It’s been an exciting past couple weeks exploring! I’ve had a few days off work due to public holidays and office wellness days, which are on the first Friday of every month. I think it’s really essential and beneficial to have wellness days, especially when doing humanitarian work.
The Artist’s House:
Recently, I went to the Artist’s House, otherwise known as Baan Silapin and Klong Bang Luang. The house is over 200 years old and sits right along the khlong (canal); it’s a place where people gather to enjoy drinks, food, and the community. It’s tucked away behind a few winding streets in Thonburi, Bangkok’s old capital.
There’s so much to see in the area surrounding the Artist’s House, including restaurants, shops with art and trinkets, a temple, etc. At the Artist’s House, there are portraits, paintings, and drawings decorating the main seating area. Wooden doors also open up to additional seating along the river. There’s several arts and crafts options you can choose from at the Artist’s House, like jewelry making, paint, and pottery. My friend and I decided to make bracelets, and it was so much fun! I haven’t made jewelry in so long. It was a really relaxing atmosphere. We went later in the day, but I could’ve easily spent all day there. It was a nice escape from the busyness and chaos of the center of Bangkok. It was also great to be surrounded by the water because it can be hard to find nature and greenery within the heart of Bangkok unless you go out of your way to find it. I definitely want to go back to the Artist’s House and bring any friends with me who come visit. I think it might be one of my new favorite spots in Bangkok.
There were so many cute art products to purchase, from jewelry to postcards to paintings to books. I finally bought my first elephant souvenir here! I found a tiny stuffed elephant with cats printed on it and knew it was the one. It’ll be a nice keepsake for me to have and remember my time in Bangkok by.
Wat Kai and Ayutthaya:
Wat Phra Si Sanphet, Ayutthaya, was built in 1350 as the second capital of the Siamese Kingdom. The city was attacked and burned to the ground by the Burmese army in 1767. When the capital of the restored kingdom moved and a new city was built at Bangkok, there was an effort to recreate the architectural form of Ayutthaya.
It was amazing to see what’s still intact of Ayutthaya and how it’s maintained, particularly with new plants and greenery growing on the towers.
After seeing Ayutthaya, we headed to Wat Kai, which was quite unexpected. Wat Kai is an ancient temple during the Ayutthaya Kingdom, which was also abandoned after the fall of Ayutthaya. In 1992, a group of monks founded a priest house there, and in 1997, the temple was named Wat Kai (chicken temple). There are many friendly wild monkeys at this temple, however it’s uncertain when they started to live here. Wat Kai itself is pretty gruesome, as it depicts a Buddhist version of hell. There are statues of people having their tongues removed, being stabbed with needles, etc. I’m still a bit unsure as to why the hell temple was built… perhaps as a warning not to perform immoral actions? There are five offenses in Buddhism which deliver the offender into naraka (hell): patricide, matricide, killing an arhat (saint), injuring the body of a buddha, and causing a division in the Buddhist community. Additionally, there are ten evil acts in Buddhism: three physical acts of killing, stealing, and sexual misconduct; the four verbal evils of lying, irresponsible speech, defamation, and duplicity; and the mental evils of greed, anger, and holding of mistaken views. This temple actually reminded me a lot of some images that I saw in an art exhibit at Asia Society Museum back in NYC called Comparative Hell: Arts of Asian Underworlds. This exhibit in particular explored ideas about judgment, punishment, and salvation after death. Exhibition artwork portrayed religious threats of fiery torture as a means to shape values and beliefs, instill virtuous behavior, and to encourage atonement for sins.
This was certainly an interesting and macabre temple to see, but I was especially excited to see the wild monkeys. I’d never seen monkeys out and about like this before, and it was pretty incredible. It was so entertaining to watch the monkeys, and there were even little baby monkeys tottering around.