No rain. I guess the afternoon squall has finally decided to halt. I just got out of Wat Pho and noticed I still have enough time to explore another temple that afternoon. The Temple of Dawn, Wat Arun is just across Chao Phraya river. Just a short walk from Wat Pho is the ferry terminal to cross the river. Only 3.50 baht and I’m across the river in less than 10 minutes.
I realized I was already encircling around the perimeter walls of Bangkok’s Grand Palace. I was walking under heavy rain and squeezing my way through the crowd of black-garbed Thai mourners of the recently passed King at the roadsides. Thai people adore King Bhumibol Adulyadej and it shows. As I got into the Grand Palace, I saw bus loads of tourist waiting to get in. I only have less than two hours left and paying 500 THB along with this crowd didn’t appeal to me. So I left. Then there’s Wat Pho I remember passing by earlier. I retraced my route to the back of the palace. Drenched and tired, I just wanted a nice place to sit. I was thrilled that there were less people here at Wat Pho. I paid my 50 THB entrance fee which comes with a free bottle of mineral water and went on to explore the temple grounds.
Our eyes were drawn to this bright orange complex amidst a vast field of agricultural land. For a nonsecular destination like Tomohon in North Sulawesi, whose majority of population flocks to their Cristian Churches, seeing a pagoda, a stupa and a distinct Buddhist temple in this area was almost an oddity in itself. The Vihara Buddhayana Tomohon is one of the rare place of worship for the Buddhist minority in North Sulawesi that has become an attraction by the roadside in Desa Kakaskasen III in Tomohon.
I squint my eyes as I look towards the afternoon sun. A large imposing silhouette loomed before me hiding a visage of one of the worlds sacred and impressive monuments, the Borobudur Temple (Candi Borobudur). This huge Buddhist monument, which is also listed in UNESCO’s world heritage list, almost had the same awe-factor I had when I saw Angkor Wat for the first time. I walk towards this colossal stupa with excitement to discover closely this place which name has already enchanted me for some time.
The great glory of travel, to me, is not just what I see that’s new to me in countries visited, but that in almost every one of them I change from an outsider looking in to an insider looking out.
The gentle early morning chill accompanied us as we climbed the ancient stairs of this 8th century monument. Flash lights beam on our path as we made our way on the top of the largest single Buddhist monument in the world, the Borobudur. Like the other great monuments in Southeast Asia like Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Luang Prabang in Laos or Bagan in Myanmar, Borobudur has also been one of my dream destinations. And here I am standing on its upper levels, marvelling at Borobudur under the dawn sky, waiting for the light to reveal your magnificence.
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Morning of Day 9 finds me a little sad realizing my journey in Myanmar is nearing its end in a couple more days. I moved in from my stuffy hotel to my roomarama-sponsored accommodation at Mandalay View Inn. It also gave me time to do a little backpack-keeping and chores. I also realized that I’m up to my last few kyats and needed to use my emergency funds at this time. I didn’t expect the low exchange rate when I came and I was surprised how low it got just from last week (US$1 = 740 from 780 when I arrived) when I changed money. After lunch my motorbike service came. My driver this time was Tubo since Olsen had to accompany a friend who had an accident to a hospital. I hopped on the bike, put on my helmet and we rode on to Sagaing. (more…)
From Mandalay Hill, we continued on our “US$10 Combo Ticket Free” route in Mandalay. The US$10 Combo Ticket is a government fee that can give access to several tourist sites in Mandalay. I wasn’t keen on spending on it as I’ll use it to pay for my driver instead. There are alternative sites in Mandalay that are equally good but doesn’t need that combo ticket. Like the Sandamuni Paya which is an alternative to the nearby Kuthodaw Paya. Mandalay Hill sometimes has ticket inspectors but an alternative hill is Yankin Paya. Now we’re off to two more impressive sites – a beautiful ‘teak monastery’ and the most important religious site in Mandalay.