All photos taken on May 9, 1982.
Did I mention that it was unbearably hot in Bangkok? Yeah, I thought I did! Because of the high heat and humidity, our tour group adjusted the timing of tours to 7:00 to 11:00 AM mornings and 4:30 to 8:30 PM evenings, when it was only 97F, instead of 100F.
In between times, we tended to hang out in air conditioned comfort, wherever we could find it or standing in the hotel pool, in the shade, with a hat on and a cool drink in one hand.
And so it was that we found ourselves in the lobby coffee shop, having breakfast at 6:00 AM, so we could be ready for our morning tour. Breakfast over, we walked the short distance from the air conditioned hotel to the air conditioned bus. My glasses and camera lens immediately fogged up. Hmmmmmmmm.
Our bus took us to the Chao Phraya River, where we boarded a motor launch for a tour down the river.
We motorer past residential areas, house boats, market boats, working boats, naval boats, barges and houses on stilts. Everywhere along the river, we caught glimpses of families and workers starting their day. This was a busy stretch if water. The day appeared grey, due to the air pollution and morning heat haze.
Spirit houses, known as san phra phum (ศาลพระภูมิ) in Thai language, are small shrines to provide a home for the tutelary spirits of a place. They are common near trees and groves and in urban areas, close to buildings. It is considered a bad omen to neglect these spots and offerings are regularly made by people living nearby.
There are many floating markets along the rivers and canals of Bangkok. I did not record which one we visited, but it was a real eye opener for us. Most floating markets are limited to vendors from the local area. Here, one can buy produce, handicrafts and ready to eat items.
From the market, we cruised back on the river for a tour of Wat Arun Ratchawararam Ratchawaramahawihan – Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn).
A Buddhist temple had existed at the site of Wat Arun since the time of the Ayutthaya Kingdom. It was then known as Wat Makok, after the village of Bang Makok in which it was built. (Makok is the Thai name for the Spondias pinnata plant.) According to the historian Prince Damrong Rajanubhab, the temple was shown in French maps during the reign of Narai (1656–88). The temple was renamed Wat Chaeng by Taksin (1767–82) when he established his new capital of Thonburi near the temple, following the fall of Ayutthaya. It is believed that Taksin vowed to restore the temple after passing it at dawn. The temple enshrined the Emerald Buddha image before it was transferred to Wat Phra Kaew on the river’s eastern bank in 1785. The temple was on the grounds of the royal palace during Taksin’s reign, before his successor, Rama I (1782–1809), moved the palace to the other side of the river. It was abandoned until the reign of Rama II (1809–24), who had the temple restored and had begun plans to raise the main pagoda to 70 m. The work on the pagoda commenced during the reign of Rama III (1824–51). The main prang was completed in 1851, after nine years of continued construction.
Back at the boat pier, we boarded a bus for Wat Pho, home of the 150 foot long reclining Buddha. My photo had to be taken in sections to fit it all in.
Wat Pho, also spelled Wat Po, is a Buddhist temple complex in the Phra Nakhon District, Bangkok, Thailand. It is on Rattanakosin Island, directly south of the Grand Palace. Known also as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, its official name is Wat Phra Chetuphon Wimon Mangkhalaram Rajwaramahawihan. The more commonly known name, Wat Pho, is a contraction of its older name, Wat Photaram.
The temple is first on the list of six temples in Thailand classed as the highest grade of the first-class royal temples. It is associated with King Rama I who rebuilt the temple complex on an earlier temple site. It became his main temple and is where some of his ashes are enshrined. The temple was later expanded and extensively renovated by Rama III. The temple complex houses the largest collection of Buddha images in Thailand, including a 46 m long reclining Buddha. The temple is considered the earliest centre for public education in Thailand, and the marble illustrations and inscriptions placed in the temple for public instructions has been recognised by UNESCO in its Memory of the World Programme. It houses a school of Thai medicine, and is also known as the birthplace of traditional Thai massage which is still taught and practiced at the temple.
There are a lot of temples in this area and we also stopped in at Wat Benjamabopitr to view the Buddha statue, covered in gold leaf.
Wat Benchamabophit Dusitvanaram is a Buddhist temple (wat) in the Dusit District of Bangkok. Also known as the marble temple, it is one of Bangkok’s best-known temples and a major tourist attraction. It typifies Bangkok’s ornate style of high gables, stepped-out roofs and elaborate finials.
Next on our tour was Wat Traimit with its 5.5 tonne gold Buddha.
The Golden Buddha, officially titled Phra Phuttha Maha Suwanna Patimakon, commonly known in Thai as Phra Sukhothai Traimit , is a gold Maravijaya Attitude seated Buddharupa statue, with a weight of 5.5 tonnes (5,500 kilograms). It is located in the temple of Wat Traimit, Bangkok, Thailand. At one point in its history the statue was covered with a layer of stucco and coloured glass to conceal its true value, and it remained in this condition for almost 200 years, ending up as what was then a pagoda of minor significance. During relocation of the statue in 1955, the plaster was chipped off and the gold revealed.
By the end of the morning tour, we could feel the heat building, so it was time to head back to our hotel. We picked up a lunch of sausage rolls, meat pies and dessert pastries from the hotel bakeshop. After lunch, we put on swim suits and went for a cool dip in the hotel pool… hat on…in the shade…with a cool drink in hands. Ahhhhhhhhhh.
About 4:00 PM, we loaded onto a bus for the afternoon tour, a high speed run on a long tailed speedboat and barge, down the canals, stopping at a Thai farmhouse and ending up at a Thai villa for a cultural performance and dinner.
We soon arrived at a converted rice barge. Our boat driver dropped us off and we boarded this slower and quieter transportation mode to travel down the canals
Thai farmhouse visit and water buffalo ride
on the rice barge – our guide P is in green – along the trip, we feasted on Thai peanut brittle, shrimp puffs and fruit, washed down with a drink called Dynamite – well named, as two of them will blow your head right off.
Our guide explained that she liked American and Aussie tourists best, as Canadian tourists were too quiet. After I drank two Dynamites, she may or may not have changed her opinion.
After our relaxing cruise, we arrived at the Thai Villa for our dinner and cultural performance.
Dinner included spring rolls, fish, beef curry, chicken curry and fresh fruit. The children then entertained us with a display of Thai dance, including audience participation. It was a lovely evening after the heat of the day.
An air conditioned bus ride back to our hotel completed our tour day…..zzzzzzzzzzzzzz