“This map is amazing, seeing as we’re just now exploring this for the very first time…ever,” Nicole mused, map in hand, as we ventured through crowds of international tourists in the as-yet-undiscovered Temple of the Emerald Buddha. That cracked me up. The rest of the day we’d tack on, “Good thing we’re here to discover this,” or “I wonder if they know it was our expedition that found this,” to every sight. Glittering facades and mysterious corridors stretch as far as the eye could see in all directions—including up—in the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, or Wat Phra Kaew, next to Bangkok’s Grand Palace. Together, they’re one of Bangkok’s most popular tourist destinations….I mean, they were recently discovered by four winsome ladies and an adorable toddler. That morning, with our husbands back out at sea, Nicole, Mary and Annika, Rebekah and I met back up and returned to Bangkok for a day of exploring and shopping. It was Mary’s idea to visit this complex—a fine idea!!The Emerald Buddha—and emerald is a reference to its color only; it’s carved from jade—is shrouded in mystery. Wars with neighboring countries relocated this miniature Buddha so many times that it’s origins are unknown. There are still disputes over its proper ownership. What is known is that in 1434 an abbot in Chiang Rai noticed plaster peeling off the nose of a small Buddha, revealing a brilliant green. Valuable Buddhas were often covered in plaster to prevent invading countries from discovering and stealing them. However, this also hid them from the hiders sometimes.Anyway, this abbot discovered it and the image was moved a few times, including a trip to Laos for a couple hundred years, until 1778, when the first Rama invaded Laos, captured the capital and the Buddha, and returned to establish Bangkok. The king himself changes the Emerald Buddha’s costume three times a year for each season: hot, cooler, and rainy.Around the main temple is a 178-part mural depicting the legendary Thai saga of Ramakian, which was first painted during the reign of King Rama I. Essentially, the king of the demons captures Rama’s wife, so Rama sets out in search of her. There are several battles, someone builds a bridge, Rama falls asleep and visits the underworld, and ultimately, the king of demons is killed. The off-season outfits are on display next door in a museum along with some massive diamond rings. I love gems. Speaking of which, Chris bought me a lovely elephant pendent whose saddle is inlaid with Thai rubies, emeralds and sapphires. Love it!