When I was planning the trip to Bangkok, I had originally settled on going on Jan. 7th and returning on Jan. 23rd, thus giving a clear 14 days in the city to do the work.
When we came to book the trip though, the Treasurer pointed out that Jan. 23rd was the first day of Chinese New Year and nobody would be able to help with getting from the airport.
Besides that, monks are needed in Malaysia over the Chinese New Year as it tends to be about our most busy period, similar to Vesak in traditional countries.
So I had to cut back the days I could spend in Bangkok to just eleven. I had worries about that even at the time, but as I was flying with a friend on the 7th, it wasn’t easy to adjust that end either, so we booked it.
A friend I have in Malaysia was supposed to be meeting me in Bangkok a couple of days after I arrived, and he was going to act as kappiya. He didn’t show till seven days had passed, so many days I had to get around on foot.
As reported last time on Saturday Dheerayupa had helped me get to the Daughters’ temples, and on Sunday Namfon and her son Ahjay were finally clear to help me get to Wat Saket.
The day previously I had climbed up to the top of the Loha Prasat in Wat Ratchanaddaram, and had seen the Golden Mount which lies just opposite – it was even higher.
I honestly do not know where I get the energy from on these trips, part of it at least is sheer inspiration at seeing magnificent art and architecture, and part of it must be devas pushing from behind 🙂
Again I managed to get to the top of the Mount, and also managed to get around the Ubosot and other buildings which are normally neglected by tourists.
There was also the remains of an exhibition about the Gandharan finds that had taken place a few years earlier which engaged me.
The Chedi atop Wat Saket
The next day my kappiya, Dhammada, finally turned up! We decided on a short cruise up the Chao Phraya river and to Wat Rachatiwat, which I later found out was the first Dhammayut forest monastery, and that King Mongkut had lived there during his ordination years.
Getting to the jetty was easy enough, finding our way to the Temple though was a matter of clambering around the wooden houses lying along the canal, and going up and down alleys that seemed to lead nowhere only after entering them.
Still we did eventually find our way in and got some good photographs of the buildings, though it wasn’t the best place I had seen, it had a certain interest as an Italian painter Ricoli had painted the murals.
It also had a good reliquary, with many supposed relics from the Buddha and his direct disciples, including the Bhikkhuni Uppalavanna; and there were some interesting modern sculptures on display also.
The following day I was on my own again, and went down to Wat Kanlayanimit, which is within walking distance of Wat Arun. However, as with a couple of others I went to, the building I wanted to see – the Ubosot, which reportedly has good murals – was closed that day (it is only open on Sunday I believe), and I didn’t get enough photos from the Temple to make an album.
Dhammada was available again on Wednesday and we went first to Wat Bowonniwet, the Head Temple for the reformed Dhammayut sect. I was surprised to see how much Chinese influence there was in the Temple, and how many Hindu gods were protecting it – I had expected something a bit more austere.
Buddha’s Footprints at Wat Bowonniwet
Thursday was my last full day in Bangkok, and I went along with Phra Naam to Wat Rakhang (The Bell Temple), where we managed to miss some important murals as the Scripture Hall hadn’t been opened.
Afterwards, as this was the last day, we returned to Wat Phra Kaew, more for devotional reasons than for photography, in order to pay respects to the Palladium before leaving the next day.
In the evening I had the good fortune to meet the Ajahn Thiab, Dean of Studies as Mahachulalongkorn University, who was translating the Patna Dhammapada into Thai, and was using my Comparative Dhammapada as a help.
In return he very kindly presented me with a beautifully produced guide to the Reclining Buddha in Wat Pho, which is where he resides. That was a great help in deciphering the murals when I got back.
And it was really only when I returned that I found out how much I had missed while I was there – through the book I had been given I realised I had failed to identify the Foremost Bhikkhu murals in the Ubosot and missed four very important Bhikkhuni murals in Wat Pho, and had overlooked the Ramakein murals altogether.
I thought I had photographed Wat Suthat, but in fact I had misidentified it, and had to adjust my nomenclature after the fact. There were also a number of other Temples which would have been worth a visit had I had more time.
All this makes me think that, as with Borobudur and Angkor, I will have to make a return visit some day, perhaps on my way through to Laos or somewhere else, to complete the work that I was doing.
The four albums discussed in this post can be found from the Thailand page of my Photo Dharma website, or individually they are:
Some of the people who helped me while I was in Bangkok:
Namfon and Ahjay
Phra Naam (Ven. Javana)