Defying the forecasted thunderstorms, I hopped on my motorcycle and made the 40km ride west of Bangkok to Puttamonthon Park. I tried to get an early start so, in case the weather forecast turned out to be correct, I would miss and potential storms. The morning traffic was ‘light’ which was a nice change of pace and the cool morning air made the ride even more enjoyable. I buzzed passed the zoo and parliament buildings as I headed over the Chao Phraya River and rode out of the city. Construction of the park, commissioned by HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej, began in 1957. This happened to be a significant year in Buddhist culture because it commemorated the 2,500th year of Buddhism. After 21 years of construction the park was finally complete and now is an oasis of peace.
After about an hour on the bike I pulled up to the entrance of the park. The view from the street sheds little light on what actually lies inside. Once inside, and riding along the winding road, signs pointed out the many exhibits and areas the park has to offer: meditation halls, a bamboo forest, a mango orchard and a Buddhist museum. I found my way to the heart of the park, parked my bike and began to admire what I had come to see. Facing east and standing 52ft tall is an enormous Buddha image made of bronze. The prominent stature dwarfs its surroundings and completely captures your attention. Surrounding the Buddha and nestled amongst green lawns, a small river and a canopy of trees are four monuments symbolizing the main events in the life of the Buddha.
The first monument is the Birth of the Buddha. Buddhists believe that immediately after his birth the Buddha walked seven steps on lotus flowers. Here, seven stones are placed in a circle and each is carved in the shape of a lotus blossom. Also carved on top of each stone is a footprint signifying a step taken by the Buddha.
Second is the monument to Enlightenment of the Buddha. It is said Buddha reached Enlightenment while meditating under a Bodhi Tree. A tree has been planted here symbolizing Enlightenment. The tree is wrapped with sashes to show reverence as well as respect. A quote by the Buddha which says “to worship the tree is the same as you worship me” really captures the significance.
The third monument is to the Teaching of the Buddha. Here a Wheel of the Buddha stands with five seats seated before it, referring to the first sermon of the Buddha. The five seats represent the first five monks of Buddhism.
Built on the bank of a lake in the park is the Temple of Marble Pali Canon, also called the Wiharn. Here 1,418 marble slabs, intricately carved with golden Thai characters, detail the sacred scriptures of Buddhism. Lining the walls, just below the ceiling, paintings depict different scenes of Buddhist faith. The style is an ancient Buddhist art reminiscent of what can be found in older Temples throughout the country. There are easily a hundred or more paintings along the walls and losing track of time while walking through observing and enjoying these works of art is not uncommon.
The Park hasn’t made its way onto many of the popular tourists routes yet. In fact, while I was there I was the only non-Thai I saw exploring the grounds. Regardless, it’s a perfect place to go if you’re looking for a peaceful place to escape and relax for a day. There’s a rather good chance you may have the place all to yourself, unless you visit during a Buddhist Festival.