Under the sea with the fishes in Pattaya.
Located in the Silom district of Bangkok, there is also a Hindu temple that is quite extraordinary.
Samut Prakan is also a"zoo" and has other animals, including monkeys, elephants, and tigers.
The Phra Thinang Chakri Maha Prasat (พระที่นั่งจักรีมหาปราสาท or as its usually known, The Great Chakri Palace, was actually added later by King Rama V. (Chakri is the name of the dynasty founded by Rama I that continues today.) Completed in 1882, it is a stunning blend of Italianate and Thai architecture.
Among the Hmong.
There are two of these 16 meter (52 feet) tall chedi on either side of the steps that lead up to the Prasat Phra Dhepbidorn. They are called Phra Suvarnachedi (พระสุวรรณเจดีย์). The bases are held up by a team of 4 monkeys and 16 Yakshas, all representing characters from the Ramakien. You can see them behind me in the picture below.
I had to be content with the beautiful gold and green glass mosaic exterior and mother-of-pearl doors
Thai movies can be quite interesting -- and violent. This one is called "The Head" and it's about a gangster who has his head cut off and survives by some kind of magic. This movie is about his search for redemption with the help of a young man.
Adjacent to the structures of the Than Phaithi are the Phra Asadha Maha Chedi, which are lovely towers or "prang," eight of them. Each has a different color and is devoted to a particular Buddhist concept. They reminded me of Pagodas and have similar symbolism: the bottom portion represents hell, with the middle part being humanity, and the pinnacle being the state of nirvana. Thai Buddhists will do a ceremony called the "vien tien" in which they walk three times around the Chedi. This is a prayer for a whirlpool to take them out of hell into nirvana.
On the Chao Phraya River (แม่น้ำเจ้าพระยา)
Everything is crocodile themed. The restaurant serves dishes made with crocodile meat. I tried it and it tastes like chicken -- the worst tasting chicken I have ever eaten!
The grounds are actually quite nice.
The Maesa Elephant Camp in Chiang Mai.
You will see Buddhist shrines in front of many buildings.
Thailand's Buddhist temples are famously beautiful. I was excited to go the extensive grounds of the Grand Palace, which are renowned for temple architecture. It is so overwhelming, I have been back a few times. The Grand Palace, started by King Rama I in 1782, has four main courts and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.
There is a raised area near the Wan Phra Kaew called the the Than Phaithi (ฐานไพที) that has several structures and many statues. Walking around here is simply amazing!
The Than Phaithi is dominated by three incredible structures: The Phra Is Rattana Chedi, The Phra Mondop, and the Prasat Phra Dhepbidorn.
About 700 km north of Bangkok is the city of Chiang Mai (เชียงใหม่), which means "new city," even though it was founded in 1296. The original city was surrounded by a wall, which is still standing.
I have since learned that Samut Prakan is somewhat notorious for its poor treatment of animals.
Nearby is the Dusit Maha Prasat Hall (พระที่นั่งดุสิตมหาปราสาท). It was built by King Rama I and is used for lying-in-state of Kings, Queen and members of the royal family. This building is considered to be the ideal expression of traditional Thai architecture and every detail of its exterior carries symbolism.
Up close, perhaps the most stunning of these gorgeous buildings is the Prasat Phra Dhepbidorn (ปราสาทพระเทพบิดร), also known as the Royal Pantheon. Originally built to house the Emerald Buddha (but found to be too small), it became a hall for 8 life-size statues of the kings of the Chakri dynasty.
The entrances are guarded by these Tantima, who have a human body and the bird-head of Garuda, who is actually a Hindu deity. Garuda is the son of Vinata, the mother of birds. The god Vishnu rides him across the heavens.
On the left is Maiyarap (ไมยราพ) and on the right is Wirunchambang (วิรุณจำบัง)
The Phra Si Rattana Chedi (พระศรีรัตนเจดีย์) is quite stunning and can be seen from afar. It is "Ceylonese" styled (Sri Lanka) and houses Buddhist relics from that country. The gold tiles on the outside actually came from Italy.
Guarding the temple are twelve 5 metre (16 feet) Yaksha ( ยักษ์). These are characters from the Ramakien. The one in the foreground is Sahatsadecha (สหัสเดชะ)
Chaweng Beach in Koh Samui
Samut Prakan is famous for "crocodile shows" in which performers do tricks with the crocs, such as putting their heads in their mouths! The show was all in the Thai language and the performers were comedians who also told jokes -- which the crowd loved and roared with laughter. For some reason, I cannot find my photos of this (this picture is not mine).
The most iconic temple in the world, Wat Arun, or its complete name, Wat Arun Ratchawararam Ratchawaramahawihan (วัดอรุณราชวราราม ราชวรมหาวิหาร).
King Rama I had the intention of integrating the Ramakien into the temple's architecture and his ancestors continued what he started.
The most famous temple on the grounds of the Grand Palace, is Wat Phra Kaew (วัดพระแก้ว) or 'The Temple of the Emerald Buddha,' Interestingly enough, it is not, properly speaking, a "temple," but is, in fact a chapel. This is the one everyone goes to see. It is the home of is the Emerald Buddha, carved from a 66 cm tall block of jade.
Next to the The Phra Si Rattana Chedi is a building I really wanted to go inside: the Phra Mondop (พระมณฑป) in the Ayutthaya architectural style. A "mondop" is essentially a square with a sharply pointed spire. This one is the one-room Palace library and holds many Buddhist ancient writings as well as sacred scriptures written on palm leaves know as the Canon of Buddha. The floor is made of pure silver.
I made some Thai friends and they really wanted to take me somewhere and I agreed. It was a long drive south of Bangkok to the Samut Prakan Crocodile Farm and Zoo (ฟาร์มจระเข้และสวนสัตว์สมุทรปราการ).
There are 7 sets of two gold-covered bronze statues on the Than Phaithi. They are inhabitants of the Himavanta (หิมพานต์) forest from both Buddhist and Hindu mythology. The fellow holding the flower is a Thepnorasi (เทพนรสิงห์), with a human upper body and the lower body of a lion.
I had an experience while on the Chao Praya boat that affected me so deeply that I chose to make a page for Thailand, even though I have never lived there. I met a man who was a university professor. We got into a deep conversation about Buddhism. After a while, he asked me to go with him to a temple that he called "the King's Temple" that he said was only open on certain days. I don't remember the name. I do remember the temple itself was not the golden splendor I was expecting. What I remember about it was that it had a lot of open space inside and there were a lot of people who apparently came to spend all day. They had brought food and blankets to put on the floor and sit. We sat down and the man started chatting with some people. I looked around at everyone and they looked so happy. Gradually, I started to feel something. It sounds pretentious to say "I felt God," but that is about the closest words I can think of to describe the feeling. It was quite powerful and not like anything I had felt before. Since then, I have called myself a Buddhist, even though I am a poor example of one.
The tuk tuk, Bangkok's famous mode of transportation, though they are also found in many Southeast Asian countries.
A nation of just under 70 million people, it 95% Buddhist. Buddhism is everywhere from the moment you arrive.
I am embarrassed to say that I don't remember the name of this temple. Some people told me I should go here to see "the mummy," who turned out to be this gentleman. I could not get many details, other than it was a "miracle" that his body was not decomposing. I have searched for it on the Internet to no avail.
The gorgeous temple, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep ( วัดพระธาตุดอยสุเทพ), is named for the mountain on which is was built.
At the time I went, I was a bit naive about the conditions for the animals. I was excited to pose for this picture with a real tiger, but later realized the animal was probably drugged and I felt bad.
Thailand is a wonderful country with a rich culture, full of amazing people and places. I thought about moving there, but it wasn't my fate.
Many people say Bangkok is their favorite city in the world, because of the people and the astounding variety of what you can find here.
Chaing Mai night market.
Interestingly enough, most of the other visitors I saw were Thais. This young man really wanted me to take a picture for him with his daughter on the carriage ride they have.
You cannot ride an elephant or see the shows at the Maesa Elephant Camp anymore. Because of the Covid 19 Pandemic, on March 23rd of 2020, the Thai Government closed non-essential businesses, including the Maesa Elephant Camp. The owner, Mrs Kalmapijit, decided at the same time to permanently end elephant rides and the elephant show. More land was freed up to allow the elephants to roam freely.
There are not many cities where you can meet a friendly baby elephant on the street!
Thais greet each other with a wai, hands pressed together. Men say Sawatdee-krap (สวัสดีครับ) and women say Sawatdee-kah (สวัสดีค่ะ)
The temple is enclosed by a covered walkway called "The Gallery" or Phra Rabiang (พระระเบียง) that showcases a continuous series of murals that tell the entire story of the Ramakien in five episodes totallng 178 scenes. Rama I supervised the project in 1797.
There are more than 60,000 crocodiles of various sizes -- and they are pretty monstrous to see!
On the other side of the Than Phaithi terrace from the Emerald Buddha temple is the lovely Phra Sawet Kudakhan Wihan Yot (พระเศวตกุฏาคารวิหารยอด), usually know simply has the Wihan Yot. It is made to resemble a crown and the outside is decorated with Chinese floral porcelain. It contains many Buddhist relics.
Besides its significance as a Buddhist holy place, The Wan Phra Kaew is extraordinary as a monument to Thai culture in the form of its many allusions to great Thai mythological epic, the Ramakien (รามเกียรติ์).
Robert Badal, A Writer and Teacher