Monday, September 11, 2006

the kindness of the thai people

i am struck by how nice the thai people are. anytime i am lost they go out of their way to help me. in suphanburi i walked too far and missed the turning for the fancy hotel and i asked this thai man that was on a scooter for directions and he offered me a ride on the back. perhaps i was too trusting but he looked like a decent enough chap, so i climbed on board and he dropped me off right in front of it.

last night in phitsanulok - there was some "king pride" celebration by the river nan and there was a food stall selling these little round doughy balls. the lady, who couldn't speak any english, noticed me looking at them with curiosity. she offered me one - it was made out of dough, sweetcorn and coconut and really nice so i asked her for some more and how much. at first she didn't want to accept any money but i insisted.. so i ate a couple more and then gave some to a hungry looking dog. there are lots of sweet looking stray animals walking around the streets here - dogs and cats - but people do feed them especially the stall holders.

i was walking along buddha bucha road the other night on my way to the big temple - 'wat phra sri ratana mahathat' or wat yai for short and i slipped and fell over in the mud and a couple of joggers stopped instantly and helped me back up.

when i arrived at the temple - it was very busy with people outside playing football! and selling lottery tickets because the thais believe that after going to the temple you have attained great merit/luck so they buy lottery tickets!
the temple was beautiful... it is apparently one of the finest in thailand according to my guidebook! there were buddhas everywhere - outside in the courtyard with incense sticks and flowers offered to them, burning candles and a huge drum. the doors of the temple are made of gold as were the pillars and inside was the biggest golden buddha i've ever seen. people were prostrating themselves and bowing down and there were also statues of what looked like the king and queen to the left of the alter. (thai people love their king and queen). then at about 5pm a temple attendant came and laid down mats and prayer books in the middle and lay people were asked not to sit on them. then a gong sounded and the monks dressed in saffron robes came and sat down. i decided to stay for the whole service which was chanting in pali and several prostrations followed by a period of silent meditation. it was very special and sacred and i felt priviledged and happy to have been a part of it.

after the service i sat for awhile and a monk came over to me and started speaking in english. it turned out that this monk was from singapore and had only been ordained for 5 months. he said that he ended up there by accident following a mid-life crisis. he asked me if i was buddhist and which lineage. he invited me back today to meet the abbot of the monastery. i want to go but i am too shy to meet him. i never know what to say to such important people! but it is such a kind invitation. first i have to find something to eat and then start the longish walk there.

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