Our first full, non-family, day in Bangkok was a Monday.  We made arrangements for a guide and at 8:00, Chanya, a thirtyish Buddhist lady, arrived with driver, to show us her city.

Our first stop was the Grand Palace, which we had driven by the night before, but which was even more magnificent in daylight.  Sixty-seven acres of fantastic, finely tiled temples – although a portion is the kings’ burial sites and off limits to commoners.  Several temples are tiled in glass, some in ceramic and the most spectacular in small gold tiles.  There are also fifteen foot tiled statues, council rooms and a weapons museum.  The focal point of the array, however, is Wat Phra Kaeo, Temple of the Emerald Buddha, where a bright green Buddha sits.  Actually, the Buddha is jade or jasper but its composition is uncertain as no one is allowed near it save the king.  Robes are changed three times a year and we arrived only days after a changeout.  The inside of the bot or house is covered with ancient religious drawings depicting Buddha’s life and the principals of Buddhism.  A fitting center piece in an amazing setting. 

Next stop was Wat Po or home of the Reclining Buddha.  Again very different by day and now we were allowed inside.  This shiny, gold-plated statue is 140 feet long and 50 feet high, far too large to capture in a photo, though we tried.  We spent a dollar on coins, which we each deposited into a series of 108 begging bowls along one wall, to bring luck and good karma.

Third stop involved a ferry ride across the river to Wat Arun, Temple of the Dawn.  The temple itself was under restoration, as it had suffered centuries of erosive winds off the river, but one could still picture its grandeur.  It rises 260 feet and is again a tile-covered spectacle.  The grounds, and apparently the temple itself, are decorated with statues, made from stone recovered from ballast dumped by Chinese merchants.  One of the most interesting is a small “likeness” of Marco Polo.

Lunch was at the Navy Wives’ Club.  It was tasty, fast and cheap (and had AC).

Refreshed, we headed to Wat Saket, The Golden Mount, and its 344 steps.  It was well worth the climb, 100 degrees or not.  The view of the city, river and nearby monks’ quarters was exceptional.  Clanging the many bells enroute and hitting the gong on top was a plus.  For reasons unknown, part way down is a reconstruction of a Tower of Silence funeral rite.  There is a clay human body, just starting to be attacked by several dozen clay vultures.  Our guide took pains to point out this was not the Buddhist way.  Buddhists cremate their dead.

Last stop of our day was Wat Traimit, Golden Buddha Temple.  What a spectacle!  Solid gold and unbelievably glistening!  It is thought to be the only solid gold, rather than gold plated, Buddha.  It was found by accident in 1957 when an old stucco casting was dropped and broke open, exposing the gem inside.  Most believe it was covered in stucco, to hide it from Burmese raiders, several hundred years ago and lost as the camouflagers died off.  Here we saw many flower wreaths, constructed the evening before, being placed at the foot of the throne.  This temple was the most moving for me due to a prevailing hallowed atmosphere.

Chanya dropped us at our hotel about 5:00 PM, worn out and sweaty but much better informed about Buddhism and with a very positive view of Bangkok.