BANGKOK TEMPLES

When you hear the name Thailand you think islands, cheap shopping and big elephants, you think naughty nightlife and you think temples. Might seem like a strange combination but Thailand is a strange place, and it is indeed full to the rim with temples.

Even in Bangkok, the symbol of modernism and westernized influence there are hundreds of temples everywhere, but when you get to older and small places, like Chiangmai for example, you have, and this is the best way to sum it up in a modern way – more temples then starbuckses in Seattle.

Thai temples all follow the same design, like their counterparts the churches in Europe, and it is easy enough to recognize the periodical variations, which depend on origin of the locals, kind of climate in the area and the geographic wealth of the population.

Whenever I take long walks in the city, looking for those hidden images that lurk behind small ally corners and in the out of the way food stalls and Chinese town shops, I make planend stops in the local temples. There is always one around.

Temples. Being temples, and especially the Buddhist ones , are a place of incredible calm and serenity, a small oasis in the midst of the pollution and noise for the street. Sitting for a couple of minutes under a big mango tree in the temples garden, saffron clad monks walking silently by and a small cat playing with an empty carton box at your feet is more refreshing and energizing than a good nap.

When I lived in Italy, the joke was that every time somebody asked me if I had been in this or that church, I would answer yes, of course! As you walk in there is the most beautiful statue of Maria and the baby on the right. And they were happy I have seen the same church they did. It always worked as all the churches have a oh so beautiful statue of Maria and the baby on the right…

 

 
 

Same trick works for the temples in Thailand. You peek inside and you will see the same thing, a collection of big gold plated figures of the Buddha, in thirty different varieties.

The exception to the rule are the Chinese temples where the Buddha has  thirty different Chinese 'god' friends to keep him company. The only real difference is that the Chinese like to paint their gods in realistic brilliant colors while most buddhas are either stone of metal.

Temples in Thailand are more than places of worship, more than a religious building, temples are where life happens, with a small market outside, a fair or two during the year, a couple of celebrations with singing and games for the children, a full cultural life for the common man. Basically it is the same thing as a catholic church in the south of Italy.

But for me, the secret of these temples does not lie in the images inside, but in the decorations on the walls and ceilings, both inside and out. The geometric patterns which are a combination of straight strict lines and Asian spirit curves, give these temples a unique look that distinguishes Thailand from the rest of its neighboring countries.
And you can see them from miles away, shining in the harsh sunlight, sparkling in the night's neon glare, you can see them as they have this ethereal glow to them, but not a spiritual one. The brilliance of thai temple decorations, is that on a low budget they create a splendor of sparkles and dancing lights by the simple use of mirrors and colored glass.

If you look closely you will discover that the walls are covered by millions of small pieces of mirror, glass and shiny metal particles, all no bigger than your thumbnail and from a distance look like a flowing river under the moonlight.

After eight years in thailand I still stop by and enter a temple when I see one. Just to walk around a minute, to catch my breath, to catch my dharma, to be silent for a couple of seconds, just enough to keep me going through the urban cement jungle for a couple of hours more.

 

 

 
 
 
 
   
   
                     
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