Thailand (Temple)

In Chinese there is a phrase, which roughly translates into “Golden Walls Shine like Glory of the Sun”. I’ve used it many times before in school to describe ancient temples of China. As I stepped into the Royal Grand Palace in Bangkok, I knew, for the first time, what that phrase really meant.

Every visible inch of the exterior walls was covered with mosaic of shiny metals, gems, and ceramic tiles. The interior was painted with endless murals. Shiny and colorful, just like the city noise in Bangkok that overwhelmed one’s hearing; here, one’s vision was overloaded with intensity. It was dazzling and exotic.

Strange creatures emerged into legendary statues: a bird’s beak plus human torso, human hands, but with a pair of bird’s claws as feet, it was holding on to a three-head snakes. Flowing figures of women’s torso but with lion’s lower body and a elongated tail curved into an elegant wave. The Buddha¡¯s from Hindu culture, the statues of Chinese Gods, and even “farang” (foreigners) with bowler hats, they all guaranteed an equal footing in this holy land. It¡¯s a melting pot for Asian Culture. It is one tolerant nation. Gui said she had within one block distance saw a Hindu Temple, a Masque, and a Church. They were able to live peacefully together.

It reminded me of Tang Dynasty of China, when China was strong and confident enough to open its doors to foreign influence and allows all kinds of people and culture to pour in and then assimilated them all. As the only nation in Southeast Asia that had never been colonized, and nowadays slowly gaining back its economy stability after the glorious Asian Tiger years, Thai has its reason to be confident.

After experienced the tourists packed Grand Palace, it was such a welcoming relief to walk into this quiet temple a few blocks away.

The Gaudi-styled ceramic mosaic was enchanting. I wonder if we should’ve called Gaudi’s architecture back in Barcelona “Thai-like” stuff? This was the location of the original capital. In 17th century, Thai’s original capital in Ayutthaya was invaded, for the second time, by the Burmese who burned and looted Ayutthaya to the ground. Seven months later, a young Thai general Taksin who gathered enough military power, expelled Burmese occupier and established a new capital in Thonburi, where Wat Arun locates today. The next King Rama I who moved the capital to today’s Bangkok, on the other side of Chao Phraya river.

Here are more pictures…

2 thoughts on “Thailand (Temple)

  1. Beautiful pictures Jean. Makes me want to go back and experience it again (outside the hours of 10-2).

    One thing that struck me about the temples was the prominence of flowers in the decoration (how many flowers do you see at St. Peters in the Vatican?) There were places where visitors could douse themselves with holy water using a lotus flower.

    You asked, would you feel differently about coming home if the weather was better?

    When we were on the boat on the Chao Phraya we went by a new office building. One of those completely windowed, shiny, reflective, cubes. Sort of like Oracle’s buildings. There was a 1 or 2 meter perimeter of grass or tiles, can’t remember. Across the fence was some untidy apartment that you’d expect from a 3rd world country.

    That building seemed such a funny contrast to the chaos surrounding it. A sterile building, elegantly utilitarian, probably full of offices, cubicles, meeting rooms, white boards, mail rooms, the hum of machines etc. Surrounding it was the chaos of the city.

    Maybe this was what the Architect was trying to say. He designed a perfect world but it failed. He needed humans to introduce chaos, unpredictability, and life.

  2. Thanks! 🙂 You have some really good photos, too! I was going to ask you for that picture of Gui and I with the pig statue in Wat Po. 🙂 I really like that one.

    You are right, there were lots of flowers! I didn’t even realize that. I wonder if it has anything to do with buddha sitting atop a lotus? When it came to flowers, they didn’t seem to think flower at its natural state was beautiful enough, though. They always had to add some human touch to it before it became presentable.

    Does that touch a cord in your theory of “order vs. chaos”?

    I guess in general the Eastern culture has been more comfortable with chaos than its Western cousin. What really made me miss Thailand was not its chaos per say, but people’s attitude towards it. They seemed to be so comfortable and content with it. It is not to say that they enjoy chaos, just that their way of dealing with chaos was not to eliminate it all together but somehow to seek order from chaos to live with it. They seemed to be more inclined to accept things as they are, let it be. I found that really soothing.

Comments are closed.