Sunday, August 10, 2008

Wat Pho

We had grand plans for my last day in Bangkok -- we had signed up for a cooking class at the Blue Elephant. But I felt like I'd not had my tourist ticket punched enough so instead we went to Wat Pho, Bangkok's oldest and largest temple and Thailand's foremost center for public education. We took the scenic, and faster, route there (as opposed to taking a taxi) and rode the Skytrain to the Chao Phraya Express, the river bus. The boat took us up the river to within a few blocks of the temple.

Along the way I shot pictures of some of the houses along the river, houses nestled amongst the five-star hotels. Bangkok is a city of contrasts, for sure. Bangkok's population is 9 million so it's chaos, mesmerizing chaos but chaos nonetheless.

In the 1790s Rama I rebuilt the original 16th century temple on the site and enlarged the complex. In 1832 Rama III built the Chapel of the Reclining Buddha and turned the temple into a place of learning. Today Wat Pho is lively, sprawling complex with a dilapidated grandeur. The massage school, on site, is known worldwide. Of course we got foot massages there.

(Sidebar: My favorite nail spot is Zaza, in San Francisco. They do an amazing Thai foot massage there, which I get after a pedi. The masseur there claims to have studied at Wat Pho. After getting a foot massage at Wat Pho, I believe him. They were nearly identical. Incidentally, Zaza just opened an East Bay location.)

The highlight of Wat Pho really is the Reclining Buddha. It's 46 meters long and fills up the whole wihan. On its feet are 108 mother-of-pearl images representing the lakshanas, the auspicious signs of the true Buddha.

After Wat Pho we had a nice riverside lunch at the The Deck at the Arun Hotel. And then we headed to meet up with Neeracha's family for high tea back at the Emporium.

The trip's closing act was Siam Niramit, a cultural stage show, we saw that evening. It was a bit of Cirque du Soleil in Thai costumes. Interesting and beautifully staged.

And then I bid my friends goodbye (until next month, when I see them back in the Bay), slept four hours and flew home. It was pouring rain when I arrived in Thailand and pouring rain when I left. The 26-hour trip home was uneventful. It had two highlights, however. The first was my husband inside the international terminal at SFO awaiting me with a big hug. And the second was on the flight from Narita to San Francisco. The family sitting across the aisle from me was returning to the US with their newly adopted daughter. She was adorable and they were so happy. I get teary-eyed just thinking about them. They have no idea the impression they made on me!

1 comment:

Polka Dot Moon said...

Hi Leslie,

Your posts have been fascinating and I love the pictures! It makes me want more :)

Glad you arrived safely home after your fabulous trip!!