November 13, 2018

Bangkok Travel Diary: Phra Ubosot, Phra Prang, Phra Rabiang and Phra Maha Chedi Si Rajakarn

When the desire to travel started to stir in my heart and venturing outside the Philippines became the main focus of satisfying the burgeoning wanderlust that I was nurturing since my college days; the first ever country that caught my attention was Thailand. It was on top of my list but unfortunately it wasn’t the first foreign soil I stepped onto.

So when the opportunity to visit Bangkok became less murky, flights and hotels were booked. Airfare costs was out of the question because it had to be done as this was a longtime plan of mine and of my closest friends. She comes to this side of the world every few years only so "if not now, when?" So together with two other college friends, we found ourselves on a night flight from Siem Reap to Don Meuang International Airport in Bangkok.

I was already tired from that day touring around the temples in the Angkor Wat complex (check out my Siem Reap Travel Diary here) and then waited 5 hours at the airport before flying to BKK. But the moment we landed to Bangkok, my blood stream was full of adrenaline. I decided earlier that night that I will sleep on the way to the hotel, but while inside our Uber ride, I was like a doe eyed deer, I can’t shut my eyes, I enjoyed the view of Bangkok at night during the drive. I told myself it looks so much like Manila but all the signs are in Thai. Somebody pinch me, my dream is now a reality.

After freshening up and unpacking some stuff, we all went straight to bed as we have a very very long day ahead of us in the Land of Smiles. I am pretty sure I didn't get a good night sleep because I was beyond excited. My friends planned our itinerary and computed our transpo expenses and found out the price would just equate or just a teeny tiny above getting Grab or Uber rides around the city so we decided to avail of the latter. We got stuck in Bangkok once in a while but hey we were comfy and we needed the energy for all the walking that we did in BKK.

We had three main reasons why we wanted to visit Bangkok: temples, food and shopping. One might think that after touring temples in Cambodia that we have had enough of temples, but no. Because Bangkok itself houses many well-known and beautiful temples as well. They are pretty much one of the reasons why people flock to this part of Thailand. Within the city, they were able to preserve this structures which in most is not the case.

Wat Po is a huge complex and every structure in it is usually collectively called Wat Po. (Before we get into that, you can read my blog post about Wat Po here). But the matter of fact is, each area inside the complex is different from one another and equally astonishing on its own. That is why I decided to write a separate blog post for two areas inside Wat Po that that I think captured my attention. Well besides that, I find it would be a waste if I don’t share the photos.

Phra Ubosot (Phra Uposatha) or bot is the ordination hall, the main hall used for performing Buddhist rituals, and the most sacred building of the complex. It was constructed by King Rama I in the Ayuthaya style, and later enlarged and reconstructed in the Rattanakosin style by Rama III. The bot was dedicated in 1791, before the rebuilding of Wat Pho was completed. This building is raised on a marble platform, and the ubosot lies in the center of courtyard enclosed by a double cloister (Phra Rabiang).

Phra Rabiang is a double cloister contains around 400 images of Buddha from northern Thailand selected out of the 1,200 originally brought by King Rama I. Of these Buddha images, 150 are located on the inner side of the double cloister, another 244 images are on the outer side. These Buddha figures, some standing and some seated, are evenly mounted on matching gilded pedestals. The Phra Rabiang is intersected by four viharns. These viharns contains different kinds of Buddha statues.  I only got to see check out the North Viharn. The Buddha in the north viharn called Buddha Palilai was cast in the reign of Rama I.

Phra Prang are four towers, or phra prang, at each corner of the courtyard around the bot. Each of the towers is tiled with marbles and contains four Khmer-style statues which are the guardian divinities of the Four Cardinal Points. Phra Maha Chedi Si Rajakarn on the other hand, is a group of four large stupas, each 42 metres high. These four chedis are dedicated to the first four Chakri kings. The first, in green mosaic tiles, was constructed by Rama I to house the remnants of the great Buddha from Ayuthaya, which was scorched to remove its gold covering by the Burmese. Two more were built by Rama III, one in white tiles to hold the ashes of his father Rama II, another in yellow for himself. A fourth in blue was built by Rama IV who then enclosed the four chedis leaving no space for more to be built.

Outside the Phra Rabiang cloisters are dotted many smaller chedis, called Phra Chedi Rai. Seventy-one of these small chedis were built by Rama III, each five meters in height. There are also four groups of five chedis that shared a single base built by Rama I, one on each corner outside the cloister. The 71 chedis of smaller size contain the ashes of the royal family, and 20 slightly larger ones clustered in groups of five contain the relics of Buddha.

I have never seen a place ever so grand and opulent that almost every nook is worth taking a photo than the Wat Po complex. I mean, even doorways are decorated with intricate and impressive carvings in gold. I actually have hundred more photos of every nook inside the complex but it’s not like I can post them all here. Going around Wat Arun and Wat Po complex took us more than half day. There were other many temples around Bangkok but we didn’t visit them anymore as we have limited time for our itinerary for our whole stay in Bangkok. But like I always say, that only gives me a reason to go back again. 

2 Sanamchai Road, Grand Palace Subdistrict,
Pranakorn District, Bangkok, Thailand

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