Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Wat Sothon Wararam Worawihan

Yes, you did read that name correctly and no, a chimpanzee hasn't taken over the writing of my blog. Although sometimes it may seem like it!!!

Wat Sothon Wararam Worawihan, is actually a Buddhist temple in the province of Chachoengsao, about 80km east of Bangkok and a 1 hour 30 minute drive from my home town of Banglamung near Pattaya.

It houses one of the most revered Buddha images in Thailand known as "Luang Por Sothon" which means the "venerable father of Sothon".

There is a interesting story surrounding how the statue of Luang Por Sothon came to be at Wat Sothon.

Legend has it that 3 Buddha images were found floating along the Chao Phraya River towards the Bang Pakong River, where local villagers tried in vain, to tie the statues together and bring them ashore.

The statues continued on their watery journey until fortune smiled upon the inhabitants of Ban Leam who were able to retrieve one of them. The second statue was rescued at the town of Bang Phlee and the final statue was brought ashore at Sothon and taken to the local templ,e where it has remained to this day.

One of the highlights of Wat Sothon is its spectacular "ubosoth" or ordination hall which is 84 metres high and crowned with golden umbrellas. The hall took 15 years to build and was opened to the public in 2004.

The building is very striking, not just because of the sheer size, but also due to its decorative style. The exterior is pale grey and gold which is in stark contrast to most other Thai temples.
The interior is unqiue mixture of contemporary and traditional styles. The floor is covered with marble from Carrara in Italy and features images of animals and mythical creatures carrying lotus stalks.









There is a secondary building on site where visitors can pray and make offerings. It is common for people who have experienced good fortune after praying at the temple, to return and bring gifts of eggs to offer their thanks. The prayer hall has a number of Buddha images and other relics which vistors rub with gold leaf as a mark of honour and respect





I always urge people who visit temples in Thailand to dress and act respectfully. I amazes me the number of people who I have seen entering places of worship here in Thailand dressed in beach wear or other inappropriate attire. I can cause great offence if you show too much flesh when you visit a temple!!!!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Spirit houses

A spirit house is a shrine that is placed at an auspicious location within a building or its grounds.

They are common throughout South East Asia and can be found in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Burma (Myanmar).

Thais believe that when a new building is erected, it might disturb the spirits who inhabit the site. In order to appease them and prevent bad luck, a spirit house is put up to provide shelter.

Spirit houses come in all sizes and generally take the form of a house or temple mounted on a pillar and can include models or images of people and animals. They can be made of stone, concrete or wood.

The vast majority of homes and businesses will have a spirit house which is known as a san phra phum and is written ศาลพระภูมิ in Thai. The location of the spirit house will be chosen in consultation with a brahmin priest.

We have 2 spirit house complexes, with a total of 4 houses. One is located in the garden next to our house and the other is at the entrance to our guesthouse.

Here are some photos and check out the overhead electricity cables.....they are an accident waiting to happen!!!!





Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Attempted murder

During the course of last night a rather unseemly incident occured. One of our tenants narrowly escaped being killed afer being targeted by gunmen.

Around 10.30pm, 2 shots ran out which woke my wife and sister-in-law and caused a bit of a commotion.

At first I didn't believe they were gunshots and I casually dismissed them. The reason for my nonchalence is that loud noises are a regular occurance here in Thailand and it's not unusual to hear fireworks or firecrackers being set off late at night.

However, in the cold light of day it was obvious that our tenant had been very lucky to avoid serious injury or death.

The tenant in question has recently upset some local political bigwigs and it transpires that she also owes money to loan sharks....so I fear there may be more trouble to come!!!

It's suddenly feeling more like Baghdad than Banglamung at the moment......I may have to invest in a bullet-proof vest and make sure I carry a change of underwear too!!!




Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Pattaya highlights: Baan Sukhawadee

Having been hard at work planning our wedding, we recently decided to take a day off and do a bit of sightseeing. The attraction that we chose visit was Baan Sukhawadee.

Baan is the Thai word for "house" or "home" and sukhawadee means purity and happiness.

The estate was built in 2001 and was formerly the private home of Dr. Panya Choititawan, who is a well known farming mogul here in Thailand. It has since been opened to the public and is now used as a venue for weddings and social functions and as a setting for films and television programmes.

I don't think Bernard Matthews can boast such a grand residence.....ahhh bootiful!!!

















As you can see from the pictures, it's s a hotch potch of architectural and design styles with Baroque, Neo-classical, Moorish and traditional Thai elements. I immediately thought of the Palace of Versailles when I saw the landscaped gardens and interior decoration, although a much gauider version!!!

It is certainly a nice place to while away a couple of hours and for those of you that would like to visit, their address is 219 Moo 2, Sukhumwit Road, Na Klua, Banglamung, Chonburi 20150 and their website can be accessed by following the link below.....

http://www.sukhawadee.com/Eng/about.php

My one complaint, however, is the double pricing that's in operation. Double pricing is a common problem in Thailand, where attractions charge one price for Thais and a higher price for foreign visitors. The entrance fees at Baan Sukhawadeee are 100 baht for Thai citizens and 200 baht for non-Thai visitors.

Monday, January 31, 2011

A guide to getting married in Thailand - Part 2

Welcome to part 2 of my guide to getting married in Thailand......

Our day started with an early morning taxi ride to the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The journey took about 45 minutes, due to horrendous congestion and cost over 250 baht.

The reason for our trip was to get the Freedom of Affirmation document and translated copy, stamped and certified by the Legalisation and Naturalisation Division.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, shares it's offices with the Department of Consular Affairs and the full address is 123 Chaeng Wattana Road, Laksi District, Bangkok, 10210. Their opening of hours are officially 8.00-11.30 and 13.30-17.30

Here is a link to their website.......

http://www.mfa.go.th/web/2630.php








We arrived just after 8.30 and the ministry was already starting to get busy. I dread to think how long the queues would have been if we'd arrived later!!!

The Legalisation Department was on the 2nd floor. Upon arriving, I advised the staff on the front desk what I needed, they then told me to fill in an "Application for Legalisation" form and I must return to them, once the form had been completed, to get my queue ticket.

The form looks like this........


They provide 2 services, standard and express. The standard service takes 3-4 days to authorise your documents and they return them to you by post. Whereas, the express service offers same day collection. I chose the latter which cost 800 baht.

We had to wait about 30 minutes to submit the paperwork and were asked to return at Midday to collect the authorised copies.

This may not sound like a long wait but, there is not much in the way of entertainment near the Ministry, so we didn't have much choice but to wait on the premises. There was a decent canteen, a shop and book store, so we were able to while away a bit of time.

However, come Midday the documents were not ready and we ended up waiting until 1.30 for them to be returned.

Once you have the documents, you then need to take them to an Amphur (district administrative office) to register your marriage and get an official wedding certificate. We decided to do this in our home town, rather than enduring another taxi journey in Bangkok.

The cost of registering the marriage is 200 baht and you sign the following document which the registrar has prepared.......


and will then receive your wedding certificate which looks like this........


When we had finished at the Ministry, we returned to Sampeng to do a bit of sightseeing and, of course, more shopping!!!

The following pictures were taken at Wat Traimit, which is famous for it's 5 tonne solid gold Buddha and is somewhere that I had always wanted to visit.











We finished our day with a seafood dinner at a street side restaurant. Our meal of curried prawns, seafood salad and Tom Ka Gai (chicken in cocnut milk) cost just over 800 baht.

The choice of dining options, in Sampeng, was fantastic. There were restaurants around every corner and as you can see from the photos, the roads come alive at night, with street vendors and market stalls.