Up at dawn,and I can hear the dripping residual rainwater ticking onto the roof below. Morning has that fresh glow of promise. A silent hour when the URL almost dreamlike sweeps the fallen leaves from the yard. I sit in the soft fuzzy light, all foliage in the garden seems a dense green blur. I eat yesterday’s fritters and sip a tea. I’m in no rush, though do have an appointment for a change. T catch the chiang mai bus. My plan had been to walk the mile and more along the road, but logic, desire and the need to take things easy persuade me toget a tuk tim. I wai and thank the owner who is manicuring in her window, and the housekeeper waves me off. The road is sleepy. It’s Sunday. Two young novices of around 12 are pacing dozen the road. Orange saffron robes, one with a green sash beneath, the other a yellow one. Hey are not together, maybe 20 yards apart. Each carries himself with he nobble detachedd dignity of something other. Erect perfectly balanced, slight figures but with an air of confidence, modesty, humility. Shaved fuzzy heads, pale yellow tan skin. smooth facesthat carry no expression. They are barefoot, each cradles a silver coloured bowl which they prefer no doubt to the same selected households, and into which is donated a quantity of food. Could be fruit, a ball of rice. This is to be eaten by midday. Monks fast until the next morning. These kids are not lolloping around, not listening to their smart phones. I wonder what goes through their mind. How they feel when they wake, and prepare themselves for this un changing ritual of centuries. They are ageless. They are ancient. They are somehow infused with the spirit of what makes this place so exotic, so intangible at times. Inscrutable, sublime.
It feels like a dream, a trance. Like a memory from deep in the past, like a vision of a. Future. A permanence. It’s something I. All never understand.
At sukhothai all those centuries before the same rituals were enacted. I am going to chiang mai where I will see the same once again. I will meet men who have lived these lives, played these roles. A duty. T bring merit to their family. I will meet boys who will become novices. I will go places where such temples and monasteries where they carry out the day in day out identical regimes of waking praying collecting food, eating, sweeping, learning, and playing have stood for centuries. Ones which are still being built, being painted. Ones which people go to for medical purposes, steam saunas, ones in which the town comes to buy and sell food. Ones which are thoroughfares, kids going to school, tuk tuks passing through. A short cut from one gate to another. Ones where all the stray dogs from the town come to rest in the shade of the prayer halls. Ones which were built on the tops of mountains and were abandoned 600 years ago.the forest. Reclaiming hem, the locals reusing the collapsing stonework to build houses and roads. Where the gilded buddhashave been stolen, yet where nowadays people still light candles, burn joss sticks, leave offerings of fruit, coca cola, whatever they feel the Buddha would like.
Yet what does it mean? This is a country with underlying tensions that often manifest he selves violently. The red shirts stand offs in bkk being a good example. The terrorism in the south,the. Muslims fighting for independence. A country which deliberately avoids any involvemnt in international conflicts, preferring only to adopt positions that are beneficial to trade. Take the Burma refugee. Sitaution. Compare with how reluctant he Thais were to shelter the many hundreds of thousands who fled the terror of the Khmer Rouge and the displaced of vietnam. They were often sent back, sometimes robbed, sometimes raped or murdered. Een the local Red Cross workers being reproachable.