I arrived at my stop and disembarked. So far, so good. The people at the hotel told me it was about a 10 minute walk from the pier to the temple. It had rained and the humidity was quickly rising. I had dressed once again in my "church clothes" which I was regretting already. 45 minutes into my 10 minute walk I decided that I could now add Chinatown to the ever growing list of places I got lost in Bangkok. I stopped and got directions, not that they really helped. Of course I knew I was getting close when I was stopped and told that the temple was closed for private ceremony....blah blah blah...tour of city....blah blah...Obama is good yeah?....blah....I just walked away. Finally I found the temple. Now, before you have a laugh at my expense, stop. Even though these temples are massive and the spires are very tall; when you are standing next to a building be it a high-rise or simple 4 story structure; you just can't see beyond it; you have no field of vision past the building right in front of you. It happened to me in Paris looking for The Eiffel Tower; and continues to happen here. So, that being said, contain your laughter and comments and read on; I found it.
I don't think that there is a run of the mill temple here; all though they are somewhat cookie cutter; each has there own unique style.
The story of The Golden Buddha is fairly interesting. I was told it by my guide Kay and then read the historic version at the temple. I will share both; hers is a little "urban legend"; but far more interesting. Kay told me that during the invasion of Bangkok by Burma over 300 years ago. The Golden Buddha was covered in plaster to hide it as they knew if it was discovered it would certainly be stolen. The monks were all slaughtered in the invasion and the secret as well as the Buddha remained safe. One day a bad storm came dropping rain and blowing debris on the plaster covered Buddha. A man went out to clean it when the storm passed and climbed up on the statues shoulders to clean it's head. He slipped on the wet plaster and as he fell; he reached up grabbing the top of the head; a piece of the ushnisha (the bun or oval at the top) broke off. The man was very sorry he damaged the Buddha and as he looked skyward to apologize to Buddha; he saw a glimmer from the top of the head. He chipped more plaster away and discovered the entire statue was gold.
The actual historic version is, that in the 50's the statue was being moved to a new temple, and when they tried to lift it onto the truck with a crane; it was much heavier than expected and the statue was dropped revealing its true secret. I like Kay's version much better. That being said, the stats on the Buddha are as follows:
- 3 meters (9.8 ft) tall
- Weighs 5.5tons
- It can be disassembled into nine pieces.
- At US$1,400 per troy ounce, the gold in the statue (18 karat) is estimated to be worth $250 million
- The body of the statue is 40% pure
- From the chin to the forehead is 80% pure
- The hair and the topknot, weighing 45 kg, are 99% pure gold
So here she is:
The statue is even in The Guinness Book of World Records:
At the base of the Temple are different exhibitions showing the history of The Buddha. There is also a history of Chinatown and the Chinese immigration to Thailand and their contributions.
I left the museum and wandered through Chinatown a bit more. They are known for a few things here, food, gold, and scrap metal......I found only the last. Not in need of any scrap metal or engine parts I headed back to the pier; which I amazingly found quite quickly.....
I took the boat back; now crowded and loud; to the hotel to cool off and get some lunch. Later in the afternoon I did make one more trip out. I went for a drive that should've taken about 40 minutes; it took 2 hours! Bangkok traffic is just ridiculous!! Oh and I guess the downpour didn't help matters...
And it got WAY worse!!
But I didn't come back empty handed...........
Been waiting for that for 8 days! Hours in line to drop it off, charged at every stop.....days of waiting.....but pickup took literally 2 minutes! Well worth it...the journey can continue; but I have a few more stops before we get to that.....stay tuned!