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A Tale of Two Buddhas

March 5, 2014



Did you know that according to the Guinness Book of Records, Bangkok’s official name is the world’s longest? Its actual name is:


"Krungthep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahadikok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit"


Which translates to:


“The city of angels, great city, residence of the Emerald Buddha, the impregnable city of God Indra, the grand capital of the world endowed with nine precious gems, the happy city, abounding in an enormous Royal Palace that resembles the heavenly abode where reigns the reincarnated god, a city given by Indra and built by Vishnukarn.”


In spite of the fact that Buddha didn’t want anyone worshipping his image, there are too many images of Buddha to count, especially in Thailand. Two of the most famous are in Bangkok.


The Emerald Buddha, 45 cm tall and kept in the Temple of the Emerald Buddha at Bangkok’s Grand Palace, is arguably the country’s most important. Like America’s Liberty Bell, this symbol evokes intense feelings of Thai nationalism. The Emerald Buddha, once covered in plaster to hide its importance, is actually made from jade, and its origin is heavily debated. Legend says it was created in India in 43 B.C., but its style is more closely associated with the fourteen hundreds. Several countries have waged wars over the Emerald Buddha, which I’m sure the historic Buddha would not have approved.



The Emerald Buddha is periodically dressed in three golden garments designed to symbolize Thailand’s three seasons: summer, rainy and cool. The cool or winter garment is estimated to contain over five million dollars worth of gold. The King is charged with the responsibility of changing the Buddha’s clothing but this involves climbing a high altar and the aged King has passed this chore to his eldest son, the Crown Prince. Photography is forbidden inside this temple so photographing the Emerald Buddha is difficult. I’ve relied on a few Google shots to give you a better view.



The Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho, on the opposite side of the River as the Grand Palace, features the spectacular Reclining Buddha. This figure, 15 m high and 43 m long (160 feet) replaced one destroyed during a Burmese invasion in 1767. Despite its size, the temple was designed to create an intimate moment as you walk the length of Buddha’s body. The horizontal position symbolizes Buddha’s passing, but he is neither dead nor asleep. His eyes are slits as he meditates. There are over a thousand images of Buddha here, and this temple is famous for being the largest and oldest in Bangkok. Considered the first university in Thailand, it is home to the creation of Thai massage.







As I’ve mentioned, a blizzard was taking place back home while we were in Bangkok. CJ had promised to check in on his eighty-eight year old grandmother and he did so on the first day of the snow. As it was relayed to me, his phone conversation with my mother went something like this:




“Hi Grandma, it’s me CJ. How you doing?”


“It’s snowing here.”


“I know. That’s why I’m calling. Are you all right? Are you warm and do you have enough food?”


“Yes, I’m fine, but your father did something to my clock before he left and now it doesn’t work.”


“You have more than one clock, right?”


“Yes, but your late grandfather purchased this clock and it needs to be fixed.”


“Grandma, there’s eight inches of snow on the ground and two inches of ice; I’m not gonna risk my life to drive over there just to fix your clock. It can wait until after the storm passes.”


I want the permanent record (if there is such a thing) to show that I put new batteries in my mother’s clock before I left and when it still didn’t work I temporarily replaced it with another clock which I mounted on her kitchen wall so she could easily see it. I told her I’d find a clock repair person when I returned, but was this good enough for Mom? NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!  



You really need the patience of the Buddha when it comes to your mother. I'm glad I have 3 other siblings to handle any clock repairs.
By: PT Dilloway on March 5, 2014
Ohhhh, your mom! Her quotes would make a fine comic strip, in the style of Maxine.
By: Shelly on March 5, 2014
Just love reading about your holiday and what amazing images.
By: John on March 5, 2014
I am truly enjoying your adventure in Thailand. And as to your Mom.....sheesh. I have my daughter read your postings about your Mom.....then I don't look quite so uh,,,,,,,,,,pushy. Oma Linda
By: Oma Linda on March 5, 2014
oh, your mother!
By: TexWisGirl on March 5, 2014
You are one patient person to deal with her. Those statues are fascinating.
By: mimi on March 5, 2014
Hope you had a wonderful time on your trip!!
By: laurel on March 5, 2014
Poor CJ. Your trip to the Far East appears to have been one beautiful voyage.
By: Franklin Bruce Taylor on March 5, 2014
Interesting seguay.... and background info on Buddha. Did you have a Thai massage... yet?
By: Daniel LaFrance on March 5, 2014
What great recounting of your trip. Now I'm wondering if the little Japanese garden wandering Buddha is still in place. I'm glad you're back, had a bad case of Chubby Chatterbox withdraw. Cheers, Hilde
By: Hilde on March 5, 2014
Now there is a city that knows how to pick a name that really "sells" them. I always learn thing from your posts. Buddah didn't want people worshipping his image?? He must be sorely disappointed at the number of statues tucked into every nook and cranny around the world. My nail salon has one set up in the corner. Your mother is such a character. She is badmouthing you to your kid when you are thousands of miles away. Tsk tsk
By: Cheryl P. on March 5, 2014
I admire your bravery for traveling to a place where so many things are illegal (disrespecting the king, a 50s musical, taking pic of a famous statue...although I've heard they're very lenient about prostitution...). One of my friends also likes to travel. I heard horror stories including a 7 hour mountain hike to get to a "scenic" hotel, and then not being able to sleep because there were so many lizards on the walls and the ones on the ceiling kept dropping onto the bed--plop!--in the middle of the night. So I'm happy to live vicariously through stories 'cause I really just want to stay in my warm safe HOME!!
By: Lexa Cain on March 5, 2014
Amazing. I think I will stick with calling it Bangkok... Neat photos of the reclining Buddha. Somehow, I am just odd enough to think "clothier for a deity" would make an interesting addition to a resume'. Cat
By: Cat on March 5, 2014
Have you overseen the repair of your mom's clock yet? It is interesting to see the things we become attached to as we get older. Your photos are really good, and I know you enjoyed the trip very much. Your extra information makes for an even better read.
By: CiCi on March 5, 2014
I saw the Reclining Buddha years ago and have never forgotten it. A fabulous post, thank you, Stephen.
By: Sharon Bradshaw on March 5, 2014
I'm glad CJ stands up to Grandma. How could you be foolish enough to think that anything would please your mom? I'd like some gold clothes, though I suppose they'd be heavy. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on March 5, 2014
Well, I'm glad they shortened the name of the city to the quick and easy to remember "Bangkok." Interesting background about Buddha and all those statues. And you mother...well, just bite your tongue.
By: Pixel Peeper on March 5, 2014
Your mother is old--cater to her!!
By: fishducky on March 5, 2014
For an artist like you, this must have been a fantastic experience. There was lots to learn and a lot of pieces the fit into place.
By: red on March 5, 2014
the reclining Buddha is amazing- and so is your Mom! Plus your son has the patience of Buddha!
By: Kathe W. on March 5, 2014
The Buddha is beautify. Thanks for the informative post. Good luck with finding your mother a new clock.
By: Tom Cochrun on March 5, 2014
Wow, nothing like blowing your own trumpet when it comes to naming your country - I think I'll stick to calling it Bangkok. And as for your mother, your descriptions are so vivid and illustrative that I feel like I know her in person!
By: Bryan Jones on March 6, 2014
Maybe you could get your mom high on fermented cale and introduce her to Buddahism. May she would mellow a bit. ;)
By: Scott Park on March 6, 2014
There's a lot of mileage someone with a dirty mind could run with the fact that Bangkok has the world's longest name. But I'm a nice girl. Wink. Otherwise, I'm gawking at the polished golden Buddhas above. Thanks for sharing these impressive structures. xoRobyn
By: Robyn Engel on March 6, 2014
What! You were away during our last snow? God but time flies. Anyway, I want me one of them there Emerald Buddhas, and am not a little disappointed that you haven't already arranged to have it shipped to me in order to atone for going off and leaving me alone in Oregon like you do every year.
By: Snowbrush on March 8, 2014
Boy that sounds just like my mother too. She and my Father are housebound and it appears that I'm the only one that they are asking to run errands. It's slowly driving me insane.
By: LL Cool Joe on March 9, 2014
Seems like Buddha & Jesus would probably like to hang out & bemoan what their followers have done in their names... Oh your mom - ha!
By: The Bug on March 17, 2014

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