Wat Arun was one of those temples I saw in the guide book and I knew that I had to visit. I was intrigued by the look of the temple, which I now know is done in the Khmer style (a la Angkor Wat), and I wanted to climb to the top to see the incredible views of Bangkok from the top.
I honestly was not impressed with Bangkok the first day we were there. The traffic was overwhelming, the city was huge and modern, and while the Grand Palace was gold and opulent it just was not what I was expecting. After a day though I was able to come to grips with the city more and was up for more exploring. Wat Arun was on the top of my list and it was the first thing we saw our third day in Bangkok after a dish of Pad Thai across the river. The view of the temple was imposing as we stepped onto the rickety dock which led us to the temple.
The first set of steps up Wat Arun are deceptively easy but as you look up you can see the increasing steepness of the steps to climb to the top of the temple of the rising sun. Wat Arun is named after the Hindu god Aruna who is represented as the rays of the rising sun. I like that Buddha was just serenely watching on as we sweated and hauled our asses up the temple. The temple was so high that Christopher, my best friend and terrified of heights, did not accompany Alex and I.
The view from the top of Wat Arun was worth the hike up. Bangkok goes on forever!
Once you reach the top of Wat Arun, the central prang, you can see the ladders that reach to the very top of the temple which symbolizes Mount Meru, the center of all physical, metaphysical and spiritual universes. We clearly were not on the right path to be able to reach the center of all universes.
Unfortunately once you go up you have to go back down and my skirt did not want to cooperate with allowing me to head back down easily. So beware if there is even a bit of a breeze and you are wearing a skirt it will not be easy to climb back down these insanely steep steps.
Wat Arun is a temple that was definitely worth the entrance fee and I am glad that we paid it. It helped change my view (literally) of the city and I learned a very important lesson, do not wear a loose wavy skirt when you decide to climb a very steep temple even if it does cover your knees.
Ahh the things you learn in Asia….. Have you been to Bangkok? What are your thoughts on the city and Wat Arun?
Golden Gate Park on a sunny Sunday afternoon is quite nice to hang out in and relax. The park is large and a great place to go for a walk and explore. This past weekend though the park was invaded by the music of bluegrass. The patrons of San Francisco and people from all around California flooded the lawns of Golden Gate Park for the best festival of the year. Hardly Strictly Bluegrass is a festival comprised of folk, bluegrass, and even some gypsy punk bands throughout the weekend. Now sadly we were not able to go the entire weekend due to work conflicts and Sunday was the only day that we both had off to go explore this free festival.
Now if any of you have been to an event or festival in San Francisco you know that they attract some crazy characters. With a festival like this you are not going to find your stereotypical Hipster, but you will find your classic San Franciscan dirty hippie and plenty of them, also of course your standard crustie, and many more characters all drinking beer while enjoying the music. Ashley and I are not the earliest of risers so we made it to the festival around mid afternoon. We came prepared with two 6 packs in the backpack and a couple of flasks filled with Irish whiskey, all prepared for a good afternoon with friends.
I would recommend this festival for anybody who likes bluegrass and anybody really who likes music and the outdoors. For the first part it is free, it last all weekend long and they always have a great lineup of bands. Now there are 6 stages spread out across the festival ground with music always playing. Ashley and I were able to start out the day with some classic bluegrass from Tim O’Brien & Darrell Scott. Laying on the grass with your shoes off and cold beer going down easily is always fun and put it with the picking of a banjo and guitar duet and life seems pretty carefree. After putting a few beers down and a couple of sliders, oh and talking to a guy who practices Dudeism, the number one religion from The Big Lebowski, it was time to move on to the main show.
We met up with Ashley’s friend Jessica and a few of her friends and headed over to another stage for a band I never heard of, but they rocked the house and everybody was there to see them. Their name was Gogol Bordello! They absolutely rocked the park with their Gypsy/Punk style music. They had us all up and dancing around, drinking our beer and whiskey. Everybody was going crazy during their set. It was a blast and worth the trip to see it all.
Now I wished I could have gone all weekend. My liver is thankful I am sure, that I only went for one day but I wish we could have seen more of it. The two bands I saw though were worth it and made our weekend. I would recommend this festival to everybody and can definitely bet that I will be back for the whole weekend next year.
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There is nothing as beautiful then strolling through the parks in Rome. In the middle of one park in particular there is a treasure that seems to hide amongst the greenery and fountains. Villa Borghese is one of the most beautiful parks in Rome, which hides a collection of art that one might not realize. The Borghese Gallery is to me one of the top art galleries you can see in Rome next to the Vatican Museum. It is not too hard to find in the park but if you do become disoriented just ask someone and they will gladly direct you in the right direction.
When you enter the gallery you will stand in awe of the mosaics that show scenes of gladiators, elaborate ceilings and the vastness of the room itself but take a deep breath and let it sink in. There is a lot more to this gallery then just the first room. You can see the sculptures and paintings of Bernini as well as many others. Bernini was not the reason I took this trip to the gallery however, I came for Caravaggio. As I walked along the rooms, I came upon what I was seeking. The room has six beautiful works of Caravaggio, one of them being his famous “David and Goliath,” which is a haunting piece of a young boy holding up the severed head of Goliath. Fun fact about this painting the head of Goliath is a self-portrait of Caravaggio himself. Among his other paintings are “St. Jerome,” “John the Baptist,” and “Boy with a Basket of Fruit.” The lighting in the room works very well with Caravaggio chiaroscuro style. As a side note, chiaroscuro is the style of using dramatic contrast between light and dark. This style gives dark reality to his paintings.
As I said before there are many Bernini works in this gallery, like his sculpture of the “David.” The sculpture is the first to show David in the process of throwing the stone. You can also see “Goat Amalthea” a sculpture that Bernini completed when he was thirteen. There are also three painting that Bernini painted.
This gallery is large and is filled with history and beauty and you only have two hours to see it all because they limit the time and the number of people, but don’t rush, you have plenty of time to see it all. I recommend taking the Dark Rome tour of this gallery. The tour guides in this company are extremely knowledgeable and you will walk out with a feeling of a newfound appreciation of the arts and maybe a degree in history. If you’re not that type of person and just want wander around and take your own time, this gallery will also appease your taste. You can book a Dark Rome tour visit their website, http://www.darkrome.com/.
If you would like any more information on the Borghese Gallery or reserve tickets (which I recommend) you can check out their official website http://www.galleriaborghese.it. The site will give you all the info you will need to experience this impressive collection of art.