Tag Archives: buddhism

Sound and superstition: peaceful prayers and scaring spirits.

Thailand is such a vibrant, alive country.  Sounds of street vendors frying tasty morsels for passing hungry locals and tourists, the rushing traffic and endless pip-pip of the tuk-tuk drivers trying to get your attention, music blaring from bars as you walk past, with staff coming to chat and try to entice you inside.  But for me, the sounds of Thailand that I hold onto with fondest memories are the sounds of Thai spirituality. Contrasting ends of the scale, for this week’s travel theme: noise.

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It is traditional to start every new boat voyage is started with fireworks, to drive away the bad spirits. Here, at the start of a dive trip around the Similans, one of the boat boys did a great job with a string of firecrackers.  For such tiny things they make a real racket!


Back on dry land, at Wat Hua Lamphong.  It is a Royal Buddhist temple in Bangkok, and its opulence was quite staggering.  By comparison to their surroundings these prayer bells looked quite drab.  But the whole time we were there the temple compound was filled with the gentle pealing melody of the bells being rung by visitors.  The belief is that ringing the bells while offering up your prayer increases your chance of it being heard and answered.

One word photo challenge: Gold.


Head shot!

Head shot!

This beauty is the reclining Buddha found at Wat Pho.  Also known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha.  A fitting if unimaginative name!

As with all reclining Buddha’s, this one represented Buddha in his final stage of life, before death and ever-lasting nirvana.  He was the biggest Buddha I have ever seen. Entirely covered in gold leaf (apart from his feet, which are inlaid with mother of pearl).  That is a lot of gold!  He is more than 40 metres long and 15 metres high.  There was literally no way of getting a decent shot of all of him at once, using the little compact camera I was carrying on the day. I tried!!

looooooong legs.

looooooong legs.

Although I don’t have a shot which does it justice, the detail on his feet was particularly impressive. They are adorned with auspicious symbols and figures with which Buddha’s are associated, such as lotus flowers, elephants and tigers.

I also really liked the textured golden swirls which covered his head. Way too high to reach, but I thought they were crying out to be touched.  I often think when I look at statues – whether wooden, marble, or gold-leaf coated – what tactile objects they are.  Perhaps an inevitable consequence of something crafted painstakingly and lovingly by hand?

Golden curls on display as the Buddha props up his head with one hand.

Golden curls on display as the Buddha props up his head with one hand.

Wats are Buddhist monastery temples.  This one is in the centre of Bangkok, Thailand.  One of the oldest and largest Wats in Bangkok, it sits cheek-by-jowl with the Grand Palace.  It is absolutely stuffed full of Buddha statues and images – over 1000 in fact.  It was quite amazingly overwhelming.  I didn’t know where to look first.

Buddhas as far as the eye could see...

Buddhas as far as the eye could see…

I took so long getting round Wat Pho that we never actually made it to the Grand Palace. Like most holiday makers and travellers, I do feel like we need to make the most of our much anticipated trips, and squeeze out every last drop of opportunity.  But I also don’t just want to feel like I’m rushing round everywhere in order to progress through a list of top tourist hotspots. So maybe we’ll get to the Grand Palace next time? Wat Pho definitely warranted the extra time spent.  Some might say it was golden.