After spending a few days hanging out with elephants, ziplining in the wilderness, and having the knots all over our body smoothed out it was time for the next part of our adventure. We were headed to Bangkok and in doing so we would be arriving during one of the biggest holidays in Thailand: Songkran. Songkran is the celebration of the Thai New Year which occurs on April 13 every year. Now if you are like myself and celebrate New Year’s Day on January 1st and think that is a big celebration, than I am telling you that nothing can prepare you for the celebration of Songkran. That being said, Songkran is more than a time for partying but is a time of reflection and worship. During this period, people visit temples, provide offerings to the monks, and bathe Buddha statues as a sign of worship. And so, it was important that before we delve into the celebrations to visit these places of worship and witness their beautify first hand. Our first stop: Wat Arun.
Wat Arun is located on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River. To get there, one needs to head to the pier and for only a few baht, a river shuttle boat takes you across the river to where the temple resides. Entry into the temple is 50 baht and after paying our fee, we set off to explore the grounds. Wat Arun is commonly referred to as The Temple of Dawn. It derives its name from the Hindu god of light, Aruna and is famous for the way the first light of morning reflects off its porcelain facade and brightly coloured glass designs. The temple was a stunning with its intricate designs, magnificent spires, and grandiose sculptures of soldiers and guardians at the base of the temple. It was a perfect way to start our day, a quiet reprieve with beautiful manicured grounds. After admiring the temple and walking the grounds past market stalls and performances going on, it was time to head back to the other side of the river to our next destination: The Grand Palace.
The Grand Palace is a massive complex of several buildings, and used to be the official residence of the monarchs of Thailand. When we arrived to The Grand Palace, it was packed! Due to our arriving during the Thai new year, people from all around the world and locals all congregated together to admire the architecture, pay respect to the monks, and visit the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. Although maneuvering through the crowds was difficult, the reason for its popularity. The complex was breathtakingly beautiful. With rich emerald greens, lapis lazuli blues, terra cotta reds, and golden hues the buildings gleamed in the scorching Thai sun. Just like Wat Arun, the complex was contained large guardian statues and a multitude of Buddhist sculptures. As we walked within the compound, we would eventually stop at the temple to find a moment of peace and quiet away from the scorching Thai heat. After removing our shoes, we entered the temple and were given a moment of reprieve from the scorching Thai sun and chaos outside. Noise was kept at a murmur and the cold ground beneath us soothed our overheated bodies. After exiting the temple and admiring the colourful buildings of The Grand Palace for some time, it was time to head to our final destination before it closed, Wat Pho (The Temple of Reclining Buddha).
Bless my friend for getting a photo of the Reclining Buddha
Now I’m going to be completely honest in that I didn’t appreciate Wat Pho as much as I should for the main reason that by the end of this day I was absolutely exhausted that there is little photographic evidence of our ventures in Wat Pho. That being said, Wat Pho is one that should definitely be on your itinerary in that it offers you the beauty of Thai architecture and places of worship, without the chaos of The Grand Palace. It was here in which I was able to fully observe the practises of worship during this festive season. After seeing the impressive 46 metres long gold leaf covered Buddha, we walked along the grounds in which we witnessed people bathing Buddha statues, praying, and would eventually encounter Buddhist monks going about their evening in the courtyard. After the chaos of being in The Grand Palace, Wat Pho was the perfect way to end the day. As the sun began to descend, the grounds grew quieter and so we sat down to finally rest our tired aching feet. It had been a long day, and despite my previous hesitation to visit the temple it wound up being the highlight of my day. After sitting down to reflect and relax, it was time to head back home and rest. Tomorrow would be filled with all new adventures, complete with water fights, dancing in the streets, and cheap water guns and we had to be prepared.