A FEW MORE TEMPLES ON THE BIG TRIP

We were still reeling from the sheer size of the Gold Buddha, these are a few pictures of the exterior of the building it’s housed in. Pure gold, can you imagine? You might expect it to be surrounded by armed guards, trip wires, mine fields and so on, but although it was out of reach on a huge platform, no one could lift it or remove it easily – even if it wasn’t a sacred monument.

A picture of the exterior of the building and the ceiling inside.

The Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn) is a Khmer style Buddhist temple on the west banmk of the Chao Phraya River and we went to Wat Po, the largest and oldest temple in Bankok also known as the birthplace of the traditional Thai massage.

The afternoon was spent at the Royal Grand Palace, the official residence of the kings of Siam (now Thailand) which is in the historic centre of the city since 1782.  The king and his court lived there until 1925. It was quite sparse inside, but interesting.

More pics of this next time.

HISTORICAL RUBBISH

Now I forgot to mention that Victoria, deprived of her favourite Lord M, was ripe for the picking and sneaky Albert had been well coached in her likes and dislikes and was ready to ingratiate himself.

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To begin with he pretended to like dancing (he didn’t), he lied and told her he liked staying up late (he preferred early nights) and he was full of fun (he was a boring, lack lustre old fart).  But of course the stupid queen fell for him and the rest, as they say is history.

Stay safe till next week.

PLOUGHING ON THROUGH THE FAR EAST

We landed in Bangkok on 2nd February. Honestly their idea of a 3 star rating hotel would equal about 15 star in Europe, it was amazing. Once again we were upgraded to a deluxe suite, not sure why, but we were not going to complain.

Our guide took us to the following places and I’m not sure now which is which. Yes I’m ashamed to admit it but I didn’t want to spend all my time writing stuff down as I had in the past, but use my eyes to wonder, gape, drool and take it all in. There was so much to see, so many details, and we moved at such a fast pace to get it all in that it would be either the pictures or the script, and the photos won. We visited Wat Traimit, Wat Arun (Dawn Temple) and Wat Po.

Wat Traimit is the temple of the golden Buddha, famous for its 900 year old five and a half ton solid gold image of the Buddha. This week I am just going to post ONLY pictures of this as it just takes your breath away.

It was impossible to get it all in in one shot. I just love the one where they are working on the feet, using Mother of Pearl, as the man was showing us.

HISTORY NONSENSE

Now I could write a book about Queen Victoria, but I don’t like her enough and I would probably be very rude. Before Christmas I left her slobbering over Lord Melbourne, but her Uncle Leopold (the Belgium king who annexed the Belgian Congo as an extension to his back garden) and various other members of the family had other ideas. this is his photo.leopold-of-belgium

Of course they wanted to bring in a German suitor on the excuse that he would be Protestant and not a Catholic. (Frankly by now I’m sure Henry VIII wouldn’t have minded too much). Enter Albert (yeuk), the one with no sense of humour and every intention of being king.

This time he did the slobbering to get the young queen’s attention and it wasn’t too long before they were an item, frequently seen at the local bowling alley on a Friday night.

Till next week, stay safe.

THE BIG TRIP, A COUPLE MORE TEMPLES AND THE ANSWER TO THE QUESTION

Now I’m not really here doing my Monday blog – no, I’m in Miami and due to clever technology this will be scheduled to pop into your mailbox on the right day – well maybe – you may have noticed my dismal record for techie wizardry.

I was impressed with the marketing techniques in the Far East. In the western world any attraction secular or otherwise would be surrounded by stalls, shops and hawkers selling cheap, tatty souvenirs. Often there were no retail sales near the temples, and on the occasion there were, these were low key and very discreet.

The temple complex we visited had once been the home of the emerald Buddha which has a fascinating history. It was discovered in Chang Mai in the 15th century when the covering stucco began to peel off revealing it was made of semi-precious green stone.

Today it is housed in the What Phra Kaew chapel in Bangkok, and 3 times a year the king of Thailand changes the costumes adorning the statue, for the cool season, the rainy season and the hot season.

We were taken to a workshop where they worked aluminium, and I began chatting to a young man from Johannesburg who had travelled over to learn the art.

MORE HISTORICAL INCORRECT INFORMATION

The next queen was informed in her nightgown. That is to say the visitors had arrived very early in the morning after William IV has passed on during the night, so she didn’t have time to get dressed. The dear old sovereign had lasted until his successor was eighteen years and one month old. There was be NO regency!

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Of course Mummy was simply furious, especially as her previously biddable daughter’s first command was to have her mother’s bed moved out, in future she would sleep alone – well for now.

Have a great week.

THE BIG TRIP AND TEMPLES – ENTER NEXT MONARCH

The morning continued visiting more temples and my head was spinning from all the images. They were just amazing. All that gold!!

I admit to breathing a sigh of relief when I saw the tape at the bottom of these steps. I don’t do steps too well.

Everything moves with the times, and these waxwork images of elderly enlightened men are remembered with great respect.

Everywhere we went, we didn’t know which way to look, they were all so lavish, yet the people who cared for them owned almost nothing at all.

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As I visited so many of these shrines in quick succession, it was almost as if my brain refused to process it all. It was sensory overload.

 

AWFUL HISTORY LESSON

Now the next monarch coming up had a pretty terrible childhood. Mummy was a bit of a monster if we are to believe the history books. She’d worked out that her daughter just might inherit the throne one day and thought what fun it would be to be regent. So she and her boyfriend (let me hastily add here she was now a widow for the second time), cooked up all the schemes they could while waiting for the fateful day. In the meantime it was very important to look after the daughter. This was taken to extremes – for example she was not allowed to sleep in her own bedroom, or walk down the stairs by herself. She was wrapped in cotton wool and oppressed beyond belief. She wasn’t even allowed to go out and hang around the mall with the boys.

The race was on – would William go to meet his maker before she turned 18? Watch this space!

And have a great week.

THE BIG TRIP SOME NUMBER OR OTHER

Yes, I’ve got a bit confused with the numbering system and if I didn’t have the itinerary here, I wouldn’t remember where we went next.

After breakfast it was off to another airport and another flight. As I’ve mentioned before I love flying and I could quite easily get used to hopping on and off planes. Besides being a writer, my next choice would have been a career as a stewardess, but then, the family were not in favour of that either.  We flew from Luang Prabang to Chiang Mai. I’m not sure if news had got back to China where our tour operator was domiciled – about those two old codgers who were looking totally knackered –  but they allowed us several hours of leisure time in Chiang Mai at this smart hotel

and a delightful evening wandering around a very nice night market.

Next day it we were off to see the elephants. No, not to ride on them, or watch them perform but to care for them. Despite the fact they were Indian elephants and much smaller than their African cousins, to me were still very large.

We were given melons to feed to them, initially we were behind a metal barrier then they took us out in the open and encouraged us to pat them and make friends.

I remembered the ranger I met in Chobe who took visitors out to meet this one friendly elephant. He’d shake hands with it to the delight and wonder of the admiring tourists. Until, the day he chose the wrong elephant. It crushed his hand to pulp.

These are different elephants I told myself, not daring to think of the time we’d been charged by one. These have been rescued from the streets where they were mis-used by their owners to beg for money, or made to give rides for hours or work in the logging camps. This was an elephant refuge where they were well fed and well treated.

After lunch we all trekked down to the river to give them a nice bath. Personally, I thought DH was very rude, remarking that my bucket throwing was not up to par, and if I stood at that distance from the leviathans, the water would never reach them.

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I got as close as I dared. I’ve not lived this long to take unnecessary chances.

So, we are up to William IV gracing the throne of England. (I guess there were 3 other Williams before him at some time, you would have to check back). He reigned at what came to be known as the start of the industrial revolution. This came about from the instruction of the steam kettle, useful for making cups of tea. Sir Robert Louise Stevenson put wheels on them and turned them into trains and other useful things.

THE BIG TRIP – MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT

I think the most emotional moment I had on the whole of the Big Trip was the reason I had set my alarm clock for 5.30 am. I had mentioned to our guide that it was on the itinerary we would be taken to the morning alms giving ritual, and, as we were leaving the next morning, when would we see this? It was obvious he wasn’t going to rise at that hour, but told me I could simply walk outside our hotel and see it from there at 5.30.

So there I stood, camera in hand in the dark, shivering. Remember this is Luang Prabang in Laos, which is pretty far north, and we’d brought minimal winter clothes.

As the sun began to lighten the sky there appeared out of the mist three young monks. A few people were sitting at the roadside by now and as the monks passed they accepted offerings into the basket each one carried.

A pile of food had been left outside one house, so they paused, and in unison, chanted for a few minutes before moving on, their orange clad figures disappearing into the early morning mist.

By now I had been joined by another couple from the hotel and I was debating whether to go back and crawl back into a warm bed, but for some reason, decided to stay. I was so glad I did.

A slow procession turned the corner at the end of the road, distant orange figures who walked towards us. There must have been 30 or 40 of them, ranging in age from fairly elderly men to young boys possibly as young as seven. Not a word was spoken, nothing said. I snapped one picture after another and then felt very guilty, as if I was taking a typical tourist advantage of a holy and almost private moment of their daily lives. I felt an intruder. Yet I couldn’t help myself, I had to get a record of this moment – to remind me of what I’d seen.

I wanted to somehow give the message that I was more than a nosy tourist, so as the last monk was approaching, I hesitantly offend him some American dollars. I just hoped he wouldn’t be offended, and I wasn’t sure I was doing the right thing. He looked at me, then opened his basket and held it out. I saw it was full of food and I paused, remembering what we’ve all been told about money and germs. I placed it inside as gently as I could, and then stepped back. He looked up at me and said “Thank you,” and he smiled.

In the cold light of a Spanish evening, this may sound trite, but in that early morning in Laos, I felt my soul move.

Next week i meet elephants.

Have a great week.

SECOND WARNING FOR THE FAINT HEARTED – AND WILLIAM OF THE DRUNKEN BRAWL

SECOND WARNING:  If you think the other week’s picture of the little, furry dead things with tails for sale in the market was bad – worse is to come in this blog. So close your eyes when the pictures come up or you may never drink again.

I know our guides came for us at 8.30 each morning but if felt more like dawn, as this was now day 16 and frankly we were knackered. We’d not had a rest at all, no weekend off and all the temples we had seen were now just floating before my eyes one after the other.

Back to the river, and while we spotted a few other tourists all cramming into one boat, we had a forty-seater all to ourselves. Guess that’s how the other half live? It was two hours up the river, according to my daily diary, until we pulled up on the left bank and our guide strode off leaving me to negotiate some rather slippery floating planks which had no intention of either keeping still or meeting each other.

We had arrived at the Pak Ou Caves. We guessed these caves were holy in some way as you can only reach them by going up some very steep steps and the nooks, crannies and shelves were all wall to wall Buddha statues, most of them quite small. Our guide explained that every family member places his or her own statue in the cave. There are thousands and thousands of them. Some are quite old and damaged, while others are obviously new.

They show all the different positions – meditation, teaching, peace, rain, and reclining (nirvana). It was difficult to feel we were in a holy place as there were other tourists there and a couple of locals selling souvenirs.

You could go up even higher into the top caves. I took one look and declined – being the #1 coward that I am – but DH hopped out of sight, after giving me a very condescending look. He was back a few minutes later after he saw just how many steps he would have to climb.

We boarded the boat again and were ferried across the river to have lunch on a floating restaurant (boat on water tied to the bank) and then it was off to other rural villages – Ban Xanghai and Ban Xangkhong. Here, I suspect the locals engage in papermaking, silk weavings and wine making mostly to sell to the tourists. Close your eyes now if you are of a nervous disposition.

We fell into bed that night and I set the alarm for 5.30 am. Tell you why next time.

What more can I tell you about William IV? He was known as the sailor king. Well I guess he never expected to be king as he was the third eldest boy born to George III and Queen Charlotte. So he was allowed to join the navy as a midshipman when he was only 13 years old, although Mum and Dad insisted a tutor went with him which spoiled the fun a bit.

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But he got about and was arrested in Malta after a drunken brawl. Of course they let him go immediately  they realized who he was. It’s always who you know right?

Quick tip:- Walking over Eggshells is due for a promo on Thursday at $/£0.99 which is probably a bit silly me telling you that now, as no one is going to buy it for the next few days, but then remember, only my blog and FB page readers will know that.

Here are the links to Amazon and it’s also available on Nook, Kobo and Apple. (Smart pic with the silver medal on).

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http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00E8HSNDW

I’m writing an extra blog this week with more news. Take care and thank you for reading.