We had booked a tour to take us to the grand palace, the temple of the jade buddha, and a canal tour earlier in the day and because we got sidetracked at Loft we had to suffer some shitty mall food for lunch to make our departure time for the tour.
When we got back we met our guide and driver and they promptly whisked us away through the streets of Bangkok to the grand palace and the temple of the jade Buddha. What an amazing place. The details in the different temples were incredible. The different surfaces sparkled with gemstones and the myriad statues of monkeys, demons, snakes and all kinds of other protective and reverent beings scattered the beautifully manicured spaces. I tried to draw some of the different temples and buildings but the details were too much to try to capture on a short tour and a hot day so we opted for the camera. Our guide told us stories both good and lame and explained some of the meanings behind some of the imagery.
When we came to the temple of the jade Buddha we took off our shoes and walked through the gate. Wow. This must what walking into the Sistine chapel is like. The walls were painted in beautiful detail telling the story of the Buddhas struggles and suffering. In the center of the space rises a golden pagoda with the jade Buddha sitting inside. It is surrounded by standing Buddhas and all kinds of other adornment. People prayed, bowed, gave money, and generally honored the idol. No photographs or indecent attire. No incense burned, but much was offered. Jasmine flower wreathes and chanting from the background filled the atmosphere. I sat and stared at the figure for a while before attempting to draw it, and once I began, I was quickly overwhelmed by the details and decided that a few lines would suffice. It was an incredible space to see,but with all the guards, noise, and morons it was hardly a religious experience.
We then jumped a rickety boat for a tour of the canals. The breeze was refreshing and the water stank like sewer. The homes and temples lining the canal ranged from shanties to shacks to mansions. It was the best way to get a drive through view of the under belly bloodstream of bangkok and to try to get an authentic view of the way this culture lives. People fished, bathed, and traversed the water. Sheet metal roofs, hanging laundry, garbage, and rotting embankments were the feature sites of the canals, but it was beautiful in its simplicity and demeanor. The majority of the people we saw were very poor, but the water provided them with everything they needed.
After the tour we ate Thai style steamboat then went for another foot massage and walked back to the hotel. It's been a long day rushing from here to there all around this eclectic city, but it was so interesting to get to see all of it.