There is one southern Asian country whose nicknames and those of its cities and capital are more than poetic. It is a Kingdom occupying an area of 513 000 square km, with a population of 63 million inhabitants, 75% being thai people. The country is religiously tolerant but nevertheless, 90% of the residents belong to Buddhism. Its border shape amazingly resembles a head of an elephant (the animal is greatly worshipped in the country and in Indo-China as a whole, by the way). And its history dates back to the 13th century.
This is the century when the separated and spread-out thai cities were united and the independent country was founded. Sukhothai, as it was called in 1238, had a very poetical Sanskrit name which meant “The Rise of Happiness”. Later, in 1350, Ayutthaya became the capital of the established Kingdom. In the 19th century Siam, as it was known at that time, managed to remain an independent country unlike the other countries in the region. It was not colonized due to the skillful diplomacy towards the world leaders and leading countries. The country was renamed after the World War II and nowadays it bears the magnificent name of Thailand or if translated, it is “The land of the Free”.
Today the magical Kingdom is the world number one exporter of rice. It’s not only an agricultural country but it is among the leading producers of rubber and computers & PC components. Apart from this it is a place gifted with marvelous nature by God and hot-hotter-the-hottest weather. Its cuisine is very delicious and despite being too spicy it is as famous as Japanese sushi or Chinese meals. As far as thai style is concerned, it is quite distinctive with all its figures, symbols and Buddha statues that are peaked, steep and descending multilayer, and decorated with a great number of ornaments. Last but not least, there is plenty to see in Thailand starting from the gorgeous former king’s residence Bang Pa-In, one of the ancient capitals Ayutthaya, or the extremely rich and extraordinary Floating Market that is situated some 110km away from Bangkok.
And, yes, the City of Angels ….. I don’t mean LA or another world “angel” megapolis but the capital of Thailand. It’s been named like this because of the presence of the world religions, the numerous temples and Buddha statues. The city is dotted by emblematic sites. The most famous and visited ones is, surely, The Temple of the Golden Buddha. It weighs 5 tons and a half and it’s been proved that it’s made of gold.
Wat Po is another temple that houses the enormous statue of the Riclining Buddha. It is 46m long and 15m high (practically, it occupies the whole building and the latter was built after the statue in order to prevent it from the atmospheric conditions) and is, in fact, the third largest Buddha statue in the world. The reclining position symbolizes the extraordinary state of spirit of the Buddhists known as “Achieving Nirvana”.
I will open a bracket here. The positions of Buddha in which we see the deity are supposed to show different moments from his life. A “wat” is the term for a Buddhist monastery or temple in Thailand, Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia. The word is of Sanskrit origin and it means “hedged area” in thai language. And last thing. Pilgrims and other visitors of Buddhist temples are obliged to take off their shoes before entering Buddhist holy buildings. I am closing the bracket.
If Wat Po amazes with the Reclining Buddha and the collection (the largest in the world) of about other 1000 Buddha statues at the same place, then the Grand Palace astonishes with its area of 218 400m2, surrounded and hedged by a 1900-metre wall. The complex houses the administration of Thailand but apart from this, the most awe-inspiring building is the Temple of the Emerald Buddha made of jasper.