Guest Post: Temples and TukTuks
There are six of me. No really, I have five sisters (and two brothers!) that are just as travel obsessed as I am. Here is a guest post by my sister Lenore who took her three children to Thailand.
A major thrust of elementary education is ethnic heritage as an attempt to connect children who live in small childlike worlds to the greater world. They're frequently asked to bring in outfits or food from their ancestral home, which, once you get to second and third generations immigrants, is a bit of a stretch. But now my kids have been there and experienced the culture. Though they're little, they understand a little bit more about who they are. And experiencing that was magical.
Thailand has the exotic animals and the jungles, but it also has a rich culture of religion and mysticism. There is something absolutely magical about the architecture both in the temples and outside every shop and home. There's the Buddhist influence of over 4,000 temples peaking out around every corner, the folklore represented at nearly every home, the large Muslim population, and the historical Khmer Hindu-Buddhist ruins. That's a ton of religious history.
The official religion of Thailand is Buddhism and the most important temple is the Temple of the Emerald Buddha which is on the same premises as the Grand Palace. The Grand Palace is the current resting place of the beloved King Bhumibol Adulyadej who died last October 2016. There were great lines of Thai people in black waiting to pay their respects. The entire country is covered with shrines to this great king (it's a constitutional monarchy) who served for 70 years. On the anniversary of his death in October 2017 there will be a giant giant giant party. Nearly every Thai person we saw wore an image of the late King around their necks and he is worshiped nearly like a deity. His son, however, is not. It's forbidden to speak ill of the leaders but you can tell the Thai people think the new king is a bit of a turd with poor morals. So the previous king's visage is every where. I had no idea that amount of black drapery existed in the entire world. Likewise, and less magically, I had no idea the amount of black wiring that existed in the world. Most of it is in Thailand. They have some wiring problems and it takes a walk of about one block to be reminded that Thailand is very much a second world in the city, third world in the country type of place. But for all their faults, they loved their king.
The Palace grounds and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha left my eyes spinning with glorious mosaic beauty. I have never seen anywhere more beautiful that the buildings and temples there and at Wat Pho. To think of the labor and artistic precision it must have taken to create these structures boggles the mind. Every tiny little tile and golden adornment, layers upon layers, buildings and buildings. Man, these people can make some serious decor. All of the roof swirlies (I'm sure they have names) and the mythological creatures all decked out in tiny tiling are sights to behold. Go to Thailand to witness the artistry alone.
Nonetheless, we enjoyed explaining the worship of a statue which seems in opposition with LDS teachings about worshipping idols. We got into a long discussion about idolatry that resulted in the general agreement that anything that leads you to God and peace is good. I love the overlap of religious activities. For example, before entering the temples there is a station for symbolic washing. You cannot go in without your shoulders and legs being covered and you must remove your shoes. You assume a posture of reverence, specifically including not pointing your feet directly at the Buddha. And to worship you kneel. There were special places where only Thai people were allowed to kneel before the Buddha and my children felt special and honored to be included in that opportunity. They said they prayed for me. Thanks, dudes. I need it.
After our visit to the ornate Emerald Buddha (who, by the way, gets his clothes changed by the King seasonally) we found our first tuktuk and headed for food. I love tuktuks. I want one so badly. They're the perfect form of transportation. You tell the driver what you want and he tells you how much and you pretend to walk away and he drops his price and you all pile in (yes, all six of us in one) and zooming away you go. They're a fraternity and since the tuktuks are open air the drivers often talk to each other and ask directions. There are few things more exhilarating than zooming around in tuktuks. I found their prices were usually totally fair because sometimes things are far and they have to navigate around a ton of traffic. To this guy we said "we need delicious food" and ten minutes later we were stuffing our faces.
Ok, next to Wat Pho. We went to Wat Pho because it's the birthplace of Thai massage, but it more famously houses the biggest Buddha in the world (? Idk if it's the biggest, but it's hella big) called the reclining Buddha. A Buddha after my own heart. Napping Buddha.
We signed in to the massage school and right as a downpour started all six of us lay down for our massages. The best. Anybody who knows me knows I am a Thai massage believer. In Thailand they only cost $7. I probably know where the good one is in your city if you deserve a treat.
Jude fell asleep. The rest of my crew was entirely converted and thus began our nearly every day Thai massage routine.