Being a tourist in Bangkok means four things: Temples, Markets, Buddhas and Beer. There is absolutely no way to escape them, and there really is no good reason to! A cold Chang – the cheapest, most refreshing beer (in our opinions, at least) — at the end of a temple- or market-heavy day is just the sweetest way to unwind, cool down and rest overworked legs and necks.
Coming to a place like this, there was always the danger of running out of adjectives that could adequately describe what we are experiencing. We got our first real taste of this limitation when we visited Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of Emerald Buddha) and The Grand Palace. Both are joined as one big complex that is contained by 1900m of wall (it’s really big!), in Bangkok’s historically significant Ko Ratanakosin district.
The latter is the former royal residence, built by King Rama 1 after his ascendency in 1782, and The Emerald Buddha is one of the most revered religious images in Thailand. There is a remarkably strong Hindu influence on Thailand’s Thervada Buddhism, which is evident in the incorporation of many myths and deities into the breathtaking adornment of the various buildings. From the architectural prowess, to the awe-inspiring detail, to the sheer scale of the opulence, it was almost impossible to take it all in.
There are also throngs of devout pilgrims who travel here to worship and pay respect, which makes for quite a solemn atmosphere, despite all the boisterous tour groups. We felt very privileged to be there.
But, when one considers that most of the wonderful sights are situated at roof height or higher, appreciating it fully in one day became quite a physical challenge. Hence we have coined a new medical diagnosis aimed at temple-goers; Temple Neck Syndrome (TNS for short). Symptoms include; acute stiffness in the neck, a dull ache at the base of the skull, fatigued and squinty eyes, and general clumsiness caused by not watching where you are walking.
Following this, we further aggravated our TNS by going to see The Reclining Buddha, a 33 metre long, 5 metre high Buddha who resides at Wat Pho. Getting the colossal figure into a photo was a challenge we eventually lost gracefully, and after that we simply walked around and enjoyed the beauty of the larger temple complex. Despite being almost delirious with TNS at this point, it really was a sight to behold, and the final discovery of a number of monks worshipping in an spell-bindingly ornate inner temple was a fittingly serendipitous way to end our day..
In retrospect, we should have savoured the serenity of the day more fully, as our exploration of Bangkok’s markets would prove to be a onslaught of chaos.