. Luckily, I was forced to take the day off and had a great time checking out the sites. I love Chinese New Year!)

Dasa's "Other Temples" page explains that the big three Bangkok temples are Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha), Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha) and Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn). But there are many other temples that are also interesting for one reason or another.

The page lists ten other temples. I had already visted four of them, so I decided to check a few others off my list. The ones I have seen already are:

  • Wat Benjamabophit: The Marble Temple.
  • Wat Ratchanadda: On Ratchdamnoen.
  • Wat Saket: The Golden Mount.
  • Wat Srimaha Umathewi: The Hindu temple on Silom.

And the six that I haven't seen:

  • Wat Thammamongkhon: Sukumvit 101. Thailand's tallest.
  • Wat Boworniwet: Near Khao San Road.
  • Wat Traimit: Temple of the Golden Buddha near Hualomphong.
  • Wat Suthat: Next to the Giant Swing.
  • Wat Rakhang Khositaram: Thonburi, across from Grand Palace
  • Wat Kalayanamit: Thonburi, near Sapan Put

Several of them are located in Chinatown, Rattanakosin, and Thonburi, so I took the subway to the end of the line at Hualamphong and started walking. Six hours, 5 kilometers, and 3 boat rides later, I had visited four temples on the list and one that wasn't (but should be).

Pictures and more details about the temples coming soon!

Siam Ocean World at Siam Paragon

About a month ago, Piyawat and I visited Siam Ocean World at Siam Paragon. I guess I didn't have time to write about our experience then, so I will do so now and show a few pics of what we saw.

Siam Ocean World is billed as Southeast Asia's largest aquarium, but I have to say that I was a little disappointed with what I saw there. Many of the tanks are completely empty, and many of them are labeled incorrectly. Considering Thailand has such amazing coral reefs just off its coastline, you would think that they could do a better job at displaying the wonders of the ocean here in Bangkok.

But, it was still a worthwhile trip, especially since tickets were half-price the day that we went. There is still something beautiful and peaceful about watching big manta ray glide over your head. And no matter how many times I see a sea-horse or a tank full of undulating jellyfish, I will still find the diversity of marine life fascinating.

A small seahorse with its
tail wrapped around coral
Piyawat in the tunnel with
stingrays swimming above
These crabs were hugeBeautiful Starfish from Finding Nemo

I made another trip to the Bangkok airport today -- this time to pick up my friend Augusta from San Francisco. She's spending the next three or four months in Southeast Asia and her first stop is Bangkok.

Stephen also returned this morning from Sri Lanka, where he has spent the last three weeks building houses for tsunami victims. So that's two friends who are here on multi-month vacations. Must be nice to be unemployed!

After picking up Augusta at the airport, I took her to a guest house on Thong Lo. This place is a hidden gem to be sure. It offers rooms with air conditioning that are steps away from the Thong Lo BTS station for the low, low price of only 400 baht (US$10). The guest house is called Buri Guest House, and I highly recommend it if you are looking for cheap, convenient lodging in Bangkok.

Surprisingly, Augusta then talked Stephen and I into joining her for a Muay Thai (Thai Kickboxing) match at Lumpinee Park. Now I have lived in Bangkok for almost three years, and I have never seen a real Muay Thai match. I'm not a big fan of boxing in general, and I've heard the tickets were very expensive for farang. Well, the tickets were indeed expensive (2000 baht, or US$50 for ringside seats) but I actually enjoyed the sport, for the most part.

With an event like this, part of the fun is watching the crowd. They were definitely into it, yelling "OH!" or "WOO!" with every kick. There also seemed to be a lot of betting going on. I wonder if that's legal in Thailand. If it is, maybe I should try. I picked the winner in 3 out of 4 matches that I tried. It was beginner's luck, perhaps. Or maybe "The guy that I don't want to meet in a dark alley" is a good choice!

But actually, I still don't understand the rules. It seems like the judging is very subjective. It's not just a matter of how many punches or kicks are landed, but things like how you respond to kicks, how well you protect yourself, and how well you use "legal moves", whatever that means.

But all in all it was pretty fun. I'd even go so far to say that it was almost worth the US$50 ticket.... once.

Erawan Shrine Destroyed

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One of the favorite spots in Bangkok for locals and tourists alike is the Hindu shrine at the Erawan Hotel at the Ratchaprasong intersection. I've even been known to take out-of-town visitors there. Every night the area around the shrine is packed with worshippers and tourists snapping photos. The air is heavy with smoke from the incense and from the smell of jasmine flowers. It is a very unique and special place.

The image was placed there about 50 years ago for "Good Luck" for the businesses on that corner. This is a common practice in Thailand, but for some reason, this particular shrine became one of the most popular one in the entire city. Interestingly enough, it was made of plaster, because they didn't have time to make a metal one before the "auspicious time" chosen to bless the statue in it's new home.

destroyed_shrine.jpgUnfortunately, the luck has run out for this Hindu image. Sometime last night a mentally-deranged man climbed the fence with a hammer and attacked the plaster image, destroying it completely. If only they had more time to build a metal one fifty years ago...

The Thai government has immediately promised to rebuild the shrine within two months, as it is so loved by the people of Bangkok.

(The picture of the destroyed shrine on the left was taken from the Thai Rath newspaper's website. The article, in Thai Language, is here.)

Siam Niramit


To celebrate my fourth third cycle birthday, Piyawat and I went to check out the Siam Niramit show here in Bangkok. I went in with moderate expectations, after being mostly under-whelmed at the last big Thai production I saw: Alcazar in Pattaya.

But this time, I came out impressed. The show had three main acts:

Act 1: A "historical" look at the four regions of Thailand (Lanna Kingdom in the north, trading between Muslims and Chinese in the south, Khmer culture in Isaan, and Ayutthaya)

Act 2: Thai mythology (Buddhist Hell, the Himmapan Forest, and Buddhist Heaven)

Act 3: Thai festivals (Loy Kratong and Songkran, among others)

The second act was my favorite by far. I have seen pictures and statues depicting Buddhist hell in temples, but to see it acted out in live theatre with music, sound effects, and lots of screaming was a novel experience. It actually was a bit uncomfortable to watch... which means that it was well done! The Himmapan Forest with mystical creatures like Kinaree, Nagas, and Singha lions was quite fanciful. And the Buddhist Heaven with flying angels looked like it came right off the painting on the back wall of a Thai temple.

It was very similar to the Phuket Fantasea (as I remember it), but I thought this one was much better. The sets, the costuming, the lighting, and the choreography were all very well done. To me, the price tag was a bit on the high side, though (1500 baht = US$37.50) but it was worth it for a one-time viewing, especially on my birthday.

Tourists at Erawan Shrine

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On the first "Daily Pic" a few days ago, I said that I wouldn't be posting any tourist pics. Well, that promise isn't even going to last a week. Why is that? Piyawat has two friends from Spain visiting this weekend, so they gave us an excuse to play tourist last night.

Before dinner, Piyawat, Pepe, Jorge and I walked around down town, as we showed off Bangkok's temples of consumerism: Emporium, Gaysorn, Erawan, Central World Plaza, and Siam Center. We also stopped at the Erawan shrine, for a tourist photo op.

At the shrine you can pay a donation for the Thai dancers (shown here on the left) and the traditional Thai musicians (not in the picture). The way I understand it, is that the music and dancing entertains the spirit of the shrine and the requests from the supplicants are therefore more likely to be heard.

The picture on the right is of Jorge, me, and Pepe (L to R) in front of the Erawan Shrine, which itself is in front of the new super-high-end Erawan Shopping Mall, which is connected to the Erawan Grand Hyatt.


(Both pics taken by Piyawat on 27 Aug 2005 around 6:50 PM)

orchidbuddha.jpgYesterday I was feeling adventurous (maybe my illness is over now) and so I played tourist. First I visted the Jim Thompson House. Mr. Thompson is credited with reviving the Thai silk industry. His house is a beautiful example of traditional Thai archetecture with Western touches.

Then I took the canal boat to an area called Bangkapi. My American friend Steiner told me that there was a swimming pool at the mall there. Well, the swimming pool turned out to be a big water park on the roof of the mall. I had a great time doing a few laps, floating in the Lazy River, and riding a few water slides. I met many Thai people here. Everyone was excited to practice their English with me and so they were all very chatty.

I finally left and rode the bus back home, utilizing the new bus map that I had purchaced earlier that day. It was my first bus ride and I have to say it was a good experience... a 45 minute ride door-to-door for 5 baht (about 12 cents).

Coming Soon: Real Adventure


This morning we awoke early and went shopping for our breakfast and to buy food for the Buddhist monks, who sit next to the market every morning to collect donations. Our breakfast consisted of spring rolls, fried fish and basil cakes, fresh squeezed orange juice, small creme-filled pastries, pomello fruit, and iced chai tea. Mmmmm.

The rest of the day was pretty busy. I bought an internet card that allows me to use the modem on my laptop. Then I got a cell phone. (Which, by the way, seems not to accept international calls. I need to look into that further.) Then it was off to my second trip to 24 Hour Fitness. (Actually, it is called California Fitness, and it is MUCH nicer than the ones in San Francisco, including a great view of Bangkok from the 19th floor). Now I just need to find a lap pool and I will be all set.

Tonight, Mag, Mark and I went to dinner in Chinatown, then took a tuk-tuk to Kao San Road. We walked down the street famous for the large number of backpacker hotels and bars, all of which were filled with white people. We then walked a block to the park next to the Grand Palace, and were back in a sea of Thai faces, many of whom had spread out blankets in front of them with various knick-knacks for sale.

The real adventure starts on the 8th, as Mark and I fly to Cambodia for a 3 day 2 night trip to see Angkor Wat. I am really looking foward to seeing the temple ruins (one of the largest temples in the world) yet at the same time I am curious to see what it is like to visit one of the poorest countries in the world. I am sure I will have a lot to post (including pictures!) when I get back on the 10th.

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This page is an archive of recent entries in the Tourist Sites category.

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