Bangkok: Wat Arun and Wat Pho

11 12 2016
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One of the four towers surrounding Wat Arun

We had a full agenda for our second day in Bangkok. We’d cross the Chao Phraya River to visit Wat Arun, then back, walk to Wat Pho, followed by a massage at the National Massage School. In the evening, we would join my friends Sakun, his wife Yim, and a Feelfree kayak employee I used to work with, Theerintorn (“T”) for dinner.

After breakfast, we caught a ferry across the river to Wat Arun, which has its own stop. Wat Arun in English means “Temple of Dawn.” It is one of Bangkok’s signature skyline features – as its “prang” or “corncob tower” is nearly 300 ft tall, and its beauty dominates the riverside view. The prang is surrounded by four smaller prangs. Additionally, Wat Arun is a Buddhist temple complex. A stroll through the elegant towers, plus the many surrounding temples is a must for anyone visiting Bangkok.

There has been a temple on the site since the late 1500s, but not always in its current form. It is very ornate – it has thousands of pieces of porcelain inlay on its surfaces. The main prang is said to represent Mount Meru, a focal point in Hindu cosmology.

 

It was hot hot hot and very humid. It was overcast, and we had a hard time imagining how hot it could be if the sun were out! We drank a LOT of water.

After taking in Wat Arun, we ferried back across the river and strolled along the south end of the Grand Palace, past myriads of people paying respects to the Late King, and entered the grounds of Wat Pho. Wat Pho is a complex of temples with its namesake as the focal point. It’s famous because it contains the longest reclining Buddha image in the world.

Wat Pho is one of the largest temple complexes in Bangkok. Not only does it have the main temple, but it contains a monastery and school. It is known as a center for Chinese medicine and Thai massage. Walking around the complex many inscriptions and illustrations covering parts of the body, traditional massage, history, and culture. To enter a Wat, shoes must be removed. Fortunately shoe racks are provided!

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On the far side of Wat Pho sits a building which is part of the National School of Massage. It was understandably busy, considering massages can be had for a song. Fortunately for us, it’s air conditioned! Our massages were all well worth the wait.

By evening it was time to meet Sakun, Yim and T for dinner! I’d hoped to also see Sakun’s brother Pong, but he had a last minute conflict. We were to take a taxi and meet Sakun at the Jim Thompson house. Jumping into the taxi, I told him where we wanted to go. But things got lost in translation, as there are two places – Jim Thompson House and Jim Thompson store! The traffic was biblical. The time clock was ticking. And the driver took us to the wrong Jim Thompson. I had no cell service. But luckily Kristi had service, and through a communication string involving Kristi, Pong, and the taxi driver’s cell phone, we were able to reach Sakun – who waited for us at the Mercure Hotel. It was so great to see him! He took us to a riverside restaurant where we met T and Yim. They were so sweet to us, they took care of ordering, everyone ate family style. It is traditional to exchange small gifts when meeting friends after a long time – I’d asked Cindy and Kristi to get something small to exchange. Sure enough, Yim had gifts for all of us, so we all exchanged. It was a lovely dinner!

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Next day we were off to Saigon to start our visit to Vietnam!

 

 


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