The year was 1954, and a large plaster Bhudda statue was being moved to a new temple after it’s current site was purchased by a western corporation. A small crane was called in to move the piece. As the winches and ropes strained against the weight, the crane began to topple over. The statue hadn’t budged an inch.
A gleam of light was seen in a crack in the surface. On further excavation, it was discovered that the statue was composed of five and a half tons of solid gold, covered in a quarter inch of mansonry plaster.
Historians have postulated that a group of monks, facing imminent death from an invading Burmese army, had disguised the statue to conceal its worth. Perhaps they hoped to recover it in their next reincarnation, but the statue nonetheless remained a secret for a few centuries.
A monk told me this story in the statue’s new home, a suitably grand temple in Bangkok. It was hot with no air conditioning, but he sold me some bottled holy water, which was thirst-quenchingly delicious.
Thailand was never colonised by any western power, and remains uniquely Thai. It’s 95% Bhuddist. The lowest circle in Bhuddist hell is reserved for those who harm Monks, the Monarch, or their parents. Don’t sit next to a Monk on the train, especially if you are a woman. Tourist tat, like pillows with the Buudda’s face on, are treated with disdain -the Bhudda is not viewed as entertainment.
The feet are the ‘lowest part of the body’ and showing your soles to someone is a grave insult. Insulting the royal family is a terrible crime here, as is defacing anything with the kings face on. So stepping on money is a huge deal.
But superstitions aside, Thailand is really nice. Few people cook for themselves, but most streets are full of carts preparing tasty food. I havn’t eaten a meal here yet, I just graze on snacks all day. People don’t stare or treat westerners as an ATM, which is cool. I need to relax the poker face I developed in India.
I also bought presents! But postage is £50 a kilo, so I’m carrying them with me for now. I’ll try and find a European on their way home who’s willing to play postman.
Top tip – Don’t try a Durian fruit. It’s a weird taste mix of custard, garlic and rotten eggs. They are banned on the tube in case they make other passengers ill. I tried some earlier and lost my appitite for a full day.