Wat Phra That Chae Haeng, Nan, Thailand

During my first semester in Thailand I had the opportunity to listen to at least two fellow exchange students grumble about how, “once you’ve seen one wat (Thai word for temple) you’ve seen them all”.

I’ll admit this wat displayed many familiar features: a massive stupa, a humble temple, a tall surrounding wall, a line of Buddha images ready to receive coins and two growling nagas racing down the hill to greet temple visitors. But it was the details that were the most intriguing.

With the initial awe wearing off I was starting to wonder about the meaning of the curious objects around me.

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Wat Phra That Khao Noi, Nan, Thailand

There is something mysterious and alluring about a human figure forever captured in a forward motion. It’s the ultimate symbol for so many things humanity upholds.

Progression. Preservation. Hope. Strength. Compassion. Protection. Isn’t it easy to imagine these figures are ever prepared to step forth to protect the people of the area?

A statue caught in mid-stride frames these ideas within the grace of movement.

I mean, while a standing statue casually gazing forward is a remarkable sight in its own right, there is something extra special about a statue stepping out into the world.

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Angkor Complex, Cambodia

“One dollar, one dollar. Two magnets, one dollar. Ok, ten postcards one dollar. One dollar. One dollar. One dollar.”

The child looked up at me, her eyes wide and glimmering. Shuffling the objects in the plastic tray slung across her stomach she pulled up one item after another and repeated the mantra.

“One dollar, one dollar, one dollar. Lady, maybe later? One dollar.”

She looked hopeful, her eyes sparkling with calculations but a tired strain fed into her voice. I could only smile at her. I didn’t want to be rude but I wouldn’t be buying anything.

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Bayon Temple, Cambodia

Down in the labyrinth, beyond the soaring light, I found a place of contemplation. Dust particles danced on the one weak shaft of light that managed to pierce its way through. Settled in the nook of a once-window-in-the-wall or perhaps once-home-for-a-Buddha I looked across the small sheltered courtyard. This place at the centre of everything felt right. Far above me, in the heat of the afternoon amused entities observed the tourist traffic at the foot of their towers—their eyes ever open to the world, their lips cast in chuckles and half-smirks. Continue reading “Bayon Temple, Cambodia”

Wat Yai Mongkol: Ayutthaya

It was the stairs that struck me. Were they so worn away because of the material of the steps? Or was it a result of the feet of countless visitors?

The stairs were steep and treacherous. One had to step very carefully, especially while travelling down. They were narrow and edged. I could feel the troughs and peaks under my sandals. I remember those stairs.

It’s as though I am still there. Continue reading “Wat Yai Mongkol: Ayutthaya”