The ocular & the temple

ONE thing leads to another. Fate has its way of leading you to where you should be in place of an unsuccessful trip. Here’s one of those instances.

In my most recent trip to Bangkok, Thailand, I have been meaning to purchase a prescription eyeglass frame from this specialty men’s shop I saw online.

The boutique is an unfamiliar place, Rama IV Road in the Bangrak District, but quite close to Si Lom Road, an area I'm frequent.

After a bit of a walk under the Bangkok midday heat searching for the shop, I finally stood in front of its doors—with its shutters down. The shop was on a holiday break. Fine.

As I made my (long way) back to the metro, I caught site of tiered red gable roofs of a nearby temple jutting out of the landscape of modern buildings from across the Sam Yan Metro Station.

Perhaps chancing upon this temple was a reminder of what traveling should be. Even if it’s a place often visited due to work, searching for new spots to see and taking home memories and a new experience should always be on top of mind.

In this case, it took the absence of the eyeglasses to find my way back to the purpose of my travels.

I was glad Wat Hua Lamphong was in the same district. It’s been a while since I’ve entered a Royal Buddhist temple (third class) in Thailand.

The temple was constructed in the early Rattanakosin period. But in 1996, on the golden anniversary of the ascension to the throne of King Bhumibol Aulyadej (Rama IX), Wat Hua Lamphong was renovated.

A very distinctive feature used extensively in the renovated temple is the use of the royal seal, the Golden Jubilee seal known as the Kanchanapisek.

It shows two elephants flanking a multi-tiered umbrella.

Even on a very hot and humid day, the temple compound looked busy. There was a steady influx of visitors going in and out.

Different crowds would gather to make offerings to the deities and Thai Buddhist figures like King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) and Hindu god Ganesha, which are housed in roofed structures in front of the temple.

Wat Hua Lamphong is said to be unique because the ordination hall (ubosot), the monastery (viharn) and the stupa (chedi) are elevated on a platform (perhaps to protect it against flooding) and accessed through a wide staircase.

The structure of the ordination hall is impressive. Walls, flooring and posts are clad in marble and the temple’s ornately designed bargeboards are predominantly in gold.

Equally striking are the lacquered ebony doors and windows paneling with its intricate design popping out in contrast because of the mother of pearl inlay.

Stepping in the ordination hall, rich tones of crimson, emerald and gold take over the interior via a vast mural, the room’s jaw-dropping appointment. The magnificent wall painting that tells a story dominates the interior covering the entire upper half of the ordination hall.

Wat Hua Lampong also holds a crematorium and known for its Chinese cremation ceremonies. In fact, visitors can earn merit by sponsoring coffins to the unprivileged through donations.

Minus eyeglasses, plus Wat Hua Lamphong. The temple experience weighs more than the missing eyepiece. Thank you, Universe.

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