We visited one of northern Thailand’s most sacred temples yesterday, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, located on a hilltop about 20km north of Chiang Mai. The guidebooks advise that you try to avoid the wat on weekends due to large numbers of Thais visiting to pay homage, but nevertheless we found ourselves there on a Sunday morning and it turned out to be the a very special visit.
Firstly we were greeted by sights of many young dancers busking while performing traditional dances. We haven’t had a chance to experience Thai dance yet on this trip and the girls were enthralled by the brightly clad young girls. There were about 3 different groups performing and had we not gone on a weekend, we would have probably not had this experience.
Secondly we soon realised that on this day, a mass ordination of young monks was taking place at the wat. Becoming a monk in Thai culture is a very important moment both for the young man (or young woman) as it marks both a rite of passage into manhood as well as it brings good karma to the family. They participate as monks for a usual period of 3 months to 3 years, and some remain monks for the rest of their lives. Young boys are also initiated into monkhood if their family is poor so that they can gain a free education as well as bring good karma to the family. Sunday’s ceremony included the last meal that the monks share with their family, the procession around the temple, and finally the moment that the new monk is given his yellow robes by his family. It was very special to be witness to such an important moment in these young men’s lives.
|Last Meal With The Family|
|Entering The Temple|
|Procession of New Monks|
Sometimes ‘going with the crowd’ can work out in your favour—had we not gone to the temple at the ‘less than ideal’ time, we would have missed out on a great morning and experience, even more so as it was our last full day in Chiang Mai. We are taking the night train (our first such experience with the kids) tonight to Bangkok, where we will remain for the rest of the week. By next weekend, our visa in Thailand expires so we will be going overland to Cambodia.