A former high school classmate and cherished old friend when reconnecting with Roger through Facebook quoted the old saying: "When God closes a door, he opens a window." The years have seen a number of life changes for us that make that adage ring true. After being blessed with good fortune, a wonderful son and great experiences, we decided to look out that window and prepare for more of what this wonderful life has to offer. We hope through our blog to share our journey from this point forward with family, with friends and with many others. Hopefully we'll make some new friends along the way. We hope you find our tales of some interest, even amusement and perhaps an inspiration for you to treat each and every day as an opportunity and an adventure to share with those who are an important part of your life.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Wat We Visited In Thailand

Throughout the Yazell's history of travels, we've been fascinated and awed by the religious buildings and art we've encountered. The cathedrals and renaissance art of Tuscany, the Orthodox churches of Greece, the Mosques and Byzantine churches in Turkey, the beautiful churches and cathedrals in central Mexico,  and the old missions in southwestern US are all among our cherished visitations.  We've also posted on this blog photos of some of the churches we enjoyed in Ecuador in both Cuenca and Quito during our two month stay there.

It's no wonder then that wats, chedis and shrines occupied a lot of attention during the month we spent exploring Thailand.

Strictly speaking, the term "wat" signifies a buddhist religious precinct containing monk's quarters (formally at least three monks must be in residence for it to be considered a wat), a place for meeting and religious instruction and a formal house of worship.  Additional structures commonally include chedis and stupas which are memorial structures.   Chedis will always contain religious relics.  Religious libraries, ordination halls, sites for mediation and a virharn (meeting and prayer room) may also round out the complement of buildings contained within a formal wat and there may be multiples of all of these structures as well as other buildings.

Pra Maha Chedi at Wat Roi Et 
 In Thailand, however, the term wat can also be used generically to refer  to a house of worship, even those of faiths other than Buddhism.  In this context, wat cheen refers to a Chinese Buddhist or Taoist temple, wat khaek is a Hindu temple and wat krit or wat farang describes a Christian church.  If you encounter Wat as part of a formal name then you are generally in the religious precinct category.  These compounds are wonderful places to explore and are among some of the most visited tourist sites in Thailand.  Many even offer opportunities to visit with the monks and learn more about the Buddhist faith.

Here are a selection of photos of just some of the wats we visited during our travels

The Loha Prasat is distinguished by concentric square tiers
capped with metal spires, creating a tower structure.  Only 3
have ever been built and this is the only one left in the world.
View atop the Loha Prasat of  Wat Ratchanadda

The grounds of Bangkok's Grand Place contains several
wats and chedis.  One is home to the famous Emerald Buddha.

We traveled by water taxi to visit Wat Arunratchawaran in Bangkok
It is more commonly known as Wat Chaeng.
The detailed mosasics adorning this structure are amazing
and include Chinese porcelain as well as glass pieces. 
This prang (spire) is over 70 meters high

The water taxi ride, the view of the eastern bank of the river, and the number of beautiful structures within the compound make Wat Chaeng a must stop for many tourists.

Bangkok's Golden Mount resides within Wat Saket and is actually an artificial hill created by debris from the collapse of an old chedi.  The present structure was added along with spiral staircases.
steps leading up Bangkok's Golden Mount

Still more to climb to reach the temple at the top

view of Bangkok atop the Golden Mount
One of the shrines inside

Even more wat filled than Bangkok, Chiang Mai boasts 33 compounds within the moat surrounding the old city along.  Added to that are 300 plus more  in the surrounding area including Wat Prathat at Doi Suthep,. The 5300 foot elevation is Thailand's second highest peak and that makes this their highest Wat.

306 steps go up to Wat Prathat on Doi Suthep
A tram is pay if you're a tourist
 but the ride is free if you're Thai.
The view of Chiang Mai from Doi Suthep
One of several shrines at Wat Prathat.

  A white elephant carrying a Buddha relic
is said to have laid down and died at this spot
 and a chedi was built to house the relic.
Wat Bupparraram in Chiang Mai is home to a temple structure uniquely built of teak wood and said to be
centuries old.
Beautiful teak wood is the primary material for this wat.

Inside the temple.

The centerpiece of Wat Chedi Luang  is the remains of a 275 foot chedi that was built in 1411 but partially destroyed by an earthquake in 1545.  It is the third oldest structure in Chiang Mai.
At  one time, a large moat surrounded this chedi.

The guardian elephants have disappeared from all but one
side of the chedi.

Wat Pra Singh is one of the largest and most active within the old city of Chiang Mai.  It is so named for the guardian lions adorning the entryway.  They also lend their name to Thailand's most popular beer.
A temple on the grounds of Wat Pra Singh

Many wats will display very realistic wax figures of revered
 deceased monks. One we visited even had mummified remains.

 Near Chiang Rai is the very unique Wat Rong Khun or White Temple.  It is a work in progress begun in 1997 under the sponsorship of internationally renown Thai artist  Chalermchai Kositpitat.  It will take at least another 18 years to finish the project.  A portion of all his income goes to funding construction.   On the day we visited, the artist himself was there, working on the mural in the main temple.  
The breathtaking White Temple near Chiang Rai

To enter the main temple you have to cross this pit of tortured souls

Artwork and statuary both exterior
and interior is beautifully crafted.

A view of the main temple from the adjacent grounds of the wat
You will see a variety of figures and even, of deities as you travel Thailand. Virtually all Buddhist temples have guardian spirits represented by animal figures.  Remember, too that there are Hindu, Chinese and other oriental temples in Thailand that will have an assortment of decor, figures and deities.

Even the smallest villages we visited had their own wats, some of them very ornate.   Religious structures play a very significant role in Thai culture and society.  Taking time to visit and explore them when you travel to Thailand is a worthy investment of time:

Each time we visit a new area, we learn a lot by visiting the local religious institutions.  It gives us a sense of the people who live there and their best aspirations.  More importantly, it serves as a reminder to to be open, courteous and respectful to others as we continue our travels juntos en el camino de la vida.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

On The road of life in Thailand with two great ladies!

The umbrella wasn't for rain, the gals needed some shade!
 I spent a month this fall chris-crossing Thailand, seeing great sites, meeting new people and having the time of my life!

We were joined for two weeks of that adventure by Stephen, our son, and various members of Thoom's Thai family either hosted or joined us for part of those travels.   However, throughout the trip,  two very special ladies were a constant integral part of the experience.

  I owe many thanks to Thoom and Suzanne  for making the trip so enjoyable.   I thought it more than appropriate to share with our blog readers a sampling of photographs of the two of them as we traveled from Bangkok to Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai to Sarakham, Koh Samui and back to Bangkok.
Thoom's Aunt and Uncle
own this restaurant in Bangkok

Entering the Grand Palace
Our first tourist outing!

Learning how to hand forge a "singing" alms bowl.

On the way to a water taxi, there's a market, of course!

On the pathway leading up to the Golden Mount

...and this is???
A fan...essential gear!

An overseas call from Steve making sure we are having fun!
One fun one of four monkeys!
See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil, do no evil!
With Thoom's Mom at The Queen's Gardens near Chiang Mai
Cooling their heels(literally) on Koh Samui
Steve joins us in Chiang Mai and we have dinner at Chez Marco!

Two bright flowers in the orchid gardens!

How fortunate I was to be accompanied by these two ladies!.  I will never forget the journey we shared in Thailand...juntos en el camino de la vida!