Sunday, March 1, 2009
Our last day we took an hour-long bus ride (private, totally worth it, I think each of the 7 of us paid $10US) to the old capital of Thailand. It's a town just outside of Bangkok that is filled with the ruins of this old city. There are 4 large areas with large bits of walls and temples and buildings, but in addition to those as you drive through this suburban town there are random ancient buildings everywhere, just between modern buildings or on the side of the highway! It was a very nice way to finish the trip because it was very relaxed and our driver was so great - he's the one that stopped on the side of the road to buy us this local dessert so we would try it.
I love how in Thailand religion is very alive and these temples, even the relics, are actively being used still. They decorate the buddhas with robes, even some of the broken old ones. We went to visit a huge ancient gold buddha and people were throwing yellow robes over it (there were people on top of it to catch the robes and pull them over) and then draping the robes over the people praying down below. It was very dramatic, visually speaking, although my fascination could have been due to the immense amounts of incense making me drowsy/high/bizarro.
What was a little more surprising was that in this town we visited the king's summer palace and there were people kneeling in prayer in front of a statue of the king... I heard they still believe in a type of divine monarchy, but it was very strange to witness it. Although I guess it's not that different from worshiping a sculpture of Buddha or Jesus.