Photographer's Note

This is supposedly the world's largest solid-gold Buddha statue. It is 4.5 meter / 15 feet tall and weights more than 5 tons. It is thought to have been made during the Sukhothai period, in the 13th century and it was in an Ayutthaya temple until the mid 19th century. Ayutthaya was the ancient capital of Thailand (or Siam, as it was called until mid 20th century) from the 14th to the 18th century, when it was razed with the Burmese. To prevent that the Burmese find it, the statue was covered with plaster and it seems that everybody forgot about it. In the 19th century it was brought to a temple in Bangkok and it was kept there still covered with plaster until 1931, when it was moved to a temporary shelter in the compound of the temple where it is housed now, Wat Traimit. It was only in the 1950's that the golden statue was discovered by hazard, when the rain soaked plaster cracked when the statue was dropped while it was being moved to the interior of the temple.

As far as I can remember, it is in an area of Bangkok that doesn't see much tourists, near the border of Chinatown (also referenced as Samphanthawong or Yaowarat), a district populated mainly with people of Chinese origin, the big Hualampong railway station and one of the more important streets of old Bangkok, Charoen Krung.

Apparently there aren't many posts of this place here in TE. I only was able to find these featuring the statue proper: this one from arie and this other one from siolaw. axiotea has an interesting series on Chinatown (1, 2, 3, 4).

This was the first Buddhist temple that I ever visited. We had arrived the evening before to the city and spent the night in a hotel where 99% of the guests were Arab people, the other 0.99% being (let's be politically correct :-) tourists studying the Thai female beauties. Well, to say the truth, I suspect that many of the other guests were also engaged in that kind of activity. Interestingly, we only saw Arab women (quite many) and children inside the hotel, although the major part of foreigners outside were Arab. We were so tired when we arrived that we didn't notice anything until the next morning. The first thing I felt strange was that swimming pool didn't look to much used. Better for me, I thought, as I could start my day by stretching my muscles in a pool all for myself. Then we noticed that all the restaurants and cafes around the hotel served mainly Arab food. Cool! We had a tasty 'Egyptian breakfast' in our first morning in Thailand. Then we took the bus to Wat Traimit. For a couple of minutes we thought that we had gone out in the wrong bus stop, as the entrance to the temple didn't look like... an entrance to a temple and the tall walls didn't allow us to see to the inside (not even the roofs seen in the WS).

Being in a Thai temple for the first time was quite an unexpected and unique experience for me. They are so different from our churches!... It's not only the architecture, which is certainly exotic and enchanting, but in a way we are already expecting that; it's the relaxed atmosphere, the people's attitude towards religion, so much more 'light', natural and apparently much more candid than the overwhelming ceremonial weight of our churches.

Links to more info:

Location (latitude, longitude): 13.7381,100.514

Links to the other posts of the series: Sanctuary of Fatima (Christian, Portugal), Pashupatinath (Hindu, Nepal), Hassan II mosque (Muslim, Morocco), El Ghriba synagogue (Jewish, Tunisia).

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Additional Photos by Jose Pires (stego) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 4422 W: 612 N: 7301] (24132)
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