TEMPLES and religion are at the "centre of the minds" of people in Thailand.
World Travel Service tour guide Kris Sangkrajang impressed with his knowledge and understanding of the two ancient religions of Hinduism and Buddhism as he introduced me to the capital - Bangkok.
"Buddhism and Hinduism are two sides of the same coin," Kris said as he elaborated on their intertwining philosophies.
There are an estimated 32,000 Buddhist temples in Thailand with about 400 in Bangkok.
One charming feature is the countless array of shrines in the city streets. The building styles vary, but they ward off negative influences, as worshippers turn to the shrines with different objectives in mind.
Despite the fact that the majority of Thais are Buddhist, there are a substantial number of Hindu places of worship and they are all impressive.
Well-known is the Erawan Shrine, an elaborately-decorated Hindu memorial that houses a statue of Phra Phrom, the Thai representation of the Hindu God of creation - Brahma.
This is only one side of an affinity shared by Thais and Indians.
Thailand is not only the number-one location for shooting Bollywood films, but it is also fast becoming the treasured hotspot for filming Indian television commercials.
Realising this correlation only further enhanced my travel experiences - since I was born in India.
Estimates are that more than 60,000 people of Indian origin (notably from Punjab, Gujarat and a small Tamil community) live mainly in the cities of Thailand. I met some of them in Bangkok.
After a comfortable stay at the Cape House Serviced Apartments in the heart of Ploenchit Road, I set out for a little corner of Bangkok where a Sikh temple and a market evoked nostalgia of everything travellers associate with the Indian subcontinent.
Seeking spiritual comfort began at the Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha in Chakraphet Road, Pra Nakhorn.
Among the endless throng of worshippers was Daviner Bedi - a long-time parishioner and second generation Thai-Indian, who spoke about the gurdwara serving as a venue for both prayers and fellowship.
Selfless dedication from devotees ensures the communal kitchen is constantly manned to feed the congregation.
Call it a sacred food service or divine dining, but when you partake of the langar, it is a free meal that comes with an extra special blessing.
Thais of Indian origin follow traditions in their daily life, still living together as an extended family.
Ultimately, Bangkok draws its unique flavour from its people who are easy-going, friendly and amenable. They possess a rare tolerance that instils the city with a real sense of freedom. At times it's hectic, yet what is reflected is Bangkok's good-natured acceptance of life with all its quirkiness.
Thailand's "City of Angels" is a captivating place where possibilities are limited only by one's imagination.
Good to know about Thailand
- Contact the Tourism Authority of Thailand, Sydney, on (02) 9247 7549 or visit Tourism Thailand.
How to fly:
- Thai Airways International flies 42 flights a week between Australia and Thailand
- Check out: Thai Airways.
Where to stay
- Cape House Serviced Apartments
- 43 Soi Langsuan, Ploenchit Road, Lumpini, Pathumwan, Bangkok 10330
- Tel: (66) 02 6587 444 Fax: (66) 02 6587 4889
- E-mail: email@example.com
- Visit: Cape House.
The writer was a guest of the Tourism Authority of Thailand with accommodation hosted by Kasemkij Group.
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