Bangkok known as KrunThep,which is Thai for “City of Angels,” beckons with its golden roofed temples and spicily curried cuisine. Seven million visitors come to Thailand each year spending an average of six to seven days because there is so much to see and to relish in this “Exotic Orient” as one enamored traveller dubbed the country. Our agenda for the first day of our tour started with a tour of Wat Po. One of the 370 temples in Bangkok alone, it is home to the famous Reclining Buddha, which is said to be 46 meters long. Also world–famous are the golden Buddha at the WatTrinig (“wat” being Thai for “temple”) and the dazzling Emerald Buddha. There are 2100 temples in all of Thailand, where 90 percent of the people are Buddhists.
Our loquacious guide regales us with the colorful history of Bangkok and how it became the imperial city 300 years ago, when the god-king Rama I moved the royal residence to this side of the Chao Phraya River. Today, a boat excursion takes visitors on a tour of the old city, winding down the “klong” canals for a glimpse of the water dwellers and the ancient edifices, remnants of an era when Rama I divided his city into three sections: for the Thais, the Chinese and the Indians. The best buys of Thai silks, spices and crafts are still at the riverside markets where one can also produce gold, jade and other precious jewelry.
Not to be missed are the Temple of the Dawn along the Chao Phraya, a showcase of Chinese porcelain mosaics, and the Temple of the Giant Swing for some of the finest murals. Only for strong knees is the Temple of the Golden Mount, atop a climb of 300 steps, housing one of the largest bronze buddhas in the world.
The Reclining Buddha was shipped from China by King Rama I, who also built the Wat Po Temple on a 20-hectare compound adjacent to the Royal Palace, circa 1782, in the 2222-old Chinese section. The King had also brought with him excellent samples of porcelain, which the court artisans used to decorate pagodas using their elaborate spires. At the main temple, devotees buy one–inch gold leaf squares which they stick to smaller buddhas as offering to their god.
Everyday, morning ceremonies are held at an adjacent temple surrounded by four magnificent monuments:the first in red built by Rama I; the second in yellow, by Rama II; the third in green by Rama III; and the fourth in blue, by Rama IV. Just as fascinating is the sala tree under which, according to legend, Buddha was born (although in India). Its pink and red flowers are sweet-smelling, a contrast to the brown gourd which are the “fruit “of the sala tree. To cap a hectic first day, we had dinner at the BaaThai Restaurant while watching heavily costumed folk dancers from the lowland and highland villages, including favorite destinations, like Chiang Mai, the second largest city up north, from whence one can visit the winter palace of the Royal Family and the training school for working elephants.
Amazingly, Bangkok is clean, especially the day after Wednesday, which is “Clean Up Day” according to our guide. So the sidewalk eateries are relatively sanitary, although foreign visitors are advised to stick to bottled mineral water or soft drinks. In spite of the colossal traffic jams, no thanks to the ubiquitous “toktok” pedicabs , the air smells cleaner and less polluted than in Manila. Source: English for Secondary Schools Myrna S. Torres