Friday, December 20, 2013

Thailand's Disneyland

As I don't read much in preparation for our trips, after three days on a bus, as we were approaching our destination of the White Temple, I was expecting to see, perhaps what was left of a very ancient, very heavenly, eternal (I know...another church!) and awe-inspiring edifice.

What I saw was--alright--it was gorgeous--a creation by Thai artist Ajarn Chalermchai Kositpipat.
My first thought, upon approaching the "temple" is that it would make one heck of a wedding cake.  The pictures don't do it justice, as it is covered in mirror tiles and really sparkles in the sunlight.
It is, as an art project, no less than spectacular.  It was started in 1997, at the complete expense to the artist, who doesn't charge admission and takes no corporate donations so that he remains free to pursue his own artistic vision.  He expects it to take 90 years to complete and has a team of apprentices to continue after his death.

As at any proper Buddhist temple, you must remove your shoes to enter and no photographs are allowed inside. (You also must remove your shoes when entering the restrooms both here and at other temples, which somewhat turns me off to religion!)  Inside you can expect to see a regal Buddha and monk, scenes of both heaven and hell, as well as Spiderman, Batman and Michael Jackson, among other deities and the eyes of the demon with George Bush and Osama Bin Laden seen within them.

I, personally, find Hell much more interesting than Heaven:

In reading to prepare for my blog post...I found something that I missed there, the golden toilet, "the most beautiful toilet".  I guess I'll have to go back.


Monday, December 16, 2013

Who is Fat Buddha?

Don't know how much blogging I will do about Thailand, as I didn't find it to be the most inspiring trip.  I've mentioned Overseas Adventure Travel before, our preferred tour company.  They take pride in advertising that they're groups are "travelers" as opposed to "tourists"...getting immersed in the cultures as we do.  Although there were a few delights along the way...most of what we saw seemed very tourist-trappy.  Perfect weather and a wonderful group of co-travelers made it an enjoyable trip.  Both Bangkok and Changmai were interesting to visit.

One very interesting part of the trip for me was the visit to a Buddhist monastery and a talk by a Buddhist monk.  He spoke about the Buddhist religion and reaching Nirvahna, a lot of which I remembered and some that I didn't.  He did mention the "fat Buddha", which I remembered learning about in Art History.  He called it a Chinese version of the Buddha.  I remember, from my classes, that he was not actually a Buddha, but a god called Hotei.

I knew then what my first blog post from this trip would be about, but since further research...I guess Buddha is whatever you want him to be.
According to Wickipedia, "Budai"  or "Hotei" is a Chinese folkloric deity.  Almost always shown smiling or laughing he is also known as the "Laughing Buddha".  In Chinese culture he is considered a symbol of contentment.  In Chinese history he was an eccentric Chan monk.
According to Japanese tradition Hotei's origin lies in Chinese Taoism/Buddhism.  He is known as one of Japan's "Seven Lucky gods".  Reportedly based on a real person, "he is commonly depicted bald, smiling, with a big belly, bulging ears and a large sack and fan in his hands.  He is further known as the "god of contentment and happiness, guardian of children and patron of bartenders."  Source:
Fat Buddha is also a Marvel comic!