During these final two days of our TEFL course, we’re going over “Thai cultural training” with our Thai recruiter, Pat. She showed us the tones and basic grammar of the Thai language and explained the significance of all the national holidays. Ironically, today was one such holiday: Khao Phansa, or the first day of Buddhist Lent.
Our soi seemed a bit more crowded than usual so we wandered back towards the temple after dinner to find the formerly-empty temple grounds bustling with people. There were vendors selling things we hadn’t seen on the streets yet, which made me particularly excited. I’m trying to soak up all the culture on Ramkhamhaeng before I move out into Nowhere’s Land (aka Nonthaburi) for my teaching placement. So yeah, I may or may not have had ice cream from the street on two separate occasions today.
Liz and I split a scoop of fried Milo-flavored ice cream. (I had coconut earlier today in case you were wondering.)
Bells were ringing, gongs were booming. Traditional songs were swirling through the air, mixing with the smoke rising from incense sticks and candles.
We slipped off our shoes and entered the gate into the temple. I was really excited to have the chance to see the inside because last time I visited, the gate was shut. Everyone was circling the temple clockwise to the slow pulse of the monks’ chants. The observers pressed their hands to their hearts in prayer as they walked. In between their palms they held a yellow candle, a flower, and a stick of burning incense. We circled.
The people kneeling inside the temple, also with their hands wai-style, spilled out the doors. When people were done praying, they bobbed their torsos down to the floor in a few quick bows and rejoined the circling observers.
I stayed behind and contemplated meditating while my classmates walked back to the hotel. I was too distracted by everything around me though and mostly just ended up sitting, breathing in the campfire smells and listening to the monks drone.
What a beautiful ritual. I didn’t know what was happening and I’m still not too sure, but it felt celebratory and spiritual and sometimes that’s all you really need.