Tag Archives: buddhism

Nakhon si Thammarat day 2

Nearly any rain, at least not until nighttime.

I spent today with Ning, an old student from Regency, and her old school friend and husband who are both university teachers. The deal is I teach a lesson with them tomorrow, and they drive me around the city today and lavish me with lunch, tea and dinner. It's a really nice day and I get to learn and appreciate things I wouldn't be able to do as a solo farang with no thai language. We make merit at the temple, which is considers the most important in southern Thailand. The white stupa allegedly contains yet another of the buddha's teeth. The gilded spire obviously isn't golden as corrosion stains drip on the white plaster work. Unfortunately the walkway around the stupa is closed, but we burn joss sticks (3 for the Buddha; 9 for the God, which we do at the city shrine later) and candles which get snuffed out by the breeze before we have time to kneel and plant them in the ash trough in the boat alter. We have little scraps of gilding, which we transfer to the Buddha effigies. Mine blow away, rather then cling. My merit is hard to. Achieve. Out of the sudden rain, we walk a cloister like passage where there is a large gong. None of us succeed in making it resonate. This is done by caressing 2 raised knobs. One woman coaxes a tremendous ringing tone from it. Wow.

We visit the city museum, which has some rather amusing dioramas, including one of a thai school room with a projected animate school teacher. There is a a big freize on which is written the 60 commandments that school children must learn these days. It's a bit much. Ning comments that the first commandment which is basically “do good things” suffices.

Afterwards we go to the city shrine for more merit making, and then to the remains of the city wall. On the city park nearby old and young, slim and not so slim alike exercise on the open-air communal gym-type equipment, though it feels more like a dangerous kids playground. On the field groups of men are playing a kind of keepy-uppy game involving a hollow rattan ball and bare feet.

A shared meal together is great: when you eat alone you can't possibly order so many dishes. Equally being with Thais, they are able to specify exactly what they want cooked. We have egg and bitter cucumber, a Chinese mushroom soup, broad beans and green beans in a spicy sauce, and a very hot tofu in yellow bean curry paste.

 

 

 

 
 
 

 

 

Final morning at sangkhlaburi…….

I’m not sleeping too well here, maybe the thin walls.

I dreamt about the Lovegrove brothers. Not a nice dream. Mat had inadvertently killed Luke, having administered forced water consumption via hosepipe then stood on his stomach. He dies later, mat unaware of that, from split gut. This has all been brought on by the pow drawings of Japanese torture at the jeath museum.

The sunrise is muted. There are veils of mist across the lake. A teenager is performing for the thai tourists. Climbing the legs of the bridge, beaming and waving, then wavering at the top, counting down neung song saam. The Bangkok tourist women in their bling, big sunglasses, large bright trousers and makeup egging him on. He plunges, resurfaces, swims to the pontoon bridge and collects handfuls of green 20 baht notes.

The schoolboy is carrying 2 bags of small fish with whiskers and river snakes yoked on a pole across his shoulders. I see the same people each day. On the first day he was dressed in a Boy Scout school uniform, the second another kind of uniform of yellow polo shirt and long black tracksuit trousers. Today it’s a red and white check polo with a red cotton longyi. I think, though I could be wrong, different uniforms for different school days. His mother is as usual at the Mon end of the bridge selling bags of eels. 15m away is the other mon eel and fish seller with her wide straw hat, yellow ash face. She always says hello to me. In the evening she usually suckles her baby at the breast there. The man with the gold tooth and camouflage jacket and blue cap is on the pontoon caling out boat rides. He knows me too and laughs when he sees me. He was unsuccessful in getting my fare yesterday, and when I returned from my cut price trip to the drowned temple he was still there waiting for custom.

Today I bought a bag of little fish. Inside is some kind of coloured powder solids also. I walk the pontoon looking for a calm pool of water between the bamboo cross struts into which to release the fish. This is some kind of Buddhist ritual. They do this with little birds in Malaysia and Indonesia. Releasing the creatures, I guess, is away to make merit. I contemplate my little fish before releasing them and wonder if they are in a perpetual cycle of being caught by the mon woman, bagged, sold, released and then caught again. What kind of spiritual release does that bring them?

The odd group of Amber monks wander across the mon bridge with their silver food bowls, as big as tom-toms.

 

Day 3 in Sangkhlaburi…..Religion

At sunrise their are groups of monks on the bridge heads. Locals are flocking down the hills to make merit by offering food then being blessed. There is so much food that they will end up not eating it all, for sure.

I negotiate a trip across the reservoir to the partially submerged remains of the old temple. The original village was drowned when the valet was dammed. The present settlement being newer and on higher ground. The temple must have been on a small hill. You are able to disembark and wander into and around the structure. Local mon women are arriving on long tail boats to prepare bunches of jasmine. The offer these to the subsequent passengers on the next couple of boats to land. Locals, I suppose, who have come to pray at the shrine inside the temple. This seems to be an auspicious day.

There is an aura of religion throughout the day. In the evening on the mon bridge I bump into the Taiwanese girl who i chauffeured from the bus station in kanchanaburi. As we watch the increasing number of monks a man in a simple white cotton smock and trousers informs us that there will be a large gathering of monks who will be chanting on the bridge soon. About 80 or so assemble and sit on mats facing the now dimming dusk sky. They have little bottles of energy drink. En masse at 6pm they begin to chant. I sit and absorb for over an hour. The atmosphere is special, though not totally serene, as the occasional boat buzzes out into open water. Not all the monks seem to be immersed. I see one chatting on his mobile and another taking selfies on an iPad! This event is to mark the mid-point of the monks' retreat. Now I understand why there is a monk camp site, and why they are behaving as if they are on holiday! These guys come from all ove thailand and are at Buddhist university. The man in white is also studying there.

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas Day and Boxing Day

I’m on a big rock. In fact it’s a mass of enormous granite boulders which feel clumsily tumbled together by some giant. Trees twist In and out casting pools of shade. A small flat lizard with an orange head scampers by. This is called the 68 caves and all the gaps between these massive lumps. Were at one time hermitage meditation spots for monks.the view is extensive I am high up. But there is never silence. I can hear the old car horn honking of the ice cream seller and occasionally the wafting insidious annoy of the official at the mini tale site. The early after noon sun is hot, I’m drenched in sweat, a gentle breeze flows.
The minhitale site was a limb up a lot of stones it into the rock face. Apparently 1800 of them, but it felt less. Atthe enclosure at the top there are a number of peaks. The dagbola with more steps and a viewing platform that pilgrims ate queuing to access.an enormous white stupa,another peak with a plain white Buddha. It would be very calm and peaceful were it not for the described tan oh. I understand not a word, and the voice is staccato and dreary. These are not prayers.announcements of some sort.
It’s been a religious Christmas, at least in terms of the places I’ve been. Christmas afternoon was spent at the oldest tree in the world. A venerated 2000 year old boddi tree, a destination for barefoot white bedecked singhalese Buddhists and orange robed monks. There was a lot of groups praying together, chanting together, making flower offerings to the tree. I met a curious group of women, two nuns of some kind, in similar robes to the monks, sitting in the conversation hall peeling back the petals of lotus buds, dipping them in fresh water, preparing them for the pilgrims to leave at the alters. A parade is beginning led by small boys carrying cushions of white lotus flowers and elderly monks with yellow parasols, A long long roll of fabric, striped like prayer flags is unrolled and carried overhead by hundreds of pilgrims chanting satu satu sat. The procession is hundreds of metres long and winds around the tree, pilgrims jumping in and also clasping the flag, then leaves through the gate in the direction of another sacred site. The lotus women exchange addresses with me. This is becoming common. The following day an 11 year old boy gives me his number and tells me to call him. An old man at the parade asks me to send him photos.

Now out of site I can hear military drummingand marching sounds. What is happening? Could it be something to do with the masses of young soldiers I saw lounging in the park before the car park to the mihintale site?
Back at the carpark I have. Fresh coconut and chat with a guide who agrees that the tourist charges to the sites in Sri Lanka are far too high. I roll down the hill and look for the place he tells me about, black water. I find this after climbing a path through a forest, past some monk houses cut into the rock and lifting some tree branches to pass under. I emerge in an area of ruins next to a water tank, the water deep, dark, reflecting the huge boulders and hills scattered around. On the other site is a little island with the ruins of a temple. It’s very peaceful, quiet, empty, perfect. A young boy in a black shirt calls out to me from a rock then runs after me and starts a rudimentary conversation. He takes my picture, then walks with me to introduce me to his mother who is sitting on a wall next to the reservoir. We chat and then his other 2 brothers and father appear. More talk. The boy wants to take lots of photos. The family are from Matara and invite me there next time I’m here.
The ride back into town is incident free. Everyone calls out hello to me, the odd white curio. This is a country where people still stop to watch train passing and kids wave at them.
At the guesthouse I learn from the owner that the bicycle mystery hs been solved and the missing bike, the one I borrowed 2 days ago, has returned. The story is complicated and it transpires that I did take someone else’s bike when I was at the gin shop. The story was put together by the guy working there. My bike sat unlocked abandoned at the store for 2 days, then was stolen by a junkie today. The shops CCTV, identified this guy, helped them retrieve the bike, them they worked out it was mine from older CCTV. The guy remembered that I had asked directions or my guest house, so they phoned them and the bike got returned. I’m amazed. I’m amazed that it hadn’t been stolen over 2 days, that they use CCTV here, but most of all that I did in fact screw up. I was swearing categorically that I couldn’t have taken the wrong bike. I was sure I was riding the same bike. Being lost that night clearly scrambled my brain. Alls well that ends well, I guess.

Leaving kandy for Dambulla

Getting out of kandy was pretty tiring, and my patience has been tested a little. Breakfast was a wood apple lassi, a vegetable bun and a jam bun, both eaten on the bus later. I buy some local cardamon and am surprised by the price. There is a bull cart delivering vegetables, like something from the Middle Ages.
There is a scruffy tiring road where scruffy crowded buses are filling up. None of them have a sign for my chosen destination. Many in fact only have signs in singhalese, which I look at blankly. An elderly tuk tuk driver badgers me about going with him. I really don’t fancy a bumpy dusty smokey ride in a three wheeler being nudged constantly aside by the streams of buses. Plus I find buses interesting, mixing and watching locals, also they are cheaper. After 15 minutes he finally realises he won’t get me and offers to show me where my bus leaves from. The cheek of it, I leave him brusquely. The us station is. A nightmare of beaten up private white buses, beaten up state red ones and slightly less beaten up mini buses. There is no apparent order, no nice clear departure boards or helpful uniformed helpers. An anyway it’s not so bad, and I do find a minibus, where I have to jam myself in, rucksack on lap. Even the aisle of the mini bus is taken up with fold down seats. A couple with a new born sit in these rather dodgy looking places. The baby is cradled by the mother unsure her red and white flowery sarong, and doesn’t cry once. The minibus is considerably more expensive than a us but it’s quick. This due to the fact it. Rarely stops and is also more able to overtake quickly on the arrow windy roads.
Asana side I found out from the guys atthe hotel in kandy about buses and why they are. Driven the way that they are, ie fast, dangerously fast, impetuously overtaking and ramming passengers in, so they are hanging out of the door. The state bus drivers receive a salary, the private ones work on a percentage of fares, so they area,ways trying to get ahead of the state buses to pinch the waiting passengers. Apparently if they manage to reach their target, any extra fares go straight in the pocket of driver and conductor.

Digression.
Dambulla isn’t much more than a dusty road going past the golden temple, a kitsch monstrosity of an enormous gild Buddha sitting atop the Buddhist museum, this decorated with teeth, the doorway a mouth, it looks like something at a funfare: welcome to the horror house. I get a tuk tuk driver to show me some guest houses and take the most comfortable. It’s on a dusty track off the main road and has a rooftop terrace, which would be great if there was more life here than just me and my beer. But, actually I will be able to get back into my book now. Finding the guesthouse after dusk was pretty hard and I was beginning to panic a bit. There are no street lights here, houses are set back behind trees, there are a few basic stealers selling snacks and soft drinks. It’s too dark to see the face of the few people who do pass me. Yes I get lost. Before going out I took a photo of the sign of the guest house. The picture is a bit confusing as the name is partially obscured, and also I’m afraid that my camera battery is about to die. When I do try and use the picture, the guy I show it too doesn’t really catch my drift and walks me to another place. I’m looking for a road which, I remember, has a couple of dismantled tuk tuks. That would be hard to explain to a local with rudimentary English. In the end I do get my bearings and feel pretty relieved.
My late afternoon at the golden temple and cave temples was nice. At the bottom is a muddy batterered monastery. I get quite enthused to see orange robed young monks playing cricket. I know this is breaking their code of conduct…is this why they are slightly hostile to me taking photos?
The caves are at the top of a 10 minute climb up steps. The entrance fee is disproportionately high, as with all the monuments here. Is this money going into government funds? I hope not. There are 5 temples of varied size, the first one just containing a reclining Buddha. The second one is the most engaging with beautiful painted ceiling and a myriad of Buddhas in all manner of poses. There is a mix of locals, independent westerners and groups guided by loud locals. Unfortunately there is no hush, lots of loud voices, and too many flashes. I pace things and wait for more quiet moments to return to the temples and enjoy them much more. It’s is the end of the afternoon and dusk is falling. The sunset perched on the top of the rock is colourful, awesome, orange slowly faded over a lake rows of mountains and jungle stretching far and away. Red faced monkeys frollick and tumble.ive seen a lot of them everywhere today, starting with the rubbish piles in kandy.
The guesthouse peace is blown apart by returning guests. Shouting Italian parents and equally loud young kids.

Sacred tooth etc

Back into town late afternoon. Kingfishers And storks by the lake. I bump into ralf who has no memory of his performance last night. He goes shopping and I look for a wood apple juice, meanwhile scoring a samosa and visiting a medicinal herb shop. Would love to buy something but I have no idea what they are or how to use them. Parked outsi are some gaudily decorated chromed wood panelled trucks. I can see, and discover that eating after 4 here is tricky. The restaurants have extensive, but not vege menus. Rice and curry is only for lunch. The other choice is masala dosa. Later I do and sit in a restaurant but leave after an unsuccessful 15 minute wait to order.
I thought visiting the sacred tooth temple in the veining would less busy. Not really. The place is not especially overwhelming, crowded, a bit hectic, not really anywhere to pause and soak up any magic. There is a museum of the holy tooth on site too. Another poor attempt at exhibiting history. Not much signage, cases full of jewellery, bowls, ceremonial faded stuff. When I returned to the tooth chamber for the second time a ceremony was going on, drumming and some monks disappearing into the tooth room to do something holy. I reckon this is for tourists as the locals don’t linger and visiting monks don’t even pause. Outside is more interesting. The rows of candles and buring oil at dusk. Drumming, a call for the podia at the naga temple. This has started at the other one. Priest collecting notes on a tray, intoning some prayers then dotting the praying groups foreheads with red paint. Further on is the boddi tree high on a crenalated platform. There are two levels. One lower one where visitors buy bowls of holy water, incense and flowers, and are blessed by a chanting woman. The devotees then circulate the first level bowing at the alter then climb to the second level where they make 3 revolutions with their water and incense. The tree trunk is be robed in an orange cloth. It’s lower branches bedecked with lines of prayer flags, fluttering in the dolling night breeze. I sit in peace for 40 minutes.

Wednesday 4 sept, chiang mai

Motorbike to doi suthep.

Windy mountainous road.temple full of rituals. I dedicate some tiles, I sign the yellow scarf. I shake a stick. I am to have a baby boy according to my stick….

Stick a coin on the money wall

Stick shaking and pray

Inscribe the scarf to be wrapped around the chedi

Donate and inscribe a tile for the roof

Spooning oil on candles

Circle the chedi with lotus buds, incense and mantras

Taking photos

Have your picture taken by roving photographers holding garish samples: families smiling in front of chedi

Be blessed, holy water sprinkled, holy cotton tied round your wrist

Odd English signage..look:!

Group of army officers out for the afternoon

Ice cream shops

Trinket and cd stalls

Dragon flies

Hornet overpowering and devouring one.

Motorbike back, walk into the national park to a spot with pooling fast flowing water under an overhanging cliff. Eyrique does some yoga in the water. The light is beautiful.

Back into town and buffet at gap. No other customers.

Back at riverside, a lot of introspection.

An uncomfortable evening at the night market.