As I mentioned in my last post, I am between jobs so I am taking a three-week holiday to Thailand.
I managed to get some sleep on the plane, but not a lot. After landing I got a SIM card giving me 30 days unlimited data for around 650 baht (around 24,500 won or NZ$31). I went outside to get the bus..
The heat blew me away! Korea had been hot recently but this was something else! I think it was the humidity – Korea isn’t as humid as Thailand. It has been a long time since I lived in Malaysia so I’m not accustomed to extreme heat.
I got a bus to Victory Monument, which seems to be a kind of bus hub. Using Google Maps I found a bus that would take me close enough to my accommodation that I could walk. I got off and walked to Thanon Chakrabongse, the street where the guest house is located, but saw no sign of it. A trip down a side alley led me to a mosque, and then down the next side alley was the guest house. I thought the gate was locked but there was a smaller gate that was unlocked. The lady showed me to my room, which consists of a mattress on the floor, a wooden chest with a padlock hasp, a lamp, a trash can and a mirror. One of the windows has no glass.
I had a look at the street stalls nearby and got a chut upasaka (while shirt and trousers work to temples), two pairs of shorts and a pair of rubber sandals like crocs. Unfortunately the trousers for the chut upasaka were too small to sit cross-legged.
There was a temple down the street from my accommodation, so I headed there. Beside it there was a Mahayana shrine or temple dedicated to Guan Yin, which I think I actually visited the last time I was here in 2009.
I headed into the temple, which didn’t seem like a tourist temple.
Inside, a group of people were making an offering to a monk. The words sounded familiar because they were used at the Thai temple I used to attend back in Dunedin. The monk’s blessing also sounded famliar (at least the first part).
I made my way to the river and took a boat to Wat Arun. I climbed up on the structure that makes it so famous, but we weren’t allowed to climb up the central peak, even though there were stairs. I then went to one of the halls with a Buddha image. While I was there, it started raining – heavily. It was like when I used to live in Malaysia. I sat down, tried to meditate (but I think I might have dozed off!) and waited for it to stop. I then visited the main hall or ubosot, where a group of Indian-looking people who I assume were Sri Lankans were sitting, including a monk. I thought a service might be going to start, but it didn’t and I left.
I got on a boat and headed for Chinatown. The boat I got happened to be a tourist boat and cost 60 baht (around 2,250 won or NZ$2.80). Unfortunately quite a lot of the shops were closing (it was a a Sunday evening after all). I got some pork ball noodle soup for dinner for 50 baht (around 1,890 won or NZ$2.40) and a Coke for 20 baht. The Coke came with a glass of ice, and I have no idea if the ice was made from bottled water or tap water (which I heard wasn’t safe to drink the last time I was here).
I then headed back to the river to get a boat back. I asked the lady for a ticket but she just pointed to the boat at the pier and I got on. It simply went across to the other side of the river. I tried to buy a ticket to the pier I needed to go to but the guy said I needed to be on the other side of the river! I caught the boat back across and got a ticket back. As I walked back to the guest house I found the second-hand bookstore that I had visited in 2009 (I still have a couple of the books back in NZ).
I managed to get some sleep, despite not having an air conditioner and the mattress being hard. Around 4:30 I happened to be awake and heard the adhan (call to prayer) from the nearby mosque. Around 6am I heard people moving stuff around as they opened up their shops.
This morning, I managed to contact the lady who runs the guest houe and arranged to do some laundry. I headed off and had a look down Soi Rambuttri and Khaosan Road. I got a pair of light cotton trousers with elephant patterns. I then visited a nearby temple Wat Bowonniwetwiharn Ratchaworawiharn, putting on the new trousers to conform with the modesty requirements that seem to be posted at the entrance to every temple now.
I walked back to my accommodation but my clothes hadn’t finished drying. I got some Pad Thai with chicken for lunch (actually pronounced “putt Thai”).
Next stop was Wat Pho. This temple is known for the huge Reclining Buddha image. The Reclining Buddha represents the Buddha entering parinirvana or final nirvana when he passed away for the last time.
I entered the temple from a different side than when I’d been in 2009, so I came in closer to the ubosot. At the ubosot I heard chanting and a lady was leading chanting outside nearby. It was the evening chanting from the chanting book I made for the Dunedin temple. AfterwardsI made my way to the Reclining Buddha image, where I met a young woman from Taiwan who was impressed at my ability to speak Chinese. On the other side of the Buddha image there are a series of bowls, similar to monks’ begging bowls. I bought a small bowl of coins and then put one in each bowl.
After looking aroud I asked a lady for directions to the Merit Making Pavillion. She spoke English and as we passed a group of monks I asked about monks who speak English. She introduced me to one of the monks who taught me about meditation in his tradition. He said to come back later when they’d finished their meeting and he’d give me a book.
I talked to Mum for a while and then made my way to the ubosot for evening chanting, led by a monk. It included the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta, the Buddha’s first sermon after enlightenment, which we used to chant back at the Dunedin temple, but there were verses that we didn’t chant back home.
Afterwards I met the monk who gave me the book. He said if I could come back at 7pm he would teach me how to do the meditation. I went and got some watermelon and beef balls on skewers, and came back and chatted to some monks.
The monk showed me how to do sitting meditation, walking meditation and how to bow. He then took me to the monks’ quarters to get some books for me. I chatted to the other monks, with the Engish-speaking monk translating where necessary.
The bus home never came, so I got a taxi back for 49 baht (around 1,850 won or NZ2.30).