Wednesday, 6 July 2005

temple overdose

Where yesterday I failed, today I succeeded. I have been dazzled by gold, sat barefooted in front of countless Buddhas and had enough incense up my nasal passages to cure me of colds for life!

Up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at the crack of dawn, I made the most of the free breakfast I missed yesterday and set off on a suicidal mission to Wat Pho and the Grand Palace. When I say suicidal, I mean it. Crossing roads in Bangkok is an art I have yet to master. Navigating 4 lanes of speedy traffic that doesn't slow down for anyone, bar perhaps monks, is a tricky business. The technique I developed was to find a local about to cross and stick close, only putting a foot out when they did.

Wat Pho was my first temple of the day. Resident at the temple is the reclining Buddha; an undescribably large gold masterpiece of Buddha laying on his side. To put it in perspective his feet were nearly twice my height (i'm 5ft 10), lengthwise he was probably the length of two buses and he's nearly as tall as a double decker. In other words he is pretty massive!

The temple itself is made up of numerous courtyards each lined with golden Buddhas. Incense wafts through the air and monks in their orange robes wander around or sit meditating. It is a beautiful sight with more gold and mother of pearl glittering in the sun than you care to imagine.

Wat Pho is also the residence for a school of Thai massage. Being in Thailand I thought i'd indulge. Its an interesting experience to say the least. Thankfully i took the half hour and not an hour. In that time I had every muscle in me pummelled, every joint pulled out of its socket and in a weird way it was quite good. For someone who hates their feet being touched or joints cracked, this probably wasn't the best choice for relaxation, but leaving I felt like an unco-ordinated jelly baby so it seemed to have worked!

Next up was Wat Arun, my second temple of the day. To get there I had to cross the river which meant walking past stalls of dry squid and fish to get to the pier. Even for a fish lover, the smell of dry fish in the midday sun was hard to stomach.

Wat Arun was my favorite temple primarily because I was on my own when i visited. Unlike the throng of tourists at Wat Pho, Wat Arun was deserted making it somewhat more spectacular. Giant statues of dragon like charactors acted as guardians to the temple warding off evil spirits. Because they were giant in size the offerings of food laid out before them were proportional to their size. They each had two whole chickens on rice with another pile of fruit and veg. Enough to feed a few thai families for a couple of days.

Sizewise Wat Arun is much smaller that Wat Pho, so after a quick visit i hopped back on to the boat to head towards the Grand Palace; my next destination.

Just down the road from the palace is a line of stalls selling some amazing local Thai cuisine. I was served by a ladyboy (my second spotted on the trip so far) with very badly plucked eyebrows who recommended a beef dish. Not sure what it was exactly, but it was absolutely delicious.

The Grand Palace and its temple Wat Phra Kaeo were great but by the time i got there it was rather hot and I had slightly overdosed on gold and Buddhas. There was also a lot of restoration work on the go, so there was scaffolding up everywhere which was a bit disappointing. It was however, spectacular.

I spent a couple of hours wondering around and sat dosing in the shade next to a pillar, listening to the windchimes which was pretty cool. I then had to make the suicidal journey back. This time, avoiding two dubious con artists trying to get me on tuk tuk rides to the standing Buddha which apparently could only be viewed today because it was 'Buddha Day'. Unfortunately for them, the Rough Guide authors are onto their tactics so I amused myself listening to their spiel.

This was the second time i wrote this. First time round the server died. Since then, i've just had a chance encounter with the guy I sat next to on the plane on the way here. He is supposed to be in Bali but 'forgot' to organise a visa before he left home. He managed to change his flight for tomorrow and was supposed to pick up his visa from immigration today but, like me on Monday, he had a bit of a rough night last night and missed the opening times so he now won't make his flight out tomorrow. And I thought I was bad!!

He has offered to take me to Patpong after we bumped into each other on Khao San. So much for me doing work tonight. Looks like I am being led astray by yet another Irish guy.....I shall not drink....I repeat...I shall not drink (too much!:) )

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