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Resplendent: attractive and impressive through being richly colourful or sumptuous.
This is only way to describe the palaces and wats that pepper the inner sanctum of Bangkok. This is the heart of the Buddhism in Thailand. Pumping prayers, fortune, luck, merit, and hope through the causeways, rivers, and alleys that feed into the outskirts of the city. They act as the organs of the city, each giving their own special purpose and ancient wonder to the citizens and believers that bow and give offerings and sacrifices to their holy edifices and treasured gods.
Tourists come to, droves of them from all parts of the world. Indian tourists with families there to show their children the sacred. European tourists on a holiday who want to snap a selfie who pour over guidebooks trying to understand. Americans as well- usually lost, confused by the bustle, and turned away at the most sacred temples for wearing shorts and t-shirts. I watched this happen time and time again. People explaing to guards that its too hot outside and all they brought was jeans and that they had no long sleeved shirts. Could they pay a fine they asked, thinking this was as easy as paying the $1 bribe to a cop for not waring a helmit on a scooter. The religion was lost on them. You were not stepping across the threshold of Disneyland. You wern’t going to see the Statue of Liberty of the Eiffel tower. Here, you would come and meet the closest representation to god flawed human hands could manage. This was as close to a window into Trāyastriṃśa as could be achieved. Housed inside these sacred vessels and temples were the relics of Buddha himself. Icons forged of gold. Statues of pure jade whose soft but redoubtable gaze was a blessing to believers who could glimpse it. This was a center of power. Cargo shorts and baseball caps had no place here.
Many would just scoff and leave. Thinking anything that warranted a change of clothes wasn’t worth it. They care to research far enough. They were outside the house of Thai- looking in. Vacations are supposed to be relaxing, so lets go to the beach instead.
To make merit in the same 24 hours at all the sacred 9 temples in Bangkok is considered one if the highest merits one can achieve in a Pilgrimage. I made it in 23. It took planning, lots of water, a priority of time over money in paying motorbike Taxis, and the patience to wait in line when you could not force yourself through the river of people there to give sacred prayer or gawk and pose for selfies. 54,703 steps. 25.60 miles walked. 61 Floors climbed.
There was places where it would be easier to walk. Some of these Wats I had visited before, wanting to spend time and absorb their solace and peace. Others I would have to cut through, it was as much time management as it is travel. I found it best to not conquer starting 9:00AM to 9:00AM- this would knock off too much time from closing hours and having the morning traffic slow me down each morning. Starting in the afternoon- giving me the full go time of the day when the searing heat of 2-4:00 would drive away most tourists and a good go. It was not easy. It was not supposed to be. It isn’t done as a challenge of ego or a tick off a fortunate tourist box. To accomplish this was to make penance to all of the Buddhist Theravada gods. To pray for their enlightenment to shine down and seek their blessing. To sacrifice by motion, toil, hardship, and determination. Any perfectly true or non believer can pin 1000Bhat to a lantern and wish for good fortune. Na’cho’s being needed more. I needed to do and find more. I needed to know that everything that could be done would.
This merit of sacrifice, which would leave me exhausted and empty, would give notice to the old gods of this region to elevate and acknowledge that the currents of the universe had created one of the few exceptions to Anattā. That Na’cho, born into duhkka and passing with duhkka, had brought peace, calm and stillness to the world. He was enlightened. People who met him could feel it. He expressed love as most as his bodily form could translate to us. He was more. He was life at its best. Although existing in the animal world, he transcended into the human. A great feat for any animal in many religions. An animal that can elevate to act human, and then teach and learn from them, is revered.
I was there to humbly show that his rebirth or life in the eternal should be met by all God or Gods with gratitude for his wisdom shared and accomplishments made in this impermanent and imperfect world he so shortly was a gift of. I would explain this to the monks and Abbots as best as I could through this sacred run, and where and when they understood ask for prayers for him and for speed through my journey.
5- Wat Phra Kaew
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Here are a few more photos from that exhausting 24 hours: