Fire Cloud...
An irregular marking on the exterior of Native American pottery: usually resulting from burning fuel coming in direct contact with the vessel during firing

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Chiang Mai, Thailand

We got up at 5Am on our 3rd day in Thailand for the 400 mile flight to Chaing Mai. The highlight of the day is snakehead soup and a snakehead fish dish that is super spicy.

Bennett and Ken spend the day taking us to mountain temples. There are as many temples in Chiang Mai as there are in Bangkok.

This remote mountain temple only had one monk. We had a conversation in English.

The Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep temple is at 3,500 feet in the mountains overlooking Chiang Mai.

The temple is very famous and draws lots of tourists like us.

The temple was built in this site after a white elephant trumpeted three times and died on the spot in 1368 A.D.

Chiang Mai from the temple overlook.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

The Reclining Buddha and the Grand Palace

Rattanakosin Island
Bangkok, Thailand

The old city (Rattanakosin Island) has both the Wat Po Temple complex and, right next door, the Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. We spend our last afternoon in Bangkok wandering though these fantastic structures.

The Wat Po Temple is also Known also as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. Its official name is Wat Phra Chettuphon Wimon Mangkhalaram Ratchaworamahawihan. A major feature of the temple is the figure of the reclining Buddha, which is 50 feet tall and 135 feet long.

The temple is the home of the Thai massage. There are many different Buddha forms. We see the one below frequently. I think of him as the Snakehead Buddha.

If you forget to take off your shoes in the temples, there is usually a monk to yell at you. After the first day I ditch my lace up tennis shoes and wear the slip on loafers.

Mrs. Phred in the Wat Po Temple complex. There are 80,000 square meters of buildings, Buddhas and statuary in this huge complex.

Rows of Buddhas are fairly common features of the larger and more opulent temples.

You see these structures often at temples. I think they are possibly called "stupas". According to Wiki, building a stupa is considered extremely beneficial, leaving very positive karmic imprints in the mind. Future benefits from this action will result in fortunate rebirths. Fortunate worldly benefits will be the result, such as being born into a rich family, having a beautiful body, a nice voice, and being attractive and bringing joy to others and having a long and happy life, in which one's wishes are fulfilled quickly. On the absolute level, one will also be able to reach enlightenment, the goal of Buddhism, quickly.

On the other hand, cousin Bennett called these structures (or something similar) "Chedis" and said that they were cosmic energy accumulators....or holy object reliquaries. Take your pick...

Eventually, we move on to the Grand Palace.

I think this is the King's Palace. He doesn't live here, but shows up sometimes for ceremonial occasions.

Monday, 9 January 2012

The First Day in Bangkok

Bangkok, Thailand

We can't get into the King's temple complex. Apparently it's the King's birthday. It's the same king that was in charge when I was here in 1967. Everybody still loves him, but you can't see what Wiki has to say about him. He's got that site blocked. I've been waiting to discuss the king until I was out of the country. American Joe Gordon is serving 2.5 years for translating part of a biography that the king found offensive. The sentence was relatively light compared to other recent cases. In November, 61-year-old Amphon Tangnoppakul was sentenced to 20 years in jail for sending four text messages deemed to be offensive to the queen.

I bought one of these funny hats at the Temple of Dawn and I've been wearing full time it at the RV park since we returned to  Florida.It's a lot classier than a baseball hat in my view.

We grabbed a tuk-tuk at the closed palace entrance and the driver took us to a jewelry store and a clothing store against our wishes. I had enough of that and paid him off to take us back where he picked us up. We then took a long walk though a sidewalk market beside the palace walls and then got on  the river ferry for $.20 to take us over the river to the Temple of Dawn.

The temple owes much of its decor to a sunken British ship that was filled with fine English china. Either that or Chinese ships filled with broken china for ballast. Despite its name (coming from Aruna, the Indian god of the dawn), the best pictures of the temple are taken at sunset from the other side of the river.

I think you can see Mrs. Phred climbing the temple (Wat Arun). She's the tiny climber with the blue shirt at the top of the stairs. Wat means temple, so Arun must mean dawn.

After the temple we chartered a long tail boat for a cruise up the river. We were the only passengers. There is much evidence of the recent flooding in the houses along the Chao Phraya river.

The floating market has been completely disrupted by the floods. There is only one vendor in a boat to represent the entire crowded floating market. We bought some bottled water and a beer for our boat driver from this hardy holdout.

A good place to rent one of these boats for an hour or two is at the Temple of Dawn. That is just over the river from the Wat Po temple complex which itself takes many hours to wander though. Wat Po has the huge reclining Buddha and lots of other remarkable stuff to see. The street outside the temple is full of tour buses and tuk-tuks.

The King's palace complex is huge and right next to the Wat Po temple. The Temple of the Emerald Buddha is the centrepiece of the King's compound. The picture below is just a common temple somewhere on the river in Bangkok.

After the river cruise we negotiated a return to the Oriental hotel river dock. It's five or six blocks from our hotel. There are sandbags everywhere because of the recent floods.

Notice the high water mark on this riverfront house.

and here is another flood victim.

I've been looking forward to dinner in the night air on the 66th floor of the hotel for months. It's grossly overpriced and the meal is skimpy, but the view is fantastic and music is good. The restaurant is called the Sirocco.

Incredible....high altitude rock...

There is another restaurant on a higher level. We had Mojitos up there on a balcony overlook before dinner. I imagine that the food is even pricier and skimpier.

Stairway to heaven...."it's just a spring clean for the May Queen"....say that backwards enough times and you're deep into satanic verses...