I’ve been very busy these last couple of days.
Tuesday (11/6) I headed out to Wat Paknam, in the Bhasicharoen district on the other side of the Chao Phraya River. The bus was cheap and I made my way to the temple, which was quite different to other Thai temples. My Thai friend spoke to a lady there who directed me to Luang Pu’s tomb.
Luang Pu Candasaro, also known as Phramongkolthepmuni (1884-1959) was the originator of the Dhammakaya tradition, which my temple in Dunedin was part of. His tomb was ornately decorated and there were monks sitting nearby and they did some chanting.
Afterwards I visited the large pagoda at the temple.
On the lower level was a museum, but on the second top level was a golden image of Luang Pu as well as other people. On the top level was a crystal stupa housing Buddha relics.
From the pagoda, I could see a large Buddha statue at another temple. I made my way there but there was no place to get a good photo. The large hall was closed. I talked to a Romanian woman who said she’d heard the Grand Palace was free today, so I set of there, getting a pork bun at the 7-Eleven, which they heated up me.
The Grand Palace wasn’t free, but it was still beautiful. I visited the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and had a look around the rest of the place. There were soldiers in uniform marching.
The 500 baht entry fee also included a ticket to a traditional Thai dance performance. We got on an open air bus and were taken a short distance to a theater.
The performance was scenes from the Ramakien, Thailand’s version of the Indian epic Ramayana. The dancers wore elaborate costumes and it was really beautiful. There were supertitles above the stage in both English and Chinese, explaining the story.
After that, I wanted to go and sit down somewhere air-conditioned, so I decided to go to MBK shopping center. The bus that Google Maps said to take never came. I met a lady who told me I could get a bus to one of the train stations and take a train to MBK. The bus was packed! It also took ac long time, especially to cross the bridge as it seemed like there was a bit of a traffic jam. The train was air conditioned and I got a seat.
After having McDonald’s for dinner (Thai McDonald’s still has super size), I headed to the Patpong Night Market, where I got a Buddha statue for 100 baht. I got a taxi home (the first one refused to use the meter but the second one used it. After resting for a while, I headed to Khaosan Road, the main backpacker area. It was filled with food stalls, outdoor bars and restaurants, and tons of people. There were people selling fried scorpions, a crocodile on a spot as well more traditional food like spring rolls and fruit. As you walk down the street, people are shoving signs in your face, advertising stuff like booze and laughing gas. The music in parts of the street is deafening.
On Wednesday, I dropped some dirty clothes off at a nearby laundry as the dryer at the guest house was broken. The lady told me to pick up the clothes the next day.
I got a bus to Wat Traimit, and climbed up the building to see the world’s largest seated Golden Buddha. In the hall next to it, I spoke to a monk who blessed me and tied a white thread around my wrist.
Since the temple was near Chinatown, I walked up there in search of some lunch. I came across a Chinese folk religion temple and a Chinese Buddhist temple, dedicated to Guan Yin (called Mae Kwan Im in Thailand).
After some chicken fried rice for lunch, I had a look around Chinatown. I found another Mahayana temple, this one with three Buddha statues. I asked the lady who the Buddhas were, but I don’t know the Thai names and she didn’t know the Chinese names.
I waited for a bus to get to Loha Prasart, another Buddhist temple, but not only did it not come, I saw it go a different way. Google Maps hasn’t been updated in a while, I guess. I talked to Mum and after waiting a while, I decided to get a taxi. The first one wanted 150 baht and refused to use the meter, but the second one grudginly agreed to use the meter.
At Loha Prasart, I met a monk who could speak English. One of the things he mentioned was that if Thais want to go somewhere, they will ask someone rather than use a map. He told me that he had learned English from tourists.
At the center of Loha Prasart is the ‘metal castle’ that makes Loha Prasart famous. The floors are laid out in a grid (4×4 in the lower levels). There are corridors that serve as the gridlines. There were some Buddha statues there, but at the top was a golden reliquary housing a relic of the Lord Buddha.
I had read about a meditation and discussion group in English run by a Tibetan Buddhist organisation called Shambhala. It was on the other side of Bangkok, so I used Google Maps to find the fastest route. This involved taking a small riverboat down the river to a stop nearby one of the train stations, where I took a train to the closest station to the center.
It was still a decent walk away, but I got there just as they were starting. We did half an hour of meditation, and then read through and discussed the book When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chödrön. Afterwards we had some refreshments. I tried some kombucha, which was okay. It reminded me of the ginger beer I made when I was in high school. After talking with some of the others, I walked back to near the station with one of the women in the group. I then walked to the nearby subway station and got the subway to Hua Lamphong, where I ordered a Grab (local version of Uber, also present in Malaysia I hear).
After a rest, I headed for the party scene in Khaosan Road. Music was booming from the clubs and in one part of the street people were dancing in the street. I tried dancing with some of the people but didn’t get very far.
On Thursday I got up late as I had to collect my laundry before I could change my clothes. After having a shower it was lunch time, so I got some duck soup from the place opposite the guest house, where I’d eaten on Sunday. I decided to go to to Wat Intharawiharn, which I’d found out about from a brochure that a tuk-tuk driver showed me while offering to take me to the various temples for a price. I set off to catch the bus, but on the way I came across an Indian man who started speaking to me in German. I couldn’t understand everything he was saying, but I realised he was saying that the Holocaust was a lie. I told him he was crazy (in German), which he denied, and kept on ranting. I just ignored him and carried on walking.
There was an enormous standing Buddha statue beside the ubosot.
Interestingly enough, Wat Intharawiharn also had a Mahayana shrine in a Chinese style.
Afterwards, I decided not to go to Wat Saket, as you have to climb up about 300 steps to get to the top, and my feet were sore. I decided to go to Wat Benchamabophit. I waited for the bus for a while, but it didn’t come and I saw it wasn’t far, so I walked.
Afterwards, I decided to go to MBK and visit the Watsons there, to see if they had an elastic dressing strip (long bandage that you can cut to size) for my sore feet. Watsons in Thailand seems to be more a cosmetics shop than the pharmacy it was in Malaysia (but then it’s been 10 years since I’ve been in Malaysia so it may have changed there). There was a Boots next to the Watsons, and I got some plasters and also a couple of bandages.
After having dinner at McDonald’s, I bought some socks from a stall in MBK. I think tomorrow I’ll wrap the bandages around the sore part of my feet, put the socks on and wear the shoes I came with (hopefully my feet won’t get too hot!). I decided to get a Grab home, as there wasn’t anywhere that the train went to that was significantly closer. I ordered one, but it didn’t turn out to be a car.
It was a motorcycle! I had half a mind to cancel and try for a car, but I was so indecisive that he arrived. He gave me a helmet (no face visor) which I put on, and climbed on the back, holding on to the sides of the seat. I wanted to tell him not to go fast, but I couldn’t remember the Thai word for ‘fast’, so I just hung on for dear life. We took off, and it was scary being in the middle of the Bangkok traffic. He weaved through the traffic, sometimes bringing us almost into touching distance with the cars. For some reason, I felt better looking around the right side of his head rather than the left side. I don’t know why. I was scared we were going to have an accident, but we arrived safely at the guest house. Next time I’ll make sure I order a car!