Thailand is obviously a Buddhist country. It shows in their customs, their kindness, their complete avoidance of interpersonal confrontations, lack of crime, but most obviously in the fact that you can find a Buddha anywhere. Perhaps the only more ubiquitous thing in Thailand than Buddha is pictures of the King. Of all the pictures of him I saw, my favorite (which I failed to get a shot of, bummer) is a picture of the King with the KING, that being Elvis Presley! But I did get a picture of this picture;
I downloaded this one off the net, I just love Google.
Ok, now I will take you along with us on our last tourist experience in Thailand. We booked two trips through the Thailand Authority of Touristm, I snuck a look at the receipts other people payed for the tours, and if in Thailand, book through the TAT, it will save you a few Baht. We booked the trip the day before to The River Kwai and this trip to the ancient capital of Siam, Ayutthaya. Pronounce it any way you want.
The guide our first day spoke pretty good English and seemed to know what he was talking about. Our guide for this trip, neither. I tried desperately to make him explain what we were seeing. Other people on the trip asked me “what did he say? Where are we now?” I just shrugged. How was I supposed to know? I hunted down brochures or tourist info to help me understand what I was seeing. So don’t take anything I say here as gospel. In fact, never do that. OK?
Ayutthaya looks a lot like a mini Angor Wat. First, it is quite old. From what I gathered, some of the site is BC, but not BB. In fact, the biggest building on the site is where Buddha was buried. His remains have since been relocated, but my guide made it sound like they were now in Trenton New Jersey or somewhere. Damn, I could not understand this guy. There are many Chidas. Chidas are all over Thailand. They are ancient burial sites, constructed with a red brick. These three were next to the Buddha’s burial site.
Ayutthaya was the site of a historically important war between Siam and Burma. Neither country is any longer called Siam (Thailand) or Burma (Myanmar) but at the time I guess it was important that they fought. Burma defeated Siam in the first battle and pretty much laid Ayutthaya to waste. What they could not burn, they stripped of gold. Then they beheaded all the Buddhas.
We found a restored Mary Ann Buddha, and she paid her respects. I hope the Jesuits never find out!
There were many restored Buddhas. This is my favorite shot of one.
Ayutthaya is a wonderful place to walk around. You can tell it is special and sacred just by the vibe. Many of the edifices are in spectacular shape condsidering the ravages of time and war, for instance this huge Chedi/shrine.
My favorite Buddha at Ayutthaya was actually just a Buddha head. As far as I could discern from our verbally challenged guide, this head, after being chopped off a Buddha statue by one of the nasty Burmese was buried and a tree raised it up in all its glory.
Now the story of Ayutthaya (have you pronounced it right yet?) gets very interesting. It seems that two more battles were to come. Maybe because there was not much more to destroy, maybe because neither king wanted to upset Buddha any more, they fought the next two battles Mano a Mano. Yes. Imagine how wonderful the world would be if world leaders decided who won a war by taking each other on personally instead of sending young men off to die for their personal goals.
The first of these two battles looked like this. (Mind you, all I know is what I got from our guide, who I have maligned enough already, but I think I got it right)
I do not know who won, blame the guide. But I do know that the second battle was even more weird. The second battle was, of all things, a Cock Fight!
There is a really big shrine to this King just a mile away from Ayutthaya. That is where the previous two photos were taken. Now remember, somehow or another this King is remembered and revered in Thailand as, well, the Cock King. I am not sure what they call him, or what his name was, but get a load of these pictures of his monument.
More shots, you’ll like these.
These two cocks welcome you to the main entrance to the shrine.
We had two more stops on the tour. The guide could not quite explain where we were going, so we just sat back and enjoyed the ride. The countryside in this part of Thailand is quite beautiful and very agriculturally productive. This is not rice country. Instead, corn, dairy cows, fruit orchards and more. Thailand has a lot of food to feed the people. This comes from the edicts of a benevolent king who strongly believes in ecologically sound practices.
The next site was an active Buddhist Monk community. It turned out to be very interesting, if not historically significant.
The entrance to this site was adorned with these two monkeys. Don’t ask why, I tried. The best I could get out of my guide was “we are out of cocks.”
I had a spiritual experience here. For 100 Baht you could “buy” a pail full of essential items to donate to the Monks. Mine had food and an umbrella. The money is then used to maintain the temples, and the Monks need this stuff. An aside…all young men in Thailand become Monks in their youth, for as long as they want to. They take vows of poverty and chastity. Some don’t stay in the order very long, but some do.
When you make the donation to the attending Monk, you get blessed. It was of course all in Thai, but I felt the blessing and still feel blessed.
Then I found some Buddhas bound for Bocas!
There was another reclining Buddha here. For 20 Baht you can buy alms. The alms consist of a candle, an incense stick, and a piece of gold leaf. You adhere the gold leaf to the Buddha. Some buddhas are covered in these small (think thumbnail) sized pieces of gold. I decided that I would honor my favorite Buddha.
OK, just a few more Buddhas, bear with me.
And now, the biggest Buddha of the day.
Well kind readers, thats all from Thailand. Mary Ann and I are back in Sharjah. I will write a quick post about that soon.
Future adventures? In two weeks we go to Nepal! In November, probably Borneo. No joke. Stay tuned, and please comment.
Tags: Ayutthaya, Buddha, Buddha's burial site, Budha, capital of Siam, Chiang Mai, Chidas, Cock King, cockfights, Elvis, Elvis and the king of Thailand, jade Buddha, Monks, Reclining Buddha, reclining budha, ThaiLand, Thailand Authority of Touristm, UAE, UAE, war between Siam and Burma