September 9, 2007

Larry Sterlin - Memorial in Bangkok

Larry Oid Sterlin
Born in Searcy, Arkansas. May 2nd 1940.
Died in Bangkok, Thailand. September 5th 2007.

Larry was a loving husband to Margie and doting father to Michelle and Heather. His sister Ruby Shade (nee Sterlin) lives in Lawrence, Kansas.

Memorial Services were held in Bangkok on September 7th and 8th, in a Buddhist temple.

Wat Benchamabophit, also called the Marble Temple. One of the major temples, only the Thai royals can hold ceremonies in the grounds. You can see the oval Royal crest hanging over the entrance. Larry was beloved and respected by the royal family, and they broke tradition in allowing his memorial to be held there.
When we told a Thai man where the memorial was, he said "Even Thai people are not allowed to use the temple. It's an enormous honour for a foreigner to be recognised in this way. He must have been a good person who did good things for Thailand."

Margie and Michelle on their way in.

Steve stops to get a cold drink from a vendor outside the temple.

Drinks are poured into a plastic bag with handles. They served beetroot juice or green tea inside the memorial hall, and Steve preferred Pepsi.

Margie stopped several times to comfort her grieving friends.

Entrance to the memorial hall. Huge wreaths lined the entryway and the outdoor seating area. Wreaths from all the companies that Larry worked with were placed outside...

...while wreaths from friends and royalty were placed inside.

A wonderful photograph of Larry was the centerpiece of the hall. A swag of fragrant flowers was wrapped around the easel, and a small offering of incense and candles was placed on the rug.

A gold cord connected Larry's picture and ran behind the shrine, to end in a pile of gold cloth that figured in the ceremonies performed by the four Buddhist monks. It symbolically allowed Larry to receive the merits that the ceremonies bestowed.

Everyone wanted to be photographed with Larry. Here Margie and Michelle sit with Karen, his administrative assistant who worked for him in Singapore. Karen is a good family friend.

Here is Werawat, Larry's chauffeur who worked for him for eleven years.

The small Buddhist shrine that was lit each night before the prayers began.

Many people stayed for both nights of the memorial.

A wreath from the Thai princess who thought highly of Larry. It was delivered by the Palace on the first night of the memorial services. The flourish at the top represents her signature. It was given pride of place next to his picture. Larry would cook hamburgers for the princess at his residence during his famous 'American comfort food' cookouts.

John Shenk (wearing the armband) was a good friend and business associate of Larry's. John organized the memorial, taking care of every single detail from booking hotels to placing flowers in the right place.
Larry and John met fifty years ago in Lawrence, on the KU basketball team (John was the manager). A twist of fate brought them together in Asia and they ended up working for the same company, Covanta. John was with Larry when he died.

Larry's friends and business associates flew in from all over the world. China, Japan, India, the Phillipines, the US...hundreds of people came to pay their respects, and Margie and Michelle hugged and spoke to every one of them.

Tired, sad -- but strong and composed. Larry would have been very proud of you.

August 12, 2007

Short visit to Bangkok August 6-8

Local transport. A cheap, hair-raising and exhaust fume infused ride.

Wat Phra Kaew, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. The buddha statue (of course, no photos allowed in the temple) is considered one of the most sacred in the country. It's almost impossible to see as it sits encased in glass on a pedestal near the dim ceiling. Hundreds more buddhas are arranged on tiers below. The ceiling and walls of the temple are painted with magnificent gilt murals and repeat design that is breathtaking. One needs to be suitably clothed - as a mark of respect, arms,legs and feet must be covered, and one must not point their feet toward the buddha.

One of the hundreds of statues and icons on the outside of the temple.

Exterior of the temple.

Before you enter a temple you must remove your shoes. At Wat Pra Kaew you are invited to purify yourself by dipping a white lotus in water and sprinkling the water on your head. This reminds me of the Catholic custom of blessing oneself with holy water upon entering a church.

Gilt murals run the length of the walkways surrounding the temple. They were being repainted when I was there. You can see this one is only half done.

Paints, brushes and gold leaf waiting for the artisan to return from lunch.

One of the hundred minor temple buildings in the grounds of Wat Phra Kaew. The Grand Palace (ancient ceremonial home of the Thai King) is right next door, but no photos were allowed inside the palace rooms, and it was raining, so no exteriors, sorry.

The local food in a nearby market was really good.

I've never been heckled to buy fruit before. I was fleeced by an old lady who made me pay twice the going rate for three pieces of durian. It turned out to be really dry and not very good. So I gave her 'The Eye' and a noisome burp before moving on.

The streets between the markets and the pier where I boarded my boat are lined with people selling strange things spread out on mats. Some people are so desperate, they are sellng things they have obviously rummaged out of the trash. One person had an assortment of old crumpled magazines, worn out baby bottles and old shoes to sell.

One man was selling an impressive and nasty-looking collection of knives.

Beautifully arranged slippers made me smile.

And there were many vendors selling religious relics and talismans.

The local coffee man. I had to sneak this as the Thais do not like their photo taken.

Another important temple, Wat Po. This houses the largest reclining buddha in the world. And you thought yours truly had a big head!

The massive reclining buddha statue. You see his toes here. There are sutras inscribed in mother-of-pearl on the soles of his feet.

For a donation of 20 Baht (less than US$1, you may take a small bowl of Thai pennies and drop them into this line of begging bowls. You are supposed to drop them in fours. Clinkclinkclinkclink....clinkclinkclinkclink...the sound of the coins hitting the bowl helps one meditate.

An offering left at the side of the chubby buddha below. This little man is about two inches tall and looks like a Thai Elvis. I should have found him amusing, but he was instead rather creepy.

The buddha -- full.

The offering plate -- empty.

A graceful Goddess of Mercy, draped with pearls and flowers.

Young monks on their way out of the school by Wat Po.

One of the many express boats that take the locals up and down the Chao Phraya. They move incredibly fast.

Wat Arun, or the Temple of Dawn. The exterior decoration is created entirely with ceramic.

View from the top of the temple, looking along the Chao Phraya towards downtown Bangkok.

It only takes 43 steps to get to the top of the temple, but they are very steep.

An old married couple you might know, enjoying a ride on a pontoon boat. The boat deposited them at the fabled Oriental Hotel for a gourmet Thai dinner overlooking the Chao Phraya river.