Tag Archives: monk

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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People Sangkhlaburi

Children are brushing the verge in front of their school with straw brushes, like a little militarised unit. The Thais seem to be obsessed with brushing up leaves. Maybe it's meditative.

A group of orange clad monks, two white robed shaven headed nuns in tow. They move graciously and with dignity in public presence. When it gets dark I pass them on the second bridge smoking and browsing their phones.

Small boys diving from the flat bridge still in their khaki school shorts. The older ones are plunging from the 30m mon bridge.

In the market a woman with bad teeth chews on a cheroot and tries to sell me some sweets. I buy a bag of black rice from another mon woman, yellow ash daubs on her face.

At dusk a raft boat is towed out into the lake. Full of monks. Maybe going for a few days of peaceful meditation afloat on the water.

Two boys play a kind of cricket. Wickets a kind of tripod of twigs. The ball is a punctured yellow plastic one, the bad a stick. One of them is wearing a Man Utd shirt.

On the flat bridge a small group of Thais are dangling string with balls of bread in one of the gaps between the bamboo struts. Small children look on at their fishing.

In the dark on the bridge a teenager is listening to some western rock music on YouTube.

A policeman on a garishly lit Harley revs up illuminating the banana pancake man. His small daughter is standing on a box fingering the balls of dough.

I see women making handicrafts in doorways, whilst the men swing in hammocks.

Sangkhlaburi day 2

Quite a chilly sleep, thankfully the karaoke on the other side of the creek stopped by 11.

I'm quite excited to get up for sunrise over the lake. Monks on the bindi baht are crossing the bridge. Long tail drivers are prepping their boats and cruising out into the golden water. A schoolboy dressed in Boy Scout type uniform is with his mother selling little fish in bags of water, to be released for merit making. I guess that's his job before school. I forget how early it is. 6 am? 7 am? The village is getting up. Mon women with yellow ash daubed faces with baskets balanced on their heads are selling tea and snacks. Across another small bridge, under which locals are tilling their vegetable gardens, I'm now in a more rustic environment of typical mon houses, bamboo platforms with thin woven walls. There are a lot of women with babies. At a store I drink some water and a guy on a motorbike generously offers to take me to the wat. It's burmese and very ornate. On the land next to it is a campsite. Tents for monks. There is a road which is strewn with dry leaves, rustling in the cooling breeze. This leads to a gilded stupa, next to which is a souvenir market. Here I see a small group of monks committing taboos: handling money, smoking, shouting to each other. Buying food and ice creams…I understood their food was from donations. In the road a small mangey pup has just died. A pack of adult equally scrawny and few ridden dogs aggressively police the small corpse.

 

 

 

 

Final day in kanchanaburi

Again I fail to get up early. My bed is hard and I'm groggy. A good sleep. I want to avoid the tourist crowd at erawan waterfalls, so having missed an early start, it makes sense to go there late in the day.

In the morning I ride out to a cave temple. You climb a flight of naga flanked steps to the mouth of the cave where the temple proper is. Then follow red arrows painted on the walls until you are on hands and knees crawling through spaces til you come to a vertical metal ladder. You climb about 3 metres through a tiny gap and then you are out on the top of the mountain looking over the river, kanchanaburi and the mountains beyond. This temple is famous for a floating meditating nun, but she's dead, and her replacement only does it when the crowds are there. So I don't see this!

Late morning is spent buying sweet fried things and iced coconut juice, which I snack on by the round pagodas next to the river. A boy of about 11 walks up and down the edge of the embankment and cheerfully says to me dee mai dee mai. He is catching fish using a plastic bag and is very pleased and proud of himself. I offer him a fried banana. He cautiously approaches, wais, then to my surprise he takes the whole bag. I'm too surprised to take bag at least a few,and anyway I think he will appreciate them. Off he goes then back, then off then back again this time beaming. He wants to show me his latest catch. In his bag is a large toad, dark green with a soft white belly, about 12 cm long. He takes it out for me to photograph. I ask him if he will eat it. He shakes his head. I wonder what he will do with it..

 

Final day in kanchanaburi

Again I fail to get up early. My bed is hard and I'm groggy. A good sleep. I want to avoid the tourist crowd at erawan waterfalls, so having missed an early start, it makes sense to go there late in the day.

In the morning I ride out to a cave temple. You climb a flight of naga flanked steps to the mouth of the cave where the temple proper is. Then follow red arrows painted on the walls until you are on hands and knees crawling through spaces til you come to a vertical metal ladder. You climb about 3 metres through a tiny gap and then you are out on the top of the mountain looking over the river, kanchanaburi and the mountains beyond. This temple is famous for a floating meditating nun, but she's dead, and her replacement only does it when the crowds are there. So I don't see this!

 

Late morning is spent buying sweet fried things and iced coconut juice, which I snack on by the round pagodas next to the river. A boy of about 11 walks up and down the edge of the embankment and cheerfully says to me dee mai dee mai. He is catching fish using a plastic bag and is very pleased and proud of himself. I offer him a fried banana. He cautiously approaches, wais, then to my surprise he takes the whole bag. I'm too surprised to take bag at least a few,and anyway I think he will appreciate them. Off he goes then back, then off then back again this time beaming. He wants to show me his latest catch. In his bag is a large toad, dark green with a soft white belly, about 12 cm long. He takes it out for me to photograph. I ask him if he will eat it. He shakes his head. I wonder what he will do with it..

 

 

 

Sai Yok national park

Filing in time while I'm sitting at the mouth of the bat cave in sai Yok national park waiting for dusk and the assumed swarms of bats that are going to emerge. I've already claimed in and poked around. It's a little bit scary with the floor of the cave being slippery and the only light I have being from my phone. So, better to sit outside. I'm still sweaty from 3 hours of walking through the jungle, not a soul in sight. Unfortunately no wildlife visible, but I can hear bird song, some kind of frog, perhaps, the buzzing of bugs. No human sounds. I had fun staring into tunnel spider webs, getting lost in the details of tree trunks and admiring the grace of the foliage. Crunching across dead bamboo trunks and their peeled away curled husked barks.

 

A long motorbike ride getting here. The only interesting thing was seeing a number of saffron swathed monks bare foot walking the highway, some making camp in the woodland by the road.

The park includes a section of the death railway, the remains of one of its bridges. Eerie to think that there were many hundreds of British men here before me toiling, getting bitten by bugs, beaten by Japanese, building something that has long since disappeared once more back into nature.

This is my third day in kanchanaburi province.

Day 2 got off to a slow start and once more began in On's restaurant, where once more I met Jo. On made him cook his own meal on the wok in front of the shop. I watched her make my rice soup. She's good at what she does, but to be honest I think with the same availability of ingredients I make a pretty good fist of authentic thai food too.

After lunch I cycle around and visit the jeath war museum. It's on the grounds of a temple, pretty scruffy and in a reconstruction of a pow hut. The place was founded by a Japanese man who was sent to thailand to act as translator at the end of the war. He was so shocked by what he saw that he converted to Buddhism and founded the museum. Anyway it was poignant and saddening.

On the bank of the Kwai at this end of town are scores of floating restaurants. Later I see one being towed up and down the river for a private karaoke party. At the end of these places there is a modern road bridge, under which I spend a while nosing around some dilapaded old floating bar and watching some poor local guys trying to fish for their supper.

I spend a long evening with an Austrian woman who I meet in on's. She has cycled down from chiang mai via mae sot. She is very interesting and has had a full life. Lived 20 years in India, worked with mother Theresa, caring for the dying, which sounds gruelling. Teaching massage and yoga wherever she goes. She tells me about how the prayers broadcast from the Hindu temples every morning pissed her off so much that she ended up cutting the cables to the tannoy speakers one day. We switch to Italian when she learns I lived in Italy. I would like to say my Italian came flooding back, but it didn't. Enough to talk about my experiences in Bologna and Sicily. The she tells me she lived on a beach in Sicily, and of the strange protection rackets and organised crime. We have a drink at her guest house which has a nice vibe apart from the ubiquitous karaoke on this stretch of the river.

M

So where are these bats??

I can't wait any longer. Back to the waterfall that empties into the Kwai river. Lots of floating houseboats. Kind of tranquil twilight. I don't enjoy the ride back 100km in darkness. The thought of getting a warming curry at on's spurs me on.