Not far from Bangkok's main business and entertainment district – and close to our usual hotel - is the impressive temple known as Wat Hua Lampong. This temple is a focal point for the Thai community who live and work around upper Silom and Surawongse Roads. Although it is not especially significant in comparison to the more famous of Bangkok’s many beautiful religious buildings, Wat Hua Lampong is very lively and a wonderful place to observe a 'real' working temple.
This temple was extensively refurbished in 1996 to honour the 50th anniversary on the throne of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, (also known as King Rama IX). The royal seal of the Kanchanapisek Year (as it was called) features extensively throughout the temple's ornate decorations. The seal depicts two elephants flanking a multi-tiered umbrella.
Whenever Tricia and I visit Bangkok and stay at our chosen hotel, we always take the short walk around to Wat Hua Lampong, where we usually discover something that we hadn’t noticed before. On this particular occasion in December 2006, we came to a halt at the bottom of the steps in order to remove our shoes before entering the main part of the temple. At the top of the steps there are several small shrines outside the doors, where people will often stop to pray. Glimpsing upwards, I noticed the couple pictured above. The husband was at his devotions in front of a shrine, while his wife waited patiently for him. Her upward glance and sincere expression, which were held for some time, suggested that she too was at prayer, but in her own private way.
Thai people are very devout and show no embarrassment about praying at spirit houses or shrines in the street or within buildings. I have even witnessed a waitress at prayer in front of a small spirit house in a bar full of customers. The sincerity of their religious beliefs has nothing but my utmost respect.