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…