It is Spring Festival time in China. This means that everything is cold, there are endless fireworks and most places are closed. The first week of this holiday found Krista and I off to Thailand.
We landed in Bangkok with four of our friends ready to test the limits of heat exhaustion and curry spice tolerance. There would only be 24 hours before we left for the southern islands so we did not waste any time. The first thing we did was to go see some of the temples on the river. The six of us took a water taxi to Wat Arun followed by Wat Kalyanamitra, an old temple built in 1825 by a very wealthy family. King Rama II honoured their contribution by naming it after the family and it survives to this day as a tourist attraction. We nearly lost one of our number on the way there when he wandered off the wrong direction. Half of our group was already on the ferry and the other half was searching for him.
After our group reunited on the correct side of the river we walked through the first temple. We had seen it last year and so we passed onto Wat Kalyanamitra quickly and seeing the giant Buddha statues. We took turns ringing the giant bell but I feel that I won the contest as the man watching over the area was smiling more after I gave it a smack.
There was one more place of worship in the area that we had to see, Wat Pho. Wat Pho is a giant temple used to house the famous giant reclining Buddha statue and the birthplace of traditional Thai Massage. The grounds around the Wat are filled with gardens and 91 old Stupas (giant temple towers) that soar above the walls. The Hall of the Reclining Buddha is the first hall we entered.
The Buddha is 160 feet in length and around behind it is 130 pots to deposit small coins for luck. You buy 130 pennies from a monk and join the line tossing one coin after another into the pots. If you miss even one you have bad luck. This made me nervous. What complicated this was the pickpockets looming around the compound, making me keep one hand in my pocket. My backpack was hanging from my front and I was holding another bag full of our shoes (you cannot wear shoes in the temple). The coins were precariously balanced on the top of my backpack in front of my face. So… things were a little confused but I think I managed to put every coin in the correct pot. I did not have any pennies left at the end, unlike my friend Micheal who was left with a handful of copper. He looked at it as a souvenir and ignored the luck.
We were sunburned and tired at that point though, and really wanted to get back to the air-conditioned hostel. In our haste we made the mistake of tuk tuks, the penny taxies of Bangkok. The tuk tuks are pretty much a motorized trike with a seat on the back that holds three people. The driver weaves in and out of traffic narrowly missing pedestrians and sending people diving for cover. And that was all before we hit the freeway. The trip was emotionally exhausting and intensely thrilling but we did eventually make it back to the hostel.