Saturday, November 21, 2020

Wat Pho

Any visit to Bangkok would need to include a temple visit in its itinerary, wouldn't it? On our itinerary, we chose to visit Wat Pho, also known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. The temple is one of six temples considered to be of the highest grade of the first-class royal temples in Thailand. As it is related to King Rama I, some of his ashes are enshrined here. King Rama III then expanded the temple complex, which enabled it to house the largest collection of Buddha images in Thailand, including the 46m-long Reclining Buddha, which it is well known for. The expansion also allowed for it to be used as a public education centre and became the royal monastery. The marble illustrations and inscriptions placed in the temple for public instruction are recognised by UNESCO's Memory of the World Programme for its preservation of, access to and documentary heritage. The complex also contains a school of Thai medicine, and is also known as the birthplace of traditional Thai massage, which is still taught and practiced today.

 

The temple complex is divided by a road into two walled compounds. Of the two compounds, one is restricted to monks and students while the other is open to public. No prizes for guessing which compound we entered. They are pretty strict with the dress code - I was wearing knee-length bermudas and very nearly was not permitted to enter.

Medicine Pavilion

The compound had various pavilions, gardens and viharas (halls). Dotted around the compound were also many smaller chedis in addition to the four great chedis. A chedi is actually a stupa, I learnt that chedi is the Thai term for it. In total, there are 91 of these smaller chedis and they are known as the Phra Chedi Rai. Of the 91, 71 were built by King Rama III. These 5m tall chedis contain the ashes of the royal family. King Rama I built five groups of four chedis that share a single base. These chedis contain Buddha relics.


The chedis that took my breath away were the four great chedis. Known as the Phra Maha Chedi Rajakarn, they measure 42m in height and are dedicated to the first four Chakri kings, Rama I to Rama IV.


I was very taken in by the huge amount of attention to detail that the craftsmen involved must have given in the completion of these chedis. The careful organisation of the colourful glazed mosaic tiles in all sorts of sizes, the placement of different shapes to form patterns and ornaments, and the symbolic representation of each chedi.

The first great chedi that was constructed was the mint green one. It was built by King Rama I to keep the relics of the Buddha from Ayutthaya, which was scorched to remove its gold covering by the Burmese.


King Rama III built two great chedis. The white one was built to hold the ashes of his father, King Rama II while the yellow one was built for himself.


Despite yellow being my favourite colour, my favourite of the four great chedis is the one in the shade of blue. This one was built by King Rama IV, or more famously known as King Mongkut. Yes, the same king that we were introduced to as children when watching the award-winning musical entitled The King and I.


I did not take any photos of the huge Reclining Buddha, as it has somehow become a habit of mine to not take photographs when inside any place of worship. I do not remember when this habit started, though, but yea, apologies for not having any photos of the Reclining Buddha, which was magnificent, by the way.

Wat Pho
2 Sanam Chai Road, Phra Borom Maha Ratchawang, Phra Nakhon, 10200 Bangkok, Thailand.
Daily 8:00am to 6:30pm
Guided tours available, enquire at ticketing counter

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Nanda Heritage Hotel

*I have decided to do a dedication post to this hotel in Bangkok where my parents and I stayed last year. Due to the pandemic, they have had to cease operations starting from this month, until further notice. Times are hard. We have to constantly remind ourselves to be kind to one another, and to ourselves.

**Please excuse the quality of the photographs, as they were all taken using my mobile phone. My DSLR did not come along for this trip.

~❀~

Nanda Heritage Hotel is located along a busy road, just a stone's throw away from a flyover bridge. Right next door, there is a local restaurant that is very similar to our kopitiam. A few blocks down the road, there are government buildings, which gave me the impression that they are quite close to some sort of an administrative centre  - I even saw the United Nations Economic and Social Commissions for Asia Pacific (UNESCAP) and Royal Thai Army Headquarters buildings in the GrabCar along the way.

We entered the building from the basement, as the security guard thoughtfully allowed the car to drop us off there, to get us off the main road. A short flight of stairs brought us to a simple but elegant space, which we deduced was their lobby. It had warm wood shades with low lighting, which I suppose made sense, as they had one side of the room that was in glass panel to allow for natural lighting.

We later found out that the wooden components of the building were salvaged from the original Nanda Mansion. Ah, so there really is a heritage element to the hotel, it was not just a name. Apparently, the property on which it sits have been in the Lekhyananda family for generations. Nanda Mansion was the family's generations-old European-style teak wood residence that was built in 1920 on Petchburi Road, not too far from the hotel. They carefully removed, cleaned and repurposed many of the original parts of the family home, such as the wood door frames, windows, floorboards, wall boards, carved teak wood banisters, louvered ventilation panels, and the custom-made teak furniture to help create an authentic heritage ambience for the hotel.

The hotel's hidden centre courtyard was inspired by the Parinayok shanty community in the rear, thinking of it as an extension of Parinayok’s maze-like streets without a romanticized "slum" style. They used objects that were readily available, like light steel frame, which they adapted, and re-combined.

Not only did the 100-year-old Parinayok community lend the hotel some design ideas, but it also offers the opportunity to see what genuine Bangkok daily life looks like. We had a walk through the alley next to the hotel, where we observed first-hand the unstaged, non-touristy side of Bangkok.


We were shown to our room, a Deluxe Double Room. A two-pax room, they allowed us to have an additional single bed, which they placed where originally there would be a sofa.


I particularly liked the bathroom. They turned a long, narrow strip into what felt like a spacious area. I thought the use of a sliding door instead of the conventional push-pull door helped in maximising the use of space.


Simple and elegant, their no frills style was very much to my liking. They also provided toiletries, a hairdryer and face towels in the bathroom.


Let's move out of the room. A flight of stairs at our doorstep led us directly to their outdoor swimming pool. 


Flanked by frangipani trees and partly shaded by the shadows of the building itself and the foliage of trees, it makes for a welcome respite from the midday heat. 


For someone like me who cannot swim (yes, I know, I still cannot 😅), just relaxing by the pool on a sundeck chair with a book and cocktail in hand would be more my thing.


Their in-house restaurant, Nanda Restaurant, was where we had our first meal in Bangkok. I ordered a pad thai (my usual every time I visit a Thai eatery). It was plated very prettily and tasted alright. Nothing spectacular but it was not bad. It did, however, satisfy my craving for authentic pad thai (this is when I miss the food scene in Sydney 😞).


 We enjoyed our three-night stay here. The only complaint we have would be how almost all the GrabCar drivers took very long to get to us.

632 Wisut Kasat Road, Thailand 10200
T: +662 282 2900, E: info@nandaheritage.com
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