“Peace comes from within, do not seek it without”. Buddha’s quote is perfect for Bangkok, the capital of Thailand. In view of the hustle and bustle during the day, of its markets, its inhabitants and the excitement of its nights and its neon signs, only inside temples, the ‘wats’, can you find something approaching peace in a city that is intensely alive 24 hours a day. Buddhist temples are another story: not even visits by tourists break their routine. Most of them begin the day early, at four o’clock in the morning, but do not open to the public until eight.
The Wat Pho temple is unmissable on any tour of Thailand.] A 15-metre-high reclining Buddha that is 46 metres long occupies most of the building. The figure, made of gold plaster and bricks, and coated with a fine layer of gold leaf is the largest reclining Buddha in Thailand. His feet alone are three metres high and over four metres wide. This is a colossal size for a Buddha who, in contrast to his relaxed position, is not resting, but is in the posture that represents his passage to Nirvana. Also, in 1782 the first official school of traditional therapeutic massage was founded, which you can now enjoy in the establishments in the district of Rattanakosin, very close to the Royal Palace.
The Wat Pho temple is unmissable on any tour of Thailand.
Many Buddhas, such as the Reclining Buddha, are coated in gold leaf, but the one that dominates the Wat Traimit temple weighs five tons and is made of solid gold. It was built in the former capital of Thailand, Ayutthaya, in the 13th century. Years later, the statue was re-coated with stucco to protect it from the thieves that besieged the city, and it was forgotten. It spent over 20 years outside, exposed to the elements, after the temple which was moved was demolished, until in 1955, a fault in the crane involved in another move broke the stucco, revealing the secret that it kept inside. Now it is located in a humble temple in the Chinatown area.
Wat Traimit is not the only temple that has its secrets. Wat Benchamabophit, known as the ‘marble temple’, also has some. Located on the outskirts of Dusit Park, it was a whim of King Rama V, whose ashes rest inside, and was made of white marble from Carrara, brought directly from Italy. It is this which gives the temple its delicate external appearance and is why it is considered one of the most beautiful temples in Thailand. Early in the morning you can still hear the monks of the temple praying there. They know, as their master said, that peace comes from within. They stopped looking for it ouside of these walls a long time ago.