Saturday, October 13, 2012

Buddha's Day at Royal Plaza in Bangkok, Thailand - Part 1

Teet! Teet!

My handphone ringed. A local Thailand number blinked on my screen. This guy never replies my messages, he only calls back. Hehe. He has reached Khaosan Rd (the backpackers area where I was staying at) and is now looking for a place to park. Also noted that he'll be at my place shortly. His manner is so proper. It was already day six of our travel in Thailand and we kept him waiting quite a long while for this day to happen.

Sorry, my friend. ^__^

Sure enough, he showed up at our hotel five minutes later as we (Rayyan, Carmen and I) were waiting at the hotel's ground floor restaurant. Masaya went to meet his friend and won't be joining us. I introduced my Thailand friend to my backpacker friends. And then shamelessly asked him if I can bring my friends along. Haha! I think I just dropped a bomb on him! Instead of being mad, he said he didn't mind. Later we hopped into his truck and were off to tour around Bangkok night scene!

Things to note -
1. It was Asalcha Buddha's day ( 2 - 3 August 2012)
2. The city is lighted up beautifully to commemorate the day.
3. No alcohol is allowed being sold in Bangkok for two days.
4. People were busy paying respect to King Rama V (Chulalongkorn). And other Buddhas as well.
5. Everyone enjoys free bus rides in town. Hoyeahhh!!!

First stop was to the Royal Plaza, a public square in Bangkok which houses two of the most iconic places in Bangkok
1. King Rama V Equestrian Monument
2. Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall - former residence of King Rama V

Rayyan had the best view of the city because he sat in front with Pipi. I sat at the back with Carmen.
The public square was free of moving vehicles  Vehicles were allowed to be parked near the beautifully lit entrance gate as seen in the picture below. Traffic in Bangkok itself was also in their ultimate low. The night was beautiful!

The gate into Royal Plaza. And here's a picture of Pipi, me and Carmen!
I first met Pipi in Malaysia during an international convention and training course. Twice! First time in 2011 and the second time early this year. He drugged me with stories of Bangkok and offered to be my guide if I was in town. I only had to take his offer on it and so here I am! (With additional two new friends of course. haha) ^__^

Pictured in the first picture is the king's statue situated in front of the palace. And below are Rayyan, yours truly and Carmen. 
It was Buddha's day and I saw locals praying to King Rama 5's statue.I wondered why and decided to google it. I found out that people considered King Rama 5 as Buddha. Below the picture is the answer why which I copied word by word because it's actually a good read!!! hehe

Locals burning incense and leaving bouquet of flowers and food in front of the statue that night. Truly a cultural, spiritual thing to watch. 
Why do Thai People Pray to King Rama 5? (source)
Thai people pray to King Rama V, Chulalongkorn, because he was considered to be a Buddha, and a very famous and popular buddha at that.  It should be noted for those unfamiliar with buddhism that this is "a Buddha," as in someone who has reached enlightenment, not "the Buddha," as in Sidhartha Guatama Buddha.  To some degree, Rama V could be compared to a Catholic Saint.

The real question you are asking, I think, is "why is King Rama V a very famous and popular Buddha?"

The answer requires a bit of an understanding of history.  King Rama V's reign lasted from the 1870s until 1910.  During that time Europe was busy colonizing the world.  The French had control of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia while the British had control of India and Burma.  In effect, Thailand (then Siam) was surrounded by European Colonialists vying for control of this "available" land while King Rama V was desperately trying to keep control of his country.

King Rama V did a few fantastic things in order to keep the British and the French out of his country.  He played the two off of each other using some brilliant diplomatic maneuvering, he ceeded each some land to keep them happy, and he instituted sweeping reforms and modernizations in order to convince the Europeans he led a modern country that did not need what the Europeans would call a "civilizing influence."

These reforms and modernizations included building a modern military training ground and sending himself and his princes to Europe to learn about democracy and constitutional monachies.  He also transformed the country from a network of city-states to a single state, abolished slavery, and built a railroad system facilitating trade, communication, and central government control.

It is a source of pride to many Thais that Thailand was never colonized while all of their neighbors were.  Chulalongkorn was the mastermind of this protection. He kept the foreigners out while acting as the father of a modern nation and maintaining enlightenment as a Buddha.

That is why people pray to Chulalongkorn. | --> end of copy

Seen here are Thai people praying to "Buddha"
And look at the crowd that has gathered here! They even brought mats and food as they seated themselves at various spots at the public square. Almost as if they were having a picnic there! Pipi was going to do his prayers here but wanted to bring us to some place first.

Will continue with part 2. =)


Farikica said... [Reply]

meriahnya royal plaza neh...! I passed by this place without knowing its name on my way to the grand palace from my hotel... however, at that time, there was nothing going on there...

Jard The Great said... [Reply]

@farikica..... hehe..ahh.. agak meriah. at least you entered the grand palace. We went there during the night and it was closed. =p

Duncan D. Horne - the Kuantan blogger said... [Reply]

Lovely history lesson! I enjoyed that..

Jard The Great said... [Reply]

@duncan.. thanks! enjoyed it too.. of copying it from it's source. hehehe

farikica said... [Reply]

@Jard The Great

he..he..kita senasib..! by the time i reached the grand palace, it was about to close.. so, i decided not to go in as i assumed i needed more than 1/2 an hour to roam around the place. lepak2 ajela kat area grand palace... well, at least there's a reason for me to come back to Bangkok... :)

Dba Ghani said... [Reply]

wow!! masih ingat aku x?? heeee :)

Lily Riani said... [Reply]

ngak fair sih! i never been to BKK during a festival! ko bisa jadi begini!

Anonymous said... [Reply]

Terrific work! This is the type of information that should be shared around the web. Shame on the search engines for not positioning this post higher!

Jard The Great said... [Reply]

@dba Ghani.. ingat! hehehe. lama tak jumpa. =)

@lily riani... haha. tiba2 cakap indon neh apsal? =p

@anon.. walaupun aku tahu kamu autobot tp sbb komen ko sedap skit aku bg approve jelah. hahahaha

Jard The Great said... [Reply]

@faricka.. mmg ada niat nk gi bangkok lagi. hehehe.