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Published: April 11th 2011
Me with a visiting Mulsim.
The second day was definately a "Wat" day (and just for future reference, "wat" is Thai for "temple").
I believe visiting sacred places are perhaps among the most important when learning about other cultures. After all, our primary categories for understanding the world have their origins in religion. Even the most logical and rational pursuit of science can trace its origins to religion.
And, as functionalist anthropologist Emile Durkheim said,
Religion gave birth to all that is essential in the society
With much reverence for the man, I can only agree.
So, first, I rode a boat taxi along a river to Wat Pho, and then to Wat Arun.
Wat Pho (or Wat Phra Chettuphon Wimon Mangkhalaram Ratchaworamahawihan) contains the largest reclining Buddha in the world; it also is the birthplace of traditional Thai massage.
I met some really friendly Muslims in the Wat; on top of that, I, for the first time, witnessed Theravada Buddhism practices (which was new to me, as Chengdu's temples are mostly Mahayana or Tibetan Buddhist temples).
Unfortunately, I didn't understand many of the rites; however, people sprinkling flower water on each other's heads, and dropping coins in rows of bowls, were nonetheless amusing to see.
The Reclining Buddha. Looking into himself...
(or Wat Arunratchawararam Ratchaworamahawihan) was named after the Indian god of dawn .
The outstanding feature of Wat Arun is its central prang (or Khmer-style tower). The central prang is topped with a seven-pronged trident, referred to by many sources as the "Trident of Shiva". Around the base of the prangs are various figures of ancient Chinese soldiers and animals. Over the second terrace are four statues of the Hindu god Indra riding on Erawan (the mythical white elephant who always carries him).
Later, I took a tuk-tuk
to see Wat Saket (or Wat Saket Ratcha Wora Maha Wi). This Wat is highly revered among Therevada Buddhist monks; it is here that many aspire to reach enlightment, due to the wonders of the golden dome on the top. The golden dome also serves as an image that many Buddhist monks meditate upon.
That evening, after feeling a little watted-out, I decided to visit Bangkok's downtown Siam Square. Here is where much of Bangkok's nightlife is happening.
Just being downtown made me realize how different Thailand is from China. The clothes are more...Western-styled. There's graffiti everywhere. The guys *all*, and I mean all
have tattoos, and many of
Me with the Reclining Buddha.
them have long hair. And gauged ears...mmmm. Haha.
Yet, the people's cultural personality is almost contradicting to the statement above. They are much more clean than the Chinese are (for instance, they don't spit everywhere, and their bathrooms are "normal" clean). They are more soft-spoken...and unlike the Chinese, they always smile
at you. Being there almost felt like Kansas, in some ways.
I am in no way dissing China! I love China. I just find it interesting when comparing the two cultures.
Anyway, while cruising around the young Thai artists' art gallery, I was invited by a stranger to come to an art gallery afterparty, and tried some of the best beer I've ever had. Anyone's ever had "Chang's"? It's authentic Thai beer, and tastes great
. Best of all, it was all free!
After that, I ran into a concert in the middle of Siam square, and saw a free Korean concert!
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