After a relaxing and adventurous weekend in Koh Samui, where we kayaked, swam, and enjoyed a catamaran cruise, our group flew to Bangkok on Monday. Bangkok is one of the busiest cities in the world, with a population of over 8 million. Like New York City, Bangkok has a massive number of tourists that travel to the city each year.
Last year Bangkok played host to over 20 million visitors – this garnered the city the title of “most popular city for international tourists” by Mastercard.
Upon arriving in Bangkok, our group made our way into the city center. We then boarded our bus for the week and met our city guide, Mr. Anon. We spent the afternoon touring several historical sites. Our first stop was Wat Phra Kaew, commonly known in English as the Emerald Buddha. It is regarded as the most sacred Buddhist temple, or wat, in Thailand. The Emerald Buddha is a potent religio-poliitical symbol and the palladium (protective image) of Thai society. It is located in Phra Nakhon District, the historic center of Bangkok. We were amazed at the sheer number of temples in the historic center, all of which were very much intact and stunning in color and beauty.
According to legend, the Emerald Buddha image originated in India where the sage Nagasena prophesized that the Buddha would bring “prosperity and preeminence to each country in which it resides.” The Emerald Buddha in the Wat Phra Kaew is therefore deeply revered and venerated in Thailand as the protector of the country. It was enshrined in Bangkok at the Wat Phra Kaew temple in 1782, which marked the beginning of the Chakri Dynasty of Thailand, whose current sovereign is Vajiralongkorn, King Rama X. The only persons allowed to touch the statue are the Thai King and the Crown Prince. Out of respect for the Emerald Buddha, pictures are not allowed inside.
We also visited the “Reclining Buddha,” which is the second largest Buddha statue in Thailand, measuring 46 meters in length. The enormous statue is painted gold and housed in a temple also located in the historic center of Bangkok.