The Soles of the Buddha’s Feet – Bangkok 2017 pt. 2

Last night, we had dinner at Gaggan, which was amazing and wonderful. The tasting menu was in emoji, which was very silly, but it encouraged discussion and gave the whole thing a less serious feel than it might otherwise have had. But more about that in a different post.

Today was a big contrast from that, in some ways. I was by myself much of the day, and it was very contemplative and austere. I got up earlyish, around seven, and headed out to Wat Pho, a big Buddhist temple complex next to the Grand Palace. I had with me the bag I bought yesterday.

I just followed the directions on Google Maps and reflected on how much simpler travel has gotten over the years. One train ride and I transferred to a commuter ferry, then six stops or so and I was in the right area. Much more straightforward than I was expecting. 

The riverfront area is exciting in a way that’s hard to pin down. The juxtaposition of basically everything was just cool. Here for example we have cola wars and houses that look like they belong in Fallout, on a busy commercial river next to another big temple complex, and a mall reminiscent of Pike Place in Seattle. 

More on that mall later.

After the boat I made my way down to the temple. There were a few false starts but I eventually remembered not to trust anybody who speaks English and found the right entrance. And it was nothing short of spectacular. You kind of have to be there.

The big highlight is the giant Buddha statue they have there. It’s really big! I was struck mostly with the intricacy of the parts that weren’t the Buddha himself, including the walls and ceiling. It’s all very hard to explain in photographs.

But look for example at his pillow.

I was struck particularly by the soles of his feet, which contain an intricate abalone inlay. The Wat Pho wiki article linked above has a description.

The soles of the feet of the Buddha are 3 m high and 4.5 m long, and inlaid with mother-of-pearl. They are each divided into 108 arranged panels, displaying the auspicious symbols by which Buddha can be identified, such as flowers, dancers, white elephants, tigers, and altar accessories. At the center of each foot is a circle representing a chakra or energy point.

Here are the pictures I was able to get.

That so much concern would be given to what is frankly a discarded part in most representations of the human body is very interesting.

There was a moment when I realized just how peaceful everything around me was, in this courtyard. No traffic noises, barely even any human noise. It was probably 95 degrees out so the sane animals weren’t making a peep either.

At some point I bought a silly hat because I realized I was going to get cancer if I didn’t.

One last thing about Wat Pho. In one of the more auspicious areas, by where they inter the remains of kings, they had placards about how the Thai represented other ethnicities. It seemed apropos of nothing but very interesting.

And now I’m having coffee in the place where I took that picture of my hat and writing this. Right down at the other end of the mall is an ‘amulet market’ which has stall after stall, in alley after alley, of people selling what are as far as I’ve been able to determine your stereotypical “Asian occult stuff.” You know, like this. 

I looked it up and thought, Thai amulet collecting, what an odd hobby, and then of course ended up spending more than an hour finding just the right one. I have expensive taste apparently, even in things I know nothing about, and the two I liked at first ended up costing a whole lot and a lot, respectively.
Eventually I found the perfect affordable one and I got this guy, which is kind of sort of an invisibility charm. 

‘Til next time, occasional reader!

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