Tha Maharaj: Life at the River

‘Tha Maharaj’ is a community mall located on Maharaj Road in the Rattanakosin area, thus in walking distance of Thammasat University. The Rattanakosin Island was built in the early Rattanakosin period. Hence, Tha Maharaj tries to capture the charm of the old town’s architecture.

Tha Maharaj (photo credit: Amporn Konglapumnuay)

Tha Maharaj (photo credit: Amporn Konglapumnuay)

This community mall is thus in close proximity of the Chao Phraya River and there is also the Tha Maharaj Pier. What is more, it is surrounded by some important cultural attractions of Bangkok including The Grand Palace, Wat Arun and Wat Pho. Nearby this place are also Silpakorn Fine Arts University and Siriraj Hospital.

Tha Maharaj Pier at the Chao Phraya River (photo credit: Amporn Konglapumnuay)

Tha Maharaj Pier at the Chao Phraya River*

Of course, due to this location, Tha Maharaj has become a tourist attraction as well. However, locals also love this place because there are specialists of antiques and one of the greatest Thai amulet markets in the country.

At Tha Maharaj*

A community mall with many shops and restaurants*

Tha Maharaj aims at bringing the beauty of the Chao Phraya River near to the visitors. In addition, people should get to know and enjoy the local culinary specialities which can also be referred to as the Taste of the River. What is more, the place surprises the visitor with some colourful details 🙂 Thus, there is also a community garden and a riverside promenade.

There a numerous shops and a community garden*

There a numerous shops and a community garden*

Colourful details for a good mood*

Colourful details for a good mood*

Tha Maharaj includes seven buildings in total and a parking building. There are more that 50 restaurants, retail shops dedicated to fashion and beauty. You can reach this place by road but also via Chao Phraya Express Boat. Other options to get there are Chao Phraya Tourist Boat, Long-Tail Boats and Private Boats.

Reach the Tha Maharaj by road or by boat*

Reach the Tha Maharaj by road or by boat*

Summing up, Tha Maharaj is certainly worth a visit since there are not only numerous interesting shops, facilities and restaurants but also special events and activities like weekend market.

A colourful place for special events and friends of the Chao Phraya River*

A colourful place for special events like the weekend market and friends of the Chao Phraya River*

For more information check out: Tha Maharaj

Yours, Sirinya

(All photos in this post, credit: Amporn Konglapumnuay)




The Buddha Image in Thai Culture

Representations of the Buddha can be found throughout Thai temple compounds. The Buddha occurs either as statue or in mural paintings. Hence, they are idealized images of the Great Buddha who lived in the sixth century BC in northeast India. He is commonly shown in either of the following four positions: seated, standing, walking, and reclining (as the following pictures illustrate). The Buddha’s hand gesture and posture refer to important events in his life.

The Buddha Image

The Buddha statue of Wednesday (photo credit: Siwaphong Pakdeetawan, Instagram @knack66))

The Buddha Image of Wednesday (photo credit: Siwaphong Pakdeetawan, Instagram @knack66)

Siddhartha Gautama of the Sakya clan, who was to become the Buddha, was born in a small Hindu kingdom neighbouring to Nepal. First he became an ascetic before reaching enlightenment. Afterwards, he taught the truths he had learned and hence gained many disciples. He died around the age of 80.

Walking Buddha performing the gesture of Dispelling Fear (photo credit: Siwaphong Pakdeetawan, Instagram @knack66)

Walking Buddha Monthon performing the gesture of Dispelling Fear (photo credit: Siwaphong Pakdeetawan, Instagram @knack66)

The Buddha put forward the Four Noble Truths concerning man’s condition and the Eightfold Path that should lead to enlightenment, perfection, absence from rebirths and finally to nirvana which is to be understood as the extinction of the ‘three poisions’, namely passion, aversion and ignorance. When these poisons or ‘fires’ are extinguished, freedom from the cycle of rebirth (samsara) is attained.

Wat Yai Chai Mongkon, Reclining Buddha, Ayutthaya

Wat Yai Chai Mongkon, Reclining Buddha, Ayutthaya (photo taken by myself)

In the Reclining posture, the Buddha is also referred to as being in the ‘Sleeping Lion’s’ position which is the state in that the Buddha died. Buddha lies on the right side with knees slightly bend and the left hand on the thigh. In Buddhism, the ‘Sleeping Lion Posture’ is also the traditionally recommended mode for dying. A well-known Buddha Image in this position is the Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho in Bangkok.

Reclining Buddha of Wat Pho, Bangkok (photo credit: Amporn Konglapumnuay)

Reclining Buddha of Wat Pho, Bangkok (photo credit: Amporn Konglapumnuay)

For example, a Walking Buddha is the Buddha Monthon (Phutthamonthon) which is created in the Sukhothai style. The image performs the abhaya mudra, the gesture of Reassurance and Dispelling Fear. Characteristic of the period are the broad shoulders and pendant arm. The flat feet and projecting heels are part of the anatomy characteristic of a Great Being.

Great Buddha Monthon - Great Being (photo credit: Siwaphong Pakdeetawan, Instagram @knack66)

Great Buddha Monthon (photo credit: Siwaphong Pakdeetawan, Instagram @knack66)

It is also important to note that there are Buddha statues for each day of the week, each in different pose. They are often lined up in a row at a temple. Many Thai people know the day and hour they were born thus paying respect to the Buddha image presiding over their day of birth.

Buddha images representing each day of the week (photo credit: chiangmai.chiangrai.com)

Buddha images representing each day of the week (photo credit: chiangmai.chiangrai.com)

The Buddha of Monday is the one preventing calamities. The image for Tuesday is in the reclining posture. Wednesday, in fact, has two Buddha images, in the morning it is the Buddha holding an alms bowl and in the evening he is in the posture of retreating in the forest. The Thursday image is meditating and on Friday the Buddha is in reflection. The Saturday statue is sitting in meditation while being protected by Muchalinda’s cobra hood. Finally, the Sunday Buddha is in pensive thought.

The Buddha's hand (photo credit: Amporn Konglapumnuay)

The Buddha’s hand, the Great Buddha of Wat Muang (photo credit: Amporn Konglapumnuay)

The most prevalent posture and gesture in Thailand is the Buddha in sitting position with his right hand pointing down to the earth. By doing so, he calls on the earth to be his witness that over many lives he fulfilled and accomplished himself thus being able to reach enlightenment. For example, the Great Buddha of Wat Muang is a seated image pointing with his right hand to Mother Earth. Another famous example of the seated statue is the Golden Buddha at Wat Traimit in Bangkok’s Chinatown.

The Golden Buddha image*

The Golden Buddha image (photo credit: Amporn Konglapumnuay)

Summing up, we may claim that the Buddha image in Thai culture is very prominent and prevailing. Next time you visit a Thai Wat, check out what kind of images there are and find out which Buddha presides over your birthday 🙂

Yours, Sirinya

(Reference, Carol Stratton, What’s What In A Wat, Silkworm Books, 2010)

 




Media Review: Top 10 Bangkok by Ron Emmons & Alex Robinson

Today’s media review is about Top 10 Bangkok by Ron Emmons (texts) & Alex Robinson (photographs) (ISBN: 978-3-7342-0510-1). This guidebook was published by Dorling Kindersley Verlag GmbH, Munich. My review copy is the 3rd and newest edition (2014/2015). This book is in German language, comprises 128 pages and costs 9,99 EUR.

Top 10 Bangkok

Top 10 Bangkok German Cover 2014

Top 10 Bangkok German Cover 2014

However, there is also a corresponding English edition of this guide called DK Eyewitness Top 10 Travel Guide: Bangkok written by the same author and published by Dorling Kindersley Ltd., London which is the partner company of Dorling Kindersley Verlag, Munich. The latest edition of the English version is from 2014. You may take a look inside the book here.

Top 10 Bangkok is a comprehensive travel guide with compact Top 10 lists, detailed maps and more than 250 colour photographs. Hence, the guide is structured in three sections: Bangkok’s Top 10, Around Town (in German: ‘Stadtteile’, meaning different areas of the city) and Streetsmart (in German: ‘Reise-Infos’, i.e. travel information).

The guide names ten highlights that the traveller should visit when going to Bangkok. These highlights are:

  • Grand Palace & Wat Phra Kaew
  • National museum
  • Wat Pho
  • the Klongs
  • Dusit park
  • floating market (Damnoen Saduak)
  • Chatuchak weekend market
  • Jim Thompson House
  • Wat Arun
  • Ayutthaya

In addition, this guide provides information about important historical events, museums & art galleries, shopping, markets, restaurants, bars & clubs but also about entertainment like theatre & cabaret. What is more, there is also information about special attractions for children, festivals, beaches nearby Bangkok, sports, spas and Buddhist temples.

The section Around Town (‘Stadtteile’) is divided into historic district (Old Town), Chinatown, Downtown, Greater Bangkok and the outskirts of the city (Beyond Bangkok).

As far as travel information (Streetsmart) is concerned, there is advice about travel preparation and planning your journey & arriving in Bangkok. Further there is info about Bangkok on a budget, money, banking & communication, safety & health. In addition, the guide lists things to avoid but also provides shopping, hotel and restaurant recommendations.

Furthermore, the guidebook also includes a phrase book with some basic Thai vocabulary and an extra-map (city map, skytrain map & additional tips for a perfect day off in BKK).

In my opinion, this book is a comprehensive, elaborate and well structured guide. In particular, I welcome that Bangkok’s Top 10 highlights are again each divided into Top 10. For instance, the Dusit park is subdivided into 10 impressions and experiences: 1. Vimanmek Palace, 2. Royal Plaza, 3. Ananta Samakhom throne hall, 4. Abhisek Dusit throne hall, 5. Photography Museum, 6. Royal Elephant Museum, 7, Clock Museum, 8. Textile Museum, 9, Sea Pavilion and 10. Dusit Zoo. Hence, you cannot really miss or overlook an attraction.

In addition, I also find the extra map very useful because it lists some of the important attractions, malls, markets and restaurants and tells you how to get there by public transport (i.e. Skytrain, Metro, bus, ferry).

Finally, I can highly recommend Top 10 Bangkok, in particular to everyone who goes to BKK for the first time. On the whole, this is a very practical and compact guide. Since the book is lightweight and small, it fits in every pocket and bag 🙂

Yours, Sirinya

(P.S. if you’re looking for a compact Thailand travel guide, check out Vis-à-vis Thailand)




The Reclining Buddha of Wat Pho, Bangkok

The Reclining Buddha is a very popular tourist magnet and also an important object of piety. It is located at Wat Pho which is a Buddhist temple in Phra Nakhon District in Bangkok. Thus, this place is also referred to as ‘Temple of the Reclining Buddha’. The temple was founded in 1781 by Rama I who is also known as King Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke. Officially, the temple is called ‘Wat Phra Chettuphon Wimon Mangkhlaram Ratchaworamahawihan’. Well, indeed a long and complicated name, hence ‘Wat Pho’ is the usual abbreviation.

The Reclining Buddha

Reclining Buddha of Wat Pho, Bangkok (photo credit: Amporn Konglapumnuay)

Reclining Buddha of Wat Pho, Bangkok (photo credit: Amporn Konglapumnuay)

Thus, the Reclining Buddha can be considered a Buddha image of the early Bangkok period. It is made from brick and stucco and it is lacquered and gilded. This Buddha statue is 15 meters high, measured from the base to the topknot, and 46 meters long according to the info on Wat Pho’s official website.

Buddha Image, Wat Pho

Buddha Image, Wat Pho*

The Great Buddha of Wat Pho is also referred to as the Buddha in the ‘Sleeping Lion Posture’ which is the position in which Buddha died. Buddha lies on the right side with knees slightly bend and the left hand on the thigh. In Buddhism, the ‘Sleeping Lion Posture’ is also the traditionally recommended mode for dying.

The Buddha is enshrined in the Nothwestern area of Wat Pho. What is most special about the image is that the Buddha’s feet are divided into 108 arranged panels which are inlaid with mother-of-pearl. These panels display the 108 auspicious symbols by which Buddha can be identified. Hence, these are symbols of fortune and prosperity like the lotus and symbols of royalty and greatness of an emperor like the throne. In addition, there are other royal belongings depicted as well as parts of the religious cosmology. For instance, these are the universe, the four continents and the oceans.

The Buddha's feet, Wat Pho

The Buddha’s feet, Wat Pho*

The belief in 108 auspicious symbols came from the ancient scripture of Sri Lanka, indicating that these symbols were spotted by the Brahmins on the soles of Prince Siddhartha, who is the historical Buddha, five days after his birth.

Taking a closer look at the auspicious symbols

Taking a closer look at the auspicious symbols*

What is more, there are also 108 bronze bowls in the corridor which serve to indicate the 108 auspicious characters of Buddha. You may donate money in these bowls and this is considered to provide good karma since donations help to maintain the temple.

Here are some impressions of my visit to Wat Pho and the Great Buddha Image.

I hope you enjoyed my little video and tell me, have you been to see the Reclining Buddha? By the way, another popular Buddha Image in Bangkok is the Golden Buddha of Wat Traimit.

Have a nice Sunday everyone! 🙂

Yours, Sirinya

(*all photos in this post are my own, unless otherwise stated)