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The Reclining Buddha in Bangkok’s Wat Po Temple

This is one of the absolute must-see attractions in Bangkok.

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The famous reclining Buddha in Bangkok is located in the Wat Po temple. It’s so big that it’s really challenging to take a full-length picture of him – after all, fitting 43 meters in a single indoor-photograph is a bit challenging, and the only possible angle to accomplish this herculean task is when you’re standing at his feet.

Reclining Buddha Wat Po

Speaking of his feet, they are interesting to look at too. Intricate designs made from mother of pearl inlays that represent 108 auspicious characteristics of the Buddha.

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So when you go on a Bangkok sightseeing tour, just make sure to visit the Wat Po too – and keep in mind that when you enter the hall where the reclining Buddha is located, you gotta take off your shoes. You might want to bring a pair of socks, because on busy days so many tourists from all over the world walk around the hall that it can be quite stinky from all those sweaty feet, which is a shame, because if you manage to come here when there aren’t that many folks around, it’s a beautifully serene and peaceful atmosphere.

There are also plenty of smaller Buddha statues located around the large reclining Buddha, in different poses.

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This posture represents how the Buddha remained calm and kept his meditative state of mind even when both outer distractions where attempting to break his concentration. It’s in fact one of the most popular postures of the Buddha in Thailand. It’s also known as the Bhumisparsha posture, or Subduing Mara.

Mara is the leader of the demons, and he tries to unsettle the Buddha with all the tricks, destractions and weapons he has at his disposal.

While Mara let’s his army of demons proclaim his powers, Mara then demands that the Buddha proofs that he indeed is enlightened. How does Buddha respond to this? By simply touching the earth, upon which Mother Earth proclaims: “I am his witness.” That’s good enough for Mara, who then takes flight with his army of demons.

 

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And this one is of course a miniature version of the reclining Buddha:

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And if you are wondering what the reclining Buddha posture means, here is an explanation:

Many people think that it represents the Buddha “dying” (passing over into nirvana), but this is a mix up with a similar posture where his right arm is lying next to the body.

So this reclining Buddha image, where his head is rested on his right arm, simply represents that the Buddha is resting.

The story behind this is that there was a giant, called Asurindarahu, who didn’t want to bow before the Buddha, because he doubted his greatness. The Buddha simply enlarged his body many times, until he was much larger than the giant Asurindarahu, and kept laying there in this relaxed manner. Asurindarahu then accepted that the Buddha was indeed great and powerful, and bowed before him.

Keep in mind that stories like these are used as teaching vehicles. This one could represent a certain kind of humility towards spiritual teachers. There are some people who have a very high, and sometimes inflate, sense of self-importance. All these big shots who walk around and think they are better than others, and they might think that others don’t have anything to teach them or that they can’t learn anything from Buddhism since they’re already so great and awesome. So this effortless kind of demonstration of the greatness of the Buddha kind of represents that there is a different kind of greatness – and although I personally don’t believe this story to have happened this way, I think it’s a story that for a long time served as a good teaching tool to transmit knowledge and cultural values.

 

 

 

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Thomas Fuller has recently published a piece titled 36 Hours in Bangkok. Among the things he recommends are:

  • have dinner at The Siam hotel (and enjoy a river cruise ride)
  • visit Khao San Road at night (and check the Blues Bar)
  • visit the Chatuchak Weekend Market
  • eat Som Tum at Or Tor Kor market
  • get an affordable massage at The Touch (300 Baht for 1 hour foot massage)
  • go for an Afternoon Tea in the Mandarin Oriental hotel (1,471 baht for two)
  • visit Sky Bar at the Lebua State Tower
  • visit David Thompson’s NAHM restaurant for authentic, high-class Thai food
  • eat a Durian
  • visit the Golden Mount temple
  • go crazy shopping in Pratunam
  • watch a movie at the fancy Cineplex cinema in Siam Paragon (and get the luxurious blue ribbon seats)

But what we liked most about Fuller’s article is what he wrote about our favorite city on earth:

But if there is one reason visitors return again and again to Bangkok, it is the people. The anonymity and daily grind of urban life is slowly wearing away at the legendary Thai smile. Yet Bangkok remains one of the friendliest cities on the planet, still infused with the Thai village traditions of hospitality and graciousness.

Who wouldn’t want to agree with this? 🙂

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Bangkok Market Spotting: Puppets on a string

Puppet Bangkok Market

Thai people have some interesting puppets, and puppetry has for a long time been a popular form of entertainment in Thailand. With the advent of TV, cinema and radio however its popularity declined – until puppet master Joe Louis helped to advance it, and the now legendary Joe Louis puppet theatre in Bangkok is still doing daily shows.

We spotted these old puppets at the Or Tor Kor market in Bangkok, which is mainly a market for fresh produce and foods, but you also find a section where they sell all kinds of merchandise, including these two little fellas 🙂

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Rattanakosin Biking Route

Believe it or not – but you can go sightseeing in Bangkok by bicycle. There are several Bangkok cycling tour companies that offer different themed tours for tourists, or you can just rent a cheap bike yourself and following along the Rattanakosin Biking Route, which will bring you around the historic city center of Bangkok.

You can click on the image below for an enlarged version of the Rattanakosin Biking Route map.

Rattanakosin Biking Route Bangkok
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Jim Thompson Museum Bangkok

 

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The Jim Thompson museum in Bangkok is a nice place if you want to learn more about traditional Thai architecture and art – and of course, traditional Thai silk. After all, Jim Thompson made his fortune as the man who popularized traditional Thai silk in the west and made it fashionable by promoting it to contributors of magazines like Vogue.

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He was also very fond of traditional Thai architectures, and he bought traditional Thai buildings from different provinces of Thailand and had them transported and rebuilt on his compound in Bangkok – which now houses his Jim Thompson museum.

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It’s very nice and tastefully decorated, with lots of flowers.

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And you get to learn a lot about Thai silk, and how it’s made.

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And in case you’re wondering what this blue-white ceramic thing is good for – it’s a heater. Chinese people used to put hot coals inside during the cold season and then it would radiate warmth – especially if you sat on it.

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If you would like to visit the Jim Thompson museum in Bangkok or do other Bangkok sightseeing tours, just contact us.

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Butterflies in Bangkok

Bangkok Butterflies

If you’re a nature lover, you might think that Bangkok has nothing to offer you. That’s why I feel delighted to tell you that despite all the grey concrete and crowded streets, there are still many beautiful things to discover in Bangkok, and all forms of live are finding their space in corners everywhere. Look at these beautiful butterflies which I encountered during a random stroll through a park in Bangkok – and I wasn’t even visiting the nearby Bangkok Butterfly Garden and Insectarium.

Bangkok Butterflies

A nice nature sightseeing tour in Bangkok – and if you really want to learn more there are some great books about the butterflies of Thailand.

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Queen Sirikit Park Bangkok

Bangkok Park Impressions

This is one of Bangkok’s most beautiful parks – yet, it’s surprisingly not very well-known among tourists. Compared with the popular Lumphini park, which almost everyone has at least heard about, this one is much more interesting and varied, with lots of beautiful exotic flowers and plants, and it’s very well maintained. Makes for a nice, relaxed break of a full Bangkok sightseeing program.

However, it’s located in northern Bangkok, near the Jatujak weekend market, so farther away from the city center. However, if you want to escape the busy concrete jungle which Bangkok is in so many places, this is a great escape for a couple of hours.

 

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Giant Monitor Lizard in Bangkok’s Lumphini Park

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Remember how we recently mentioned that turtles aren’t the most spectacular creatures which live wild in Bangkok? Well, how about these giant monitor lizards?

They are some Bangkok sightseeing attractions that you can’t buy your way into – you just have to spend some time in one of Bangkok’s parks by the water, where they sometimes just emerge out of the lake and move around the grass, often in search of food.

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I still remember the first time I saw one of these – I didn’t know that there are these creatures in Bangkok, and I was reading a book on the grass when I saw some movement in the corner of my eye. I looked and I saw… ‘A CROCODILE! No… wait a moment… that’s not a crocodile… that thing looks like something which escaped from Jurassic Park!” Well, I later learned that they are called monitor lizards, but I was extremely amazed, partly because of them, and partly because of how little attention Thai people paid to this semi-saurier.

Thai people have a bad name for this animal – hia. It’s also one of the worst insults you can throw at someone in Thai, and in fact, I strongly urge you to not ever make use of this word, unless you want to get engaged in a physical confrontation.

They can grow to a length of almost 3 meters, and something between 1,50 to 2,50 meters is actually quite common to spot in Bangkok – drainage pipes, parks, lakes, rivers, canals, swamplands and golf courses. And they often show up in people’s gardens or houses (in search for food).

When they’re not hanging around in Bangkok’s parks, they often live in the extensive networks of underground drainage pipes which can be found underneath the city.

One reason why they can be seen so easily, even in a busy and polluted city like Bangkok is that they have almost no natural adversaries, and they eat pretty much anything – chicken, fish, frogs, eggs, snakes, birds, turtles, all kinds of wildlife and even rotten meat if they come across it.

They are surprisingly intelligent for reptiles too, and scientists found out that they can even count to seven.

 

 

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Chinese New Year 2013 in Bangkok’s Chinatown

Last month we’ve been at the Chinese New Year festival in Chinatown, Bangkok – on February 10, 2013. It’s always a big spectacle with lots of things to see, buy and eat.

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Vendors are preparing snacks, and often quite spectacularly.

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Of course, lots of Chinese food to be had too.

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Taking pictures with Chinese figures.

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All kinds of knick-knack which you could buy on the streets.

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The streets flow over with the auspicious color of the Chinese New Year: red.

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Turtles in Bangkok’s Lumphini Park

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Bangkok used to be mainly a tropical swampland not too long ago – and sometimes you still get a sense of how short a while ago human progress has found it’s way into this place. In Lumphini park for example, you still find plenty of large turtles like this one who meander around and crawl out of the lake – considering that Lumphini park is located right in the heart of Bangkok’s business district, it’s quite impressive. And what beautiful and fascinating creatures they are!

So if you have some time to spare and are in no rush with your Bangkok sightseeing activities, check out some of the parks in Bangkok – they have even more amazing creatures than this magnificent turtle 🙂

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