Monday, October 22, 2012

RATTANAKOSIN: 02 - Reach for the Sky at Wat Arun

Last day in Bangkok. Instead of going to Ayutthaya on a day tour as originally planned, I just split the Rattanakosin temple run into two days. Today is day two, time for Wat Pho and Wat Arun. Instead of getting off at Tha Tien because that is where Wat Pho is, I decided to just go down at Tha Chang so I could eat at Royal Navy Club 77 again. Yesterday, my main destination was Wat Phra Kaew but I disembarked at Tha Tien. I guess I mixed up my piers! A little bit of walking after lunch and arrive at Wat Pho, home of the giant reclining Buddha. Entrance fee is 100 pesos.

Again, the main star of the show is the Buddha, but the complex itself and its many floral designed stuphas are not to be left behind. The most impressive ones are located next to the temple housing the reclining giant. The sun was still mad as hell when I went to visit this temple, which meant good pictures if you follow the right angle and sun burn if you stay out of the shade too long. Back to the stupha, the one at the middle is the most grandiose and the highest of the bunch. Its design is unique just like the others around it, making use of what seem to be colorful tiles that you might find in your bathroom, except that here they form patterns that really make you stare.

Unlike Wat Arun, you could not really climb those structures at Wat Pho, which is probably the best way to prevent any unwanted accidents, or deranged attempts on death from someone suicidal. One need not climb them, though, to fully appreciate them. After taking photos, perhaps the suggested activity would be to find some shade and gulp down liters of water while staring at those work of art again. Relaxing!

The rest of the complex is made up of temples and more stuphas that differ in size and style. What sets the temples here apart from the others nearby would be the gold encrusted roofs, which reflect the sun’s rays in a way that a disco ball would the strobe lights in a bar. The result is an illusion that is just difficult to ignore, as though the heavens were playing a trick with your eyes. Oops we forgot the giant reclining Buddha, but before that, claim your free bottle of mineral water that comes with the admission ticket.

The ushers will give you a bag to carry your footwear around as they are not allowed inside. Sarongs are being given away at the entrance for those who come sleeveless, which is not that uncommon because of Bangkok’s heat waves. Perhaps that is why the temples have been the ones to adapt, because tourists come dressed like that anyway because of the heat. The giant Buddha is of a golden color just like many others. As already hinted on, it is reclining, lying down on one side with one hand supporting the head. The whole building is occupied by him, with just a few meters around him let for the walking tourist. Aside from the Buddha, parts of the ceiling and the walls also feature painted art which are might also catch your interest. Aside from the photo opportunities, there is nothing much left to do in there. Oh, you could also donate some coins!

Oh. This post was supposed to be about Wat Arun! Hahaha. Well, I did both on the same day but there is room for only one of them in the title. Moving on, you take a 3 baht boat ride to the other side of Chao Phraya from Tha Tien. Your 3 baht translates into a 5 minute boat ride. The place does not seem to run out of tourists, which means you will also never run out of boats. No incidents of capsizing when I was there, so I guess it is safe. Back to Wat Arun, the entrance fee is 50 pesos for entrance to those towering marvels from the past. This is so not time to be a cheapo, shell out that 50 baht and I guarantee that you would not regret it.

The highlight of the trip to Wat Arun would be climbing the middle tower. Let us call it ‘tower’ for lack of better term. I do not even know if I am using the term ‘stupha’ correctly, but I guess you get the gist anyway. That middle tower seems short from afar because of the modern buildings, mostly hotels that have sprouted on the banks of the Chao Phraya. Think, though. Once upon a time, when Bangkok was still more popularly known as Krung Thep, that middle tower used to be the highest structure in the area. Once you climb, you would know what I mean. Wait, we can climb? But of course! Prepare your barf bag, you are in for a nauseous climb!

The first platforms are relatively easier to climb. Just maintain your balance and try not to be such a camwhore while doing so. There is a time for climbing and a time for pictures. The last thing you want to do is roll down those steps and taking along all the others who are also climbing with you. It is when you reach the middle where the steps become smaller and steeper. It would probably be best not to look down as that would not help at all. Instead, set your sight on the prize above, the perfect photo high above the Chao Phraya!

Yes, a good aerial view of the river and the other Wats on the other side are waiting for you. Just make sure that your camera has flash because the sun seemed to be getting in the way of a good picture when I was there. I always appeared like a charred version of myself because of the bad lighting. The view of the river, on the contrary, was good enough to merit some space on my Photobucket album. Make sure that your descent is also smooth sailing, and try to hold on as tight as you could to the railings laced with tight rope. To go back to the BTS, you have to take another 3 baht boat ride to Tha Tien, and get your connecting boat ride from there. Temples done. Mission accomplished! I would say that Thailand is one of the best places in the region to go temple hopping!

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