Saturday, January 05, 2013

The Tamboon Experience

 Loei, An unexpected Journey Part V

Hall in Hospital we Bunked Over In
Tamboon. The act of giving away hard earned cash to aid a charitable constitution. It can be for the construction of a temple, a hospital, a school. Operating cash for running certain foundation, making sure kids in special schools don’t get hungry, making sure monks get fed. Making sure the beds are acquired for patients, money to buy paint for the school. All in the believe that when one does noble good, it returns ten folds later. Extending the virtuousness of such deeds is the tradition of preparing a sumptuous meal for the receivers. The village folks from Bangkok brought along their arsenal of cookery and ingredients.

Village Market
We arrived at Na Duang hospital late afternoon. It was 4pm. For the rest of us, there was nothing else to do as the assigned cooks went about their busy preparations. They left for the temple where the next morning’s ceremony was to take place. The objective of the trip was to contribute cash for the ongoing construction of Na Duang hospital, sponsored by the temple the name of which I do not know. I cannot sit still in one spot for too long on trips, my adventurous side will drive me into mental breakdown. And so off to the village market nearby, we hitched a ride as the head monk was sent over to the temple. Such markets, heaps of umbrellas spread across large empty plots of unused land are rare in central Bangkok. But in the countryside starting just from the fringes of metro is how Thai markets are supposed to be. Noisy, rubbish strewn about the many pots of stew. The crowd, the smell, the odd fermented fish in soiled buckets. The live tilapia, the breathless snakeheads about to be executed. The pots and pans on sales, the clothes that I will never buy on promotion.

Dinner prepared by Temple
Na Duang is a district not known for tourism. We chatted and asked about what tourist can do in the night and all we got were surprise expressions staring back. I am sure activities in the night would include just grabbing the cat passing by and petting it, smacking mosquitoes as they suck on our blood, or to help the local folks slaughter pigs for the next day’s sale. So back to the hospital grounds hitching yet another ride, for there were no taxis of any sort in existence. The temple fed their guest. Set up front of our mass lodging was a meal of kanon-jhin (rice noodles in spicy gravy). Along with chicken and desert we bought from the market, we made the best out of our feast and the mosquitoes exploited the best out of our legs under the tables.

We slept in the common hall, bathed in the common toilet all male and female. Thin sheets of mattress, aging sheets of blankets. Rectangular hard ancient pillows that smelled I rested upon, I gazed into the fanless ceiling. Fortunately it was winter and the cool air crept slowly in. My iPhone charging up for the next day, it was just 9pm and I dozed. The night started early and so did the next day.

I Swear, they are Zombies
Oh elderly gentle folks of Bangkok, oh what mysterious nocturnal creatures you are. Their ancient ancestors must have been vampires or zombies as they started to rise from slumber one by one just after 1am. They started chatting and soon more and more joined. It was then 2.45 am that I was wide awake amidst the yakking of a thousand conversations. Played cards some did, gambled. Spoke of their families, strolled around in the hall. Some vainly powdered on their make up in preparation for the praying session to the monks, scheduled at 6am some 3 hours away. And so I did no sleep and continued to contemplate about driving a giant wooden stick through their hearts.

5am, we were all on the coach heading off to the temple. We arrived, the sky still dark. The elderly occupied the temple kitchen and under the florescence, they cook up an aromatic storm. A buffet for the monks in the making, the hunger howled in our bellies. We shall not eat only till the monks had theirs, this the tradition of such. Each helped, I carried chairs. We whisked the trays of cuisines into the main prayer hall. Out the back, a lone skeleton stood, looking back into the eyes of the golden Buddha, in between gastronomy feast. Why the donated skeletons so popular in the temples so many? To fright off the thieves maybe. By works of dark magic maybe, the monks can summon them up, to take on arm of swords and shields, like Diablo III I played aplenty. It’s ok, I am a level 60 wizard that can cast celestial orbs.

On first light, we carried out the Loei tradition of offering gluttonous rice to the strolling monks. That day, they monks did not need to venture beyond the temple for alms, for we were there to overfeed them with our conglomeration of cookery. We lined pathways and overstuffed their alms bowls with sticky mass of rice so difficult to get detached from our fingers. Not very hygiene, but it’s been done for a thousand years. After the tradition we moved into the prayer hall. The praying session started just after 7. The lead monk spoke of the Buddha’s teaching, the pilgrims eyes closed in a state of semi meditation. Me mind wondered away, rearranging skills for extra critical damage should I need to cast a lightning spell at the skeleton back in the hall.

Financial Consolidation
As usual, the finale was the splashing of blessed water from what appeared to be a short broom at everyone in the hall. We gorged on the leftovers after, breakfast for us finally. Left the temple grounds near noon, back to Bangkok in our coach. Maybe we did not do a good prayer because soon after, there was a loud explosion as the coach sped along the undulating roads, we busted a tyre. Fortunately it was not one of the front wheels that blew up, if not I was pretty sure we did crash and burn, be yet another number in the statistics of holiday season related accidents so common this period. I had a look at the tyre treads, most were gone from many of the wheels. Business operators saving cost at the expensive of potential lost of lives. Yes they know it, prevent it they don’t. Welcome to Thailand. Incredibly, we did not have a spare, the coach crept to the nearest town of Dan Sai some 10 km away. More amazingly, we engaged steep slopes to another temple attraction. Passengers were let loose to wonder the grounds as the coach headed for the nearest workshop for repairs. It returned a good two hour later and we headed downhill towards yet another temple. Temples and temples, that’s all there were to do in midday. Soon we were on our 6 hours journey back to Bangkok. Darkness descended, all of us gorgy from falling in and out of sleep from the long journey. Restless, the results of such trips. Never will any of us go for a budget type village organized excursion again. But yet, again and again, we went.

Temple Entrance

Fields of Flowers on way Back

Another Temples Visited

Temple on a Hill
Tradition, going 3 time Around
Busted our Tyre

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