Time flies! Doesn’t seem a second since we boarded the metro at Ratchadaphisek and in a blink of an eye we were speeding on our way to the Hua Lumpong station to begin our day!
One day in Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Ayuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit. That doesn’t fit the rhythm like “Bangkok,” but it is the full name of the city we Westerners have trouble pronouncing, let alone memorizing!
Our time in Bangkok would be fleeting. Mu Sab and I had to meet up with Pla at 4:00 to see a movie, so we got our hustle on at Wat Pho!
Also shortened from its full name of Wat Phra Chetuphon Vimolmangklararm Rajwaramahaviharn, Wat Pho was built in 1788 after Rama I moved the Thai capital from fallen Ayutthaya to Bangkok! Today, it is both one of Thailand’s holiest sites and, if the signs are to be believed, one of the best places to be separated from your worldly possessions!
But at the heart of this amazing complex is one of Thailand’s largest reclining Buddha statues. Lying on its right side, the Buddha of Wat Pho the Buddha in his final hours before attaining Nirvana. He’s 151 feet (46 meters) long and plated in gold with mother of pearl inlaid into the soles of his intricately carved feet! Mu Sab and I walked from end to end, depositing 108 coins into a long line of bowls meant to represent the 108 auspicious characters of the Buddha! Since I don’t take photos inside places of worship, you’ll have to come visit the site yourself to really experience its grandeur!
Since our time was short, we had to hustle to relax. That brought us to the famed Wat Pho Traditional Medicine School. Beyond housing the grand Buddha, Wat Pho is also considered Thailand’s very first public university! In fact, this was the Thai medicine school to be approved by the Ministry of Education and one of the few places in the world where you can become 100% officially certified in Thai massage.
For this reason, Mu Sab signed us up for half-hour foot massages with sweet smelling oils and tasty mulberry juices. After a long trip of tramping around in mountains and jungles, this was just what the doctor ordered! Even though I can’t imagine they massage a lot of beaver feet, by the time they were done with me, I felt like I was walking on air!
That was important, because we needed to run like the wind if we were going to meet Pla in three hours! We hustled across the street to the Grand Palace, home of Thailand’s royal family and still very much in mourning for King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX), who passed away last October. His 70-year reign had been the longest in Thai history! He weathered many coups while Thailand transitioned to a constitutional monarchy, and he was a skilled jazz musician, artist, and photographer! Though his son, Maha Vajiralongkorn has already assumed the throne, the Thai people will continue to mourn their beloved Bhumibol, and paint his image across the city, until next October.
Because the king’s body will lie in state for the rest of the mourning period, the Grand Palace complex was packed with visitors, here to pay respect for the king, to view the Emerald Buddha of Wat Phra Kaew, and to take lots of photos.
Wat Phra Kaew is considered Thailand’s holiest temple. Completed in 1784 under the patronage of King Rama I, it was built to house a super important artifact amid its forest of bell-shaped chedis: The Emerald Buddha!
According to legend, the Emerald Buddha (actually made of jade or jasper) was created by Indian saint, Nagasena in 43 BC and was transported to Sri Lanka, then to Burma, then to Angkor Wat, then to Ayutthaya, then to Laos, and ultimately to Bangkok, where it embodies the power, prosperity, and protection of the kingdom!
Almost all the buildings here were carefully inlaid with richly colored tiles and tiny mirrors that made them sparkle in the sunlight! The perimeter was surrounded by beautiful murals depicting scenes from the Ramakien, a Thai adaptation of the Indian Ramayana. Though Thailand is strongly Buddhist, it can’t escape its Hindu influences or hints of animism, just like Cambodia! You can see it in the statues of giant Yakshi, which guard the entrances to the heart of the Thai kingdom!
Time continued to be fleeting, and since the Grand Palace closed to the public at 3:30, we had to fleet past the Grand Palace of Phra Thinang Chakri Maha Prasat itself, home to the royal family since 1782! The buildings blend Thai traditional and European architectural styles, thanks to Prince Itthithepsan Kritakara, who graduated from the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, and house both the royal family and official state functions, so for obvious reasons, the public can only marvel at the exterior!
From here, we hustled like the wind, pausing at the Deck Bar to glimpse the dawn temple of Wat Arun across the muddy old Chao Phraya River! Then, by hook and by tuk-tuk, we returned to the train for our appointment with Pla at the theater!
Seeing a movie with Pla was unlike any experience I’d ever had in Los Angeles! For the price of 700 baht ($20) at the fancy Siam Paragon Mall, we snacked on finger food in the Cineplex lounge, got a complementary 15-minute foot massage in an adjacent room, and got led to our reserved leather recliners to settle in with pillows and blankets, while attendants then brought us our sodas and popcorn! That’s about how much it costs to get into a single 3D movie in LA, sans popcorn!
While being treated like royalty, we were reminded that we were in a kingdom when we stood for the playing of a sentimental montage of the king, scored to Thailand’s royal anthem, Sansoen Phra Barami. Even more so, after the movie, we were held back by security guards as actress and actual princess, Ubol Ratana, arrived to view a movie in the same theater! I guess when you play at this level, there’s no ordinary venue!
Check ya later!