Happy new year! Hoping for a better year ahead, hopefully a year full of travel! For the first post of this new year, I would like to write about a place which was actually one of the first attractions which I visited during my work assignment in Bangkok. As we all know, Bangkok hosts hundreds of different temples all around the city with various sizes and level of familiarity. One of these temples is Wat Traimit or better known as the Temple of the Golden Buddha. This temple is located at the end of Yaowarat Road in the Chinatown district of Bangkok, not far from the Bangkok Railway Station and the Hua Lamphong MRT Station. Wat Traimit used to be less known before the Golden Buddha was relocated to this location in 1955. Since then, a new 4-storey marble building had been constructed in 2010 to host this majestic Golden Buddha in the main hall on the top floor.
So what is this Golden Buddha anyway? The 3-meters tall, 5.5 tonnes statue of Buddha image in this temple is called the Golden Buddha because it is made of gold. No, it is not painted in gold or covered with gold, but the Golden Buddha is actually made of solid gold! So impressive that it was included in the Guinness Book of World Records in 1991. The substantial value of this statue was actually not discovered until 1955 when it was relocated to Wat Traimit. Originally the statue was covered with stucco, and this plaster was cracked to reveal the golden content when it was accidentally dropped during the relocation. The history of this discovery and the actual pieces of the plaster can be found the the temple’s museum on the third floor.
Meanwhile in the second floor, we can find Yaowarat Chinatown Heritage Center. This museum showcases the history of Chinese community in Bangkok’s Chinatown, starting from the early influx of immigrants from mainland China and the progress of their integration. Upon entrance, there is a holographic video showing an old man telling a story to his grandson about the King Ananda Mahidol, and his younger brother, the following King Bhumibol, who visited Yaowarat in the 1940s. Other exhibits shows old artifacts and history of the chinese community in Thailand. There is also a model of the buildings and roads of old Chinatown. There are also life size models and a number of scaled model dioramas which depict life in Chinatown during those early days.
The last part of the museum exhibit the modern Chinatown and the relationship between the Chinese and Thai government. Going through the museum, we can tell how close the ties between chinese community and the Thai people in this Kingdom. From the top of this temple, we can already see Yaowarat Road and the Chinatown. And at a busy roundabout heading to Yaowarat Road, we can found a massive Chinatown Gate. This gate was built in 1999 and represent the western entrance to the Chinatown district in Bangkok. If you come to the area to visit Chinatown, better spare a short time to take photos in this spot, because what is Chinatown without this very familiar gate?