Travelling the World Piece by Piece: Day 2 – The Marble Temple

The Marble Temple

It is day two of our world tour and our first overseas destination is the Marble Temple in Thailand. Thailand is one of the most popular tourist destinations in South East Asia, noted for its beautiful beaches and vibrant culture. It has a population of around 70 million but many still live in the rural rice-growing regions. Thailand is also home to one of the most active buddhist populations in the world. 

The Marble Temple, also known as Wat Benchamabophit, is one of Bangkok’s most well-known buddhist temples. Built of Italian marble, the temple was commissioned by King Chulalongkorn and construction  began in 1899. Its high gables and elaborate finials are apparently quite typical of the ornate architectural style that is common to Bangkok. At the time of King Chulalongkorn’s reign, Thailand was still known as Siam and the name change only occurred in 1932 when Thailand became a constitutional monarchy. The history of Siam is quite unique, because it was the only country in South East Asia which avoided colonisation by a foreign power.  King Chulalongkorn’s father, King Mongkut was instrumental in maintaining Siam’s independence.

King Mongkut actually spent a considerable part of his life as a buddhist monk. He also was a renowned scholar, learning a number of western languages and it was this knowledge of western ways that helped him to protect Siam’s independence when he later ascended the throne. King Mongkut was immortalised on stage and screen through the musical “The King and I”. The musical was based on a novel by Margaret Landon called Anna and the King of Siam, which in turn was based on the memoirs of Anna Leonowens. Anna had been employed by King Mongkut as a governess for his children during the 1860s. Mongkut was determined that his children receive a western education so that they would be familiar with western ways as well. His son, King Chulalongkorn followed in his father’s footsteps, safeguarding and modernising Siam, and earned the title The Great Beloved King.

The Marble Temple is just as elaborate on the inside, decorated with lacquer, gold and numerous statues of Buddha. There is also a museum so it would definitely be a place to visit when in Thailand. Did you know that the national symbol of Thailand is the elephant? Sadly, their numbers have plummeted due to poaching but stay tuned for our next location which is a site rich in biodiversity and environmental significance.

Happy Travelling    

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