Obama gets taste of Thailand at Buddhist temple
07-24-2018    AP
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U.S.&nbsp;President&nbsp;Barack&nbsp;Obama,&nbsp;left,&nbsp;and&nbsp;U.S.&nbsp;Secretary&nbsp;of&nbsp;State&nbsp;Hillary&nbsp;Rodham&nbsp;Clinton,&nbsp;rear,&nbsp;tour&nbsp;the&nbsp;Viharn&nbsp;of&nbsp;the&nbsp;Reclining&nbsp;Buddha&nbsp;with&nbsp;Chaokun&nbsp;Suthee&nbsp;Thammanuwat,&nbsp;the&nbsp;Dean,&nbsp;Faculty&nbsp;of&nbsp;Buddhism&nbsp;Assistant&nbsp;to&nbsp;the&nbsp;Abbot&nbsp;of&nbsp;Wat&nbsp;Phra&nbsp;Chetuphon&nbsp;at&nbsp;the&nbsp;Wat&nbsp;Pho&nbsp;Royal&nbsp;Monastery&nbsp;in&nbsp;Bangkok,&nbsp;Thailand,&nbsp;Sunday,&nbsp;Nov.&nbsp;18,&nbsp;2012.&nbsp;(AP&nbsp;Photo/Carolyn&nbsp;Kaster)&nbsp;</p>
<p><strong>BANGKOK&nbsp;(AP)</strong>&nbsp;Leaving&nbsp;behind&nbsp;chants&nbsp;of&nbsp;¡®¡®Obama,&nbsp;Obama¡¯¡¯&nbsp;by&nbsp;adoring&nbsp;crowds&nbsp;on&nbsp;the&nbsp;streets,&nbsp;the&nbsp;president&nbsp;of&nbsp;the&nbsp;United&nbsp;States&nbsp;stepped&nbsp;into&nbsp;the&nbsp;serenity&nbsp;of&nbsp;Thailand¡¯s&nbsp;most&nbsp;famous&nbsp;temple&nbsp;compound&nbsp;to&nbsp;marvel&nbsp;at&nbsp;its&nbsp;centerpiece&nbsp;¡ª&nbsp;a&nbsp;gigantic,&nbsp;golden&nbsp;statue&nbsp;of&nbsp;a&nbsp;reclining&nbsp;Buddha&nbsp;propped&nbsp;up&nbsp;on&nbsp;one&nbsp;elbow&nbsp;before&nbsp;passing&nbsp;into&nbsp;nirvana.</p>
<p>The&nbsp;Temple&nbsp;of&nbsp;Reclining&nbsp;Buddha,&nbsp;formally&nbsp;known&nbsp;as&nbsp;Wat&nbsp;Pho,&nbsp;was&nbsp;the&nbsp;first&nbsp;stop&nbsp;on&nbsp;President&nbsp;Barack&nbsp;Obama¡¯s&nbsp;Asian&nbsp;tour&nbsp;that&nbsp;will&nbsp;also&nbsp;take&nbsp;him&nbsp;to&nbsp;Myanmar&nbsp;and&nbsp;Cambodia.&nbsp;Obama&nbsp;arrived&nbsp;at&nbsp;the&nbsp;temple,&nbsp;one&nbsp;of&nbsp;Bangkok¡¯s&nbsp;most&nbsp;famous&nbsp;tourist&nbsp;sites,&nbsp;straight&nbsp;from&nbsp;the&nbsp;airport&nbsp;after&nbsp;landing&nbsp;in&nbsp;Bangkok&nbsp;on&nbsp;Sunday.&nbsp;Visits&nbsp;to&nbsp;see&nbsp;the&nbsp;king&nbsp;and&nbsp;the&nbsp;Thai&nbsp;prime&nbsp;minister&nbsp;were&nbsp;saved&nbsp;for&nbsp;later.</p>
<p>Observing&nbsp;traditional&nbsp;custom,&nbsp;Obama&nbsp;took&nbsp;off&nbsp;his&nbsp;shoes&nbsp;as&nbsp;a&nbsp;saffron-robed&nbsp;monk&nbsp;led&nbsp;him&nbsp;and&nbsp;Secretary&nbsp;of&nbsp;State&nbsp;Hillary&nbsp;Clinton&nbsp;through&nbsp;the&nbsp;18th&nbsp;century&nbsp;temple¡¯s&nbsp;stoned&nbsp;paved&nbsp;compound&nbsp;of&nbsp;multi-colored&nbsp;spires&nbsp;and&nbsp;chapels&nbsp;with&nbsp;hundreds&nbsp;of&nbsp;gilded&nbsp;Buddha&nbsp;images.</p>
<p>But&nbsp;the&nbsp;main&nbsp;attraction&nbsp;is&nbsp;the&nbsp;reclining&nbsp;Buddha&nbsp;statue&nbsp;that&nbsp;at&nbsp;46&nbsp;meters&nbsp;(150&nbsp;feet)&nbsp;long,&nbsp;and&nbsp;15&nbsp;meters&nbsp;(50&nbsp;feet)&nbsp;high,&nbsp;stretches&nbsp;half&nbsp;the&nbsp;length&nbsp;of&nbsp;a&nbsp;football&nbsp;field.&nbsp;The&nbsp;statue&nbsp;is&nbsp;made&nbsp;of&nbsp;bricks&nbsp;and&nbsp;plaster&nbsp;and&nbsp;covered&nbsp;in&nbsp;gold&nbsp;leaf&nbsp;with&nbsp;mother-of-pearl&nbsp;inlay&nbsp;decorating&nbsp;the&nbsp;feet.</p>
<p>The&nbsp;visit&nbsp;was&nbsp;meant&nbsp;to&nbsp;give&nbsp;Obama&nbsp;a&nbsp;taste&nbsp;of&nbsp;Bangkok.&nbsp;But&nbsp;one&nbsp;thing&nbsp;Obama&nbsp;did&nbsp;not&nbsp;get&nbsp;to&nbsp;see&nbsp;as&nbsp;he&nbsp;sped&nbsp;through&nbsp;Bangkok&nbsp;was&nbsp;the&nbsp;city¡¯s&nbsp;infamous&nbsp;traffic&nbsp;jams.&nbsp;All&nbsp;roads&nbsp;leading&nbsp;to&nbsp;Wat&nbsp;Pho&nbsp;and&nbsp;his&nbsp;other&nbsp;destinations&nbsp;were&nbsp;blocked&nbsp;and&nbsp;cleared&nbsp;of&nbsp;cars&nbsp;as&nbsp;part&nbsp;of&nbsp;security&nbsp;measures&nbsp;that&nbsp;included&nbsp;bomb&nbsp;squads&nbsp;and&nbsp;shutting&nbsp;the&nbsp;temple&nbsp;to&nbsp;the&nbsp;public&nbsp;hours&nbsp;in&nbsp;advance.</p>
<p>Camera-clad&nbsp;tourists&nbsp;who&nbsp;came&nbsp;to&nbsp;visit&nbsp;the&nbsp;temple&nbsp;or&nbsp;glimpse&nbsp;the&nbsp;American&nbsp;leader&nbsp;were&nbsp;initially&nbsp;dismayed.&nbsp;They&nbsp;were&nbsp;kept&nbsp;hundreds&nbsp;of&nbsp;meters&nbsp;(yards)&nbsp;away&nbsp;as&nbsp;his&nbsp;armored&nbsp;Cadillac&nbsp;pulled&nbsp;to&nbsp;a&nbsp;stop&nbsp;inside&nbsp;a&nbsp;white&nbsp;tent&nbsp;erected&nbsp;at&nbsp;the&nbsp;temple¡¯s&nbsp;entrance,&nbsp;which&nbsp;obscured&nbsp;him&nbsp;from&nbsp;sight.</p>
<p>But&nbsp;those&nbsp;who&nbsp;waited&nbsp;an&nbsp;hour&nbsp;for&nbsp;his&nbsp;temple&nbsp;tour&nbsp;to&nbsp;end&nbsp;were&nbsp;elated.&nbsp;A&nbsp;smiling&nbsp;Obama&nbsp;waved&nbsp;from&nbsp;the&nbsp;backseat&nbsp;of&nbsp;his&nbsp;car,&nbsp;which&nbsp;drove&nbsp;slowly&nbsp;alongside&nbsp;cheering&nbsp;crowds&nbsp;as&nbsp;he&nbsp;headed&nbsp;to&nbsp;a&nbsp;royal&nbsp;audience&nbsp;with&nbsp;Thailand¡¯s&nbsp;revered,&nbsp;ailing&nbsp;monarch,&nbsp;84-year-old&nbsp;King&nbsp;Bhumibol&nbsp;Adulyadej.</p>
<p>¡®¡®Yes!&nbsp;I&nbsp;saw&nbsp;him!&nbsp;And&nbsp;he&nbsp;was&nbsp;waving&nbsp;at&nbsp;us!¡¯¡¯&nbsp;said&nbsp;72-year-old&nbsp;American&nbsp;tourist&nbsp;Elizabeth&nbsp;Simon&nbsp;visiting&nbsp;Thailand&nbsp;with&nbsp;her&nbsp;74-year-old&nbsp;sister.&nbsp;They&nbsp;were&nbsp;at&nbsp;the&nbsp;beach&nbsp;in&nbsp;Pattaya&nbsp;two&nbsp;hours&nbsp;away&nbsp;but&nbsp;rushed&nbsp;to&nbsp;Bangkok&nbsp;just&nbsp;to&nbsp;see&nbsp;him.&nbsp;¡®¡®I'm&nbsp;so&nbsp;thrilled&nbsp;that&nbsp;he&nbsp;won&nbsp;the&nbsp;election.&nbsp;When&nbsp;we&nbsp;heard&nbsp;he&nbsp;was&nbsp;coming,&nbsp;we&nbsp;decided&nbsp;to&nbsp;get&nbsp;here.¡¯¡¯</p>
<p>Parts&nbsp;of&nbsp;the&nbsp;temple&nbsp;date&nbsp;to&nbsp;Thai&nbsp;King&nbsp;Rama&nbsp;I&nbsp;in&nbsp;the&nbsp;1700s.&nbsp;The&nbsp;king¡¯s&nbsp;ashes&nbsp;are&nbsp;kept&nbsp;beneath&nbsp;the&nbsp;pedestal&nbsp;of&nbsp;one&nbsp;of&nbsp;the&nbsp;huge&nbsp;seated&nbsp;Buddha&nbsp;statues&nbsp;in&nbsp;the&nbsp;complex,&nbsp;which&nbsp;is&nbsp;located&nbsp;along&nbsp;the&nbsp;banks&nbsp;of&nbsp;the&nbsp;Chao&nbsp;Phraya&nbsp;river&nbsp;near&nbsp;the&nbsp;Grand&nbsp;Palace.&nbsp;It&nbsp;is&nbsp;in&nbsp;the&nbsp;quiet,&nbsp;historic&nbsp;old&nbsp;quarter&nbsp;of&nbsp;Bangkok,&nbsp;outside&nbsp;the&nbsp;skyscraper-and-traffic&nbsp;clogged&nbsp;downtown.</p>
<p>¡®¡®It¡¯s&nbsp;meaningful&nbsp;that&nbsp;Obama&nbsp;came&nbsp;straight&nbsp;to&nbsp;Wat&nbsp;Pho,¡¯¡¯&nbsp;said&nbsp;Pradab&nbsp;Supradit,&nbsp;a&nbsp;67-year-old&nbsp;Thai&nbsp;grandmother&nbsp;who&nbsp;took&nbsp;a&nbsp;bus,&nbsp;a&nbsp;river&nbsp;ferry&nbsp;and&nbsp;then&nbsp;walked&nbsp;up&nbsp;roads&nbsp;closed&nbsp;for&nbsp;security&nbsp;hoping&nbsp;to&nbsp;glimpse&nbsp;the&nbsp;man&nbsp;or&nbsp;just&nbsp;see&nbsp;his&nbsp;convoy.&nbsp;¡®¡®It&nbsp;will&nbsp;bring&nbsp;him&nbsp;blessings&nbsp;because&nbsp;temples&nbsp;are&nbsp;at&nbsp;the&nbsp;center&nbsp;of&nbsp;Thai&nbsp;people¡¯s&nbsp;hearts.¡¯¡¯</p>
<p>¡®¡®I&nbsp;want&nbsp;to&nbsp;see&nbsp;him&nbsp;with&nbsp;my&nbsp;own&nbsp;eyes,¡¯¡¯&nbsp;she&nbsp;said.&nbsp;¡®¡®I&nbsp;like&nbsp;Obama&nbsp;because&nbsp;of&nbsp;his&nbsp;charisma&nbsp;and&nbsp;personality.&nbsp;He¡¯s&nbsp;a&nbsp;smart&nbsp;guy.&nbsp;I&nbsp;love&nbsp;the&nbsp;way&nbsp;he&nbsp;talks.¡¯¡¯£¨By&nbsp;THANYARAT&nbsp;DOKSONE£©</p>
<p>Associated&nbsp;Press&nbsp;writers&nbsp;Jocelyn&nbsp;Gecker&nbsp;and&nbsp;Todd&nbsp;Pitman&nbsp;contributed&nbsp;to&nbsp;this&nbsp;report.</p>
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