Sunday, July 25, 2010

Wat Phra Boromathat Chaiya

ChediWat Phra Boromathat Chaiya Rat Worawihan (วัดพระบรมธาตุไชยาราชวรวิหาร) is the most important Buddhist temple of Surat Thani, and also one of the most beautiful ones. The central chedi in Srivijaya style with its many golden ornaments is even the iconic symbol of the province Surat Thani.

The reason why the main temple of the province is not located in the provincial capital lies in the history of the province. In fact, the temple was originally in the capital of the Mueang Chaiya, one of the semi-independent city-states which made up Siam until the administrative system was completely overhauled at the begin of the 20th century. Though by then the town Chaiya was moved closer to the sea to present-day Phum Riang - it came back to its original location after the railway was built in 1915. However, by then the province Surat Thani was established by merging the area formerly under Chaiya with the one under Kanchanadit, and the new center of the province was at the mouth of the Tapi river in Ban Don.

Buddha rowEvery side of the chedi shows a different ornament, though I don't know much about the actual meaning. Pointing north is a peacock, to the south is Erawan as the multi-headed elephant, to the east a Buddha surrounded by regalia which reminded me of the old coat of arms of Siam. The one on the west side I could not recognize at all. The chedi is surrounded by a walkway with lots of Buddha statues, and several smaller chedis, elephant and other statues, as well as nice small trees. If only it were not so hot and sunny, which made walking around on the hot plaster barefooted far from comfortable.

Much less spectacular than the chedi is the bot, though religiously it is the more important building. Inside are just several smaller Buddha statues, and no murals at the walls.

Three BuddhasThe three Buddha statues outside next to the Bot are also notable. Normally Buddha statues are always under a roof protected from the elements, however these three are believed to prefer to stay outside - when they were placed under a roof in past, lightning struck and destroyed the building. I don't know if and when this story actually took place, but it sounds like a perfectly fit explanation for these statue's location.

Directly at the temple is also a local branch of the National Museum, which has several items from the Srivijaya times on display. Sadly not allowing photography I did skip the revisit and focused on taking photos of the temple instead. Since I did quite a lot of photos, like the views of the chedi from all four sides, I uploaded the whole collection to flickr.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

District museum Yannawa

When I read about Richard Barrow's test ride on the BRT, I was curious to try this new bus system myself. Looking at the route map, I noticed that along the route it has the BMA local museum of Yannawa district, though in between two widely spaced stations, so I had to do quite some walking to get there as well. Nevertheless, this new public transport opens up a new part of Bangkok for those who prefer public transport over taxis, even though these aren't expensive in Bangkok.

The trip to this museum was definitely worth it. Though the museum is a rather small one compared to some other of the district museums I visited, what made it a special visit was the caretaker. The nice woman not only showed me around the items on display, explained them in Thai (sadly I only got maybe 10% of what she told) and also helped me to take good photos by flipping open one Sanskrit manuscript. Not sure what it showed however, but it looked like something about astrology or the calendar. Since she noticed I was quite sweaty from the walk to the museum - it was a rather hot and very sunny day - she also gave me a bottle of water, and a small pack of cookies for snack. I even could get one of the very last copies of the brochures on Yannawa district which she found deep inside a drawer of her desk, hope it wasn't the last one kept for the museum itself.

She not only showed the museum itself, but also the temple where it is housed. Though Wat Khlong Phum (วัดคลองภูมิ) is none of the spectacular temples, it has some interesting sights as well. There are Buddha statues from Ayutthaya times, sadly locked behind bars to prevent theft but which also made photography very difficult; a quite old monk's quarter; the crematorium gave a great view with two failed skyscrapers abandoned in the 1997 Asian crisis in the background; and of course the bot and a viharn next to it also look great, too bad they weren't open to see inside.

My guide even wanted to make sure I will take the right bus to go to my next target, the Bangkok Folk Museum in Bang Rak district (to be featured here later), so she even went to the bus stop in front of the temple with me. I planned to continue my trip by walking to the next BRT station, and then walk within Bang Rak, but it took me a bit to explain my itinerary to her with my still bad Thai.

I had experienced several very good caretakers in the local museums, who very much tried to make my visit worthwhile, but the one in Yannawa topped it all. So if anybody visits this museum after reading my review, make sure to tell her it was "Khun Andreas" from Germany who made you go there.