You greet one another here by putting your hands together near your chin as if in prayer and giving a single, gentle nod of the head. There. How many of you just tried it? And so I greeted my taxi driver, a native of Bangkok named "Richard" (Right. And I'm the queen of Siam), who picked me up at "Meester Sam's" house and drove me to the "Ancient City," which is not ancient at all. Rather, it is several acres of reproductions of buildings, temples, stupas, stone structures, sanctuaries and traditional houses that reflect the history of Thailand from all the regions in the country.
"Richard" explained that there are 50 districts and 74 provinces but I'm not sure if that is in Bangkok or all of Thailand. At any rate, as he drove me along the asphalt paths, stopping at the signs in front of the various sights, he explained in greater detail what I was seeing and shared some of the history of his country.
We saw a replica of the Grand Palace where the ashes of the kings are buried and which Jay and I will see the authentic version of when he is here. I don't know about the real thing yet, but the reproduction is gaudy and gorgeous--with its guilded key hole doorways, floor to ceiling murals and wall decorations in stunning, vivid detail, depicting events of governmental, military, religious and diplomatic nature and the traditional way of Thai life.
Which reminds me. The elephant is the national symbol of Thailand just as the bald eagle is ours. It was their tank in wartime, their backhoe in construction, their transportation through rugged terrain and their semis, loaded with men, tools, food and equipment taking them the places they needed to go.
Every white elephant born, presumably because of their rarity, automatically belongs to the king. He has a white elephant farm of sorts near his palace. Pat was telling me that one of the kings had sent one of these rare, valuable elephants to one of our presidents (Lincoln?) as a gesture of good will. Of course, the president didn't know quite what to do with it and that's where the expression of a "white-elephant gift" came from. Interesting, huh?
We entered the replica of the Wat Prom Min temple that's in Northern Thailand which houses a great, gilded, four-sided Buddha sitting on a raised platform. "Richard" explained that you always walk with your right side facing the Buddha, because to walk with the left side facing him it is bad luck. He also said that the need you bring before him dictates which side you go to in order to offer your prayers. For example, one side was for asking for children if you haven't been able to have a baby, another for financial prosperity, another for success with your exams and so on. There were incense, candles and fresh flowers laid at his feet.
Back outside we saw a giant sleeping Buddha, probably 100 feet long, laying on its side with his hands folded under his head and his eyes closed. If you pray to the sleeping Buddha, you are praying for peace for yourself and your family.
The steep roof lines, curved points and elongated spikes on the corners of the buildings so common in Oriental architecture are thought to keep the evil spirits away. Sam presumed the other day that they must have soft bottoms! I found it fascinating that even the architecture has been heavily influenced for centuries by their certain belief in evil spirits and mystical protection from harm.
As we were walking along I saw for the millionth time someone quite tenaciously picking their nose in public. It's not considered impolite or even gross here. But it's very strange for me to look over and see a beautiful girl or striking young man and the next thing you know they're digging for gold. Or anybody for that matter! Ewwww! I am struck anew that this is simply a cultural difference. But like the drip-dry squatty-potty, not one I plan on taking back home with me.
As we were leaving we came across another replica of a king's palace of roughly 800 years ago. The sign explained that the people lived happily in the vast kingdom and had a close, fatherly relationship with the king who treated them kindly. He was so kind that he had a bell hung outside the entrance to the court and the people could come and ring the bell and the king would do his best to meet their need.
Of course, I immediately thought of our King! We don't have to use a bell, we simply have to speak. It's called prayer. And sometimes we don't even have to do that because Scripture tells us, "He knows what we need before we ask." And He is kinder than any earthly king with resources beyond what any person, even Solomon, could amass, which He willingly offers us. Need wisdom? All you have to do is ask! Daily bread? No problem! Help with spiritual warfare? Done! The keys to the Kingdom? Laid at your feet.
I love it when the traditions and rituals of our own culture and others reflect the limitless aspects of God. Again, as I said before, there is evidence everywhere that, "The whole earth is full of His glory!" Truly every person is without excuse because God has used so many creative means to show us His Person and His heart.
My prayer is that He will show it to you in a new way today! 'Till tomorrow.