Sunday, 30 September 2012

Thailand, Pattaya (Sanctuary of Truth)

I was truly fascinated with this place. The Sanctuary of Truth was an unforgettable destination for me although the photo below made it looked like it's a normal temple. When I was at the site, I thought the entire structure was some kind of a Hindu relic that must have traveled through the time machine into our world. 

Standing at 105 metres high, this sanctuary is equivalent to a 20 storey building! A building that housed all kinds of statues and sculptures. While the place itself was massive, it felt empty because there were only workers finishing the incomplete parts of the building. Not surprising actually as not many outsiders knew about this place. 

Apart from this, the building is made of 100% wood. This means that metals and nails are not used at all in its construction. Instead, the builders rely on wooden pegs to bring the structure together.

To create this sculpture, large blocks of wood were hand carved from scratch. The tour guide told us that the sculptures were meant to show visitors the relationship between human beings and the Universe. The Eastern philosophy was also introduced several times in her explanation. 

 Actually, I didn't really get what she means by Eastern philosophy or what exactly it represents. From my own understanding, the sculptures depict how culture and religion have merged. And when we talk about religion; Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism seem to have very little distinction from one another based on how they were presented. Thus, I conclude that the Thais in general accept this as a holistic approach to their lives.

The cosmological sculpture on the high ceiling also signifies how human beings should live in harmony with nature and the universe. The circle of life is an important symbol which lay the groundwork for an ideal world formed by 7 creators - namely the Heaven, Earth, Mother, Father, Moon, Sun and Stars.

Besides the gods depicted in the 3 religion, sculptures of Apsara dancers (female spirits of the clouds and waters in Hindu and Buddhist mythology) also decorated the building. The mystical element here also points out that both fantasy and reality do coexist in the belief system of the Thais. 

In a nutshell, I still do not understand what Eastern philosophy is but I do hope that the building of this sanctuary will get completed soon as it has been ongoing for more than 20 years.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Thailand, Laem Chabang Port

It's another brand new day in Thailand. We have travelled from Koh Samui to Laem Chabang the night before. The sun is still very low but it's here to bring the promise of a meaningful day for us.

As our cruise ship entered the port of Laem Chabang, a ship loaded with cargoes exited the port.

I've never been this close to a port as the port in Singapore is not open to the public and only authorised personnel could enter the area. Thus, the fact that I was at a port excite me and all activities taking place immediately caught my interest.

Seen here are rows of cars to be exported to other countries in Asia, Europe and Africa. Thailand has a large automotive market and it is a global supply chain for cars such as Toyota, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Ford and General Motors.

Closing up on the cars.  It was a rather misty morning...

After checking out from the Port of Laem Chabang, we transferred to a bus to make our way to Pattaya. This time, our destination is to 'The Sanctuary of Truth'.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Thailand, Koh Samui Temples

Visiting the temples is a must when you are at Koh Samui or in other parts of Thailand. For most Thai people, Buddhism is a way of life so that is why there are many temples even on a small island such as Koh Samui. 

The most popular temple in Samui is the Kunaram Temple, where curious people like me could see for themselves the mummified monk, whose body was put on display for more than 20 years. According to the story, the monk had died while meditating and his body was in the same sitting position when he was first found.

An interesting lamp post found at the temple.

There was a small stall selling yellow flowers just outside the temple. Some of these flowers were bought by several members in the tour group. The flowers were offered to the monks as a form of merit. I noticed that Buddhists knelt 3 times while praying. 3 incense sticks were also lit, which are then placed at the altar. I found out that one is lit for Buddha, one for Sangha (Buddhist monks), and one for Dharma (teachings of Buddha).

Venturing outside the grounds of the temple, one small shady corner caught my attention. I wondered why these Buddha statues were left in the open and not placed on the shelves available in the temple.

Apparently, this was the final resting place for the old and broken Buddha statues, which worshippers no longer wanted to put at their altar. According to the tour guide, one could not simply throw away their Buddha along with all the other rubbish in the trash bin because it was frowned upon by the religion. Hence, worshippers left their "unwanted" Buddha at this temple or they may alternatively place their Buddha under a Bodhi tree.

Beside this spot, there was also a small lotus pond in the temple. Lotus is a significant flower in Buddhism as it is associated with rebirth and purity.

Even the second temple, which we went to - Wat Plai Laem, is on a lotus-like structure built on a lake.

Interestingly, each petals of the lotus surrounding the temple was made to house the ashes of those who were cremated.

The other unique feature of this Buddhist temple is the Kuan Im statue (the lady monk) with 20 arms. Not sure what each arm represents but the two hands at the top of the statue's head are actually holding a golden Buddha. Overall, this temple is a little bit different from other temples because there seem to be a strong influence in Taoism in this temple.

At the end of the trip, it feels like I have at least understood a little bit more about Buddhism. It also helps when the tour guide was so passionate when explaining to me about his religion.