Blessing for the Deceased
My wife scheduled a visit for us to her family home area in the south for a religious tradition practiced in the south of Thailand. It’s a gathering of the family at the temple to bless the spirits of departed family members. It was interesting for the anthropologist in me who enjoys experiencing the different cultural rituals of the Thais.
First we made the 7 hour drive from Hua Hin to Khanom which is a coastal town about 70 km south-east of Surat Thani. The area has a large fishing community, farming (palm oil and rubber trees primarily) and developing beach side resorts. Why anyone would want cross the ocean to Koh Samui, a two hour ferry ride away, is beyond me (or is it because of the girls from Isaan who migrate there?) when they could stay at some beautiful much closer resorts in uncongested and very rural Khanom only a few kilometers from the ferry dock.
The first two nights we stayed in what I refer to as the ‘jungle’ on a dirt road in a rudimentary Thai house (4 walls and a small, basic Thai bathroom and, fortunately, a western toilet). There are bugs galore in the south where it is always
wet. The house is directly across the street from the family “homestead”. Rained quite a bit of the time but not hard and never did the sun shine in the four days we were there.
On Friday we arise before 7 AM and set out for the local temple where the festivities are held. Everyone notices the Thai temples painted in red and gilded in gold paint but this one had none of that. This was a working people’s temple where religion is practiced with no fanfare. Driving in the front gate and you immediately notice all the motorbikes and kids gathered in an area enjoying themselves swinging from the vines on the tree and just playing around. No Nintendo, Game Boy or X-Box here. Fun to see the kids just trying to enjoy themselves with what little was available to them.
Parked the car on the grounds and found our family group. Women are the religious ones in Thailand so they gravitate to the temple to have the food they brought blessed, bring gifts for the temple and listen to the chants of the monks at the front and their scratchy P.A. system. Nothing fancy or special about this temple. Yes, and be sure to leave your shoes at the front door and hope to find them when you return.
Note the blue roofed building on the left where the few males who wanted to participate were sitting.
The multitude of gifts for the temple and food to be blessed by the monks.
After about an hour of chanting, the monks get to eat while everyone waits for them to finish before being able to eat themselves.
While waiting for the monks to eat the time is spent socializing in the temple.
I just had to take the picture of two women dressed in very nice outfits. Obviously a special occasion for them and these two ladies stood out because of their very nice outfits. Oh that one in blue had a beautiful outfit and a slim body to go with it but could not get a better shot of her.
While all this is going on most of the men (look in the background) were outside sitting around pick-up truck beds just “shooting the breeze” which they are so highly qualified at.
There has to be at least one food vendor to keep the Thai’s happy in the food department before the meal. The motorbike BBQ chicken vendor.
Kids are playing at the fish tank.
Men begin to gather around the tractor to prepare it to pull the temple “float” out of its port. This activity attracted quite a lot of attention among the guys. Note the lack of air in the tires of the “float”. I guess that’s ok as long as it rolls.
A prickly feeling on my lower legs and feet caused me to notice that I was standing in a nest of red ants. I quickly retreated to another part of the temple grounds to get those ants off my feet and legs.
Exploring the temple grounds further I came upon the temple's very basic crematorium and cemetery behind it. Nothing like the big electric furnace I saw in a city temple in Korat but just a basic wood fired “toast em” building that gets the job done.
The monks finally finish their meal (have you ever seen some of those old thin monks chow down so much food in their single meal of the day?) Food containers are retrieved from the blessing and family groups gather in the temple, and around the grounds to enjoy the meal together.
One of the great things I see in the country is the kids creative use of anything to enjoy themselves with. Digging in the sand, using rocks for “jacks” and playing a game with whatever they can find. They have to use their mind to create their fun. Unfortunately, the educational system will remove this creativity with their mind numbing, dull, memorization activities. Oh and of course shall we not forget that in Thailand “No child is left behind”.
I can’t leave this without the pictures of my wife’s brother's two kids that my wife’s mother has around her all the time. Two absolutely darling kids always running around trying to make something of nothing.
It’s time to pack up and go home now. Get on your scooter, pile in the back of the pick-up or car and go back to the “homestead” in the jungle. A day immersed in the true Thai spirit and family is certainly a pleasant experience.
Later that day we stopped by another temple “downtown” Khanom and the festivities were a completely different flavor. Nice painted temple, rides and food vendors all around and even grass on the grounds. I liked the country temple better.
Now it's time for two days in a new, very nice beach side resort with ocean view room for the princely sum of 1,000 baht / night.
A nicely put together piece capturing a Thai day out. I do have to say though that having been through these sorts of celebrations, once is enough for me – and I prefer to read others' accounts of them than experience it again myself!