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A trip to the temple with "A"

Written on: Wednesday January 30th, 2008

A journal entry from: Thailand to Turkey

So let's see, it's been a few days.  I've hung out at the pier with my group of Thai friends several times; the group changes from night to night, so I've met about 10 people total.  They begin to arrive around 9 or 10. 

The trip has been postponed again, or rather it looks like our departure date of the 31st is becoming more and more optimistic and less and less of the realistic sort.  It will happen.... but when?  "A" (Patty) and I went to Chalong Temple yesterday, where she showed me how to go about temple business.  You go to a donation table and pick up various things; we got lotus blossoms and incense.  There is a special preperation for the lotus blossom; you fold the petals back one by one and refold in triangles so it appears to be in bloom.  The incense you take to a special covered hutch where they have a torch lit. 

We lighted the candles included with the incense, and the incense in turn with the candles, saving the paper it was wrapped in for later.  I was wondering why, as I thought it was simply rubbish, but I was later enlightened.  (Not in the way one might expect in a temple, but delightful, nonetheless.)  Next, we shed our footwear and made our way up the steps to a place for holding incense, a large metal (bronze?) urn full of sand and ashes.  Focused the power of intention for the benefit of homo sapiens everywhere for a moment, or at least intended to, and then planted the incense rods next to the hundreds of others.  Up another set of steps to the main temple, where we knelt in front of a shrine, the main feature were three statues of men, whom I suppose were monks and perhaps famous ones at that, though not quite so famous as Brittany Spears.  Prayed again, then did some bowing, hands forming a triangle on the carpet in front of you then placing the head in said triangle.  Three times for good measure, then the mystery of the paper was revealed! 

Inside the paper, which was actually 3 or 4 papers, were contained a piece of gold leaf.  A started applying water with a squirt bottle to the monk statue on the right, then placed the golf leaf on the monk.  At this time, your oh-so-ever observant narrator took note that the monks were gold because they were covered in this gold leaf!  A few other things he noticed were that:

  1. The monks heads were not so heavily laden with the leaf, rather bare in spots, actually.  This could be because Thai are generally diminutive or also because they hold the head as the highest and most respected part of the body.  It's not good manners to tousle thier hair for example, however cute and cuddly they may seem. You might get an impromtu Muay Thai exhibition?  The gold that was on the monks heads could be accounted for by tourists, as there were an abundance and a majority of them present.

2. I forget the second thing I noticed.  My memory is not quite as well honed as my empirical prowess.

 Once we were relieved of our gold flakes, we returned to the front of the shrine to shake a cylinder full of "Pick Up Sticks".  Each one has a number on it, evidentally, and you shake, shake, shake....shake, shake, shake... until one pops out.  I don't know what happens if you shake out more than one.  Most likely you come back as a dung beetle or a Gene Simmons clone (once they start mass production).  I got number 9, and A got 32.  Remember your number, because there is a small mailroom box (with little cubbies, you know like people have in a corporate office or in kindergarten for your things) with a proverb or fortune for each of the possible numbers.  My fortune as translated by A was watch out when travelling for someone close to you who is dangerous and also you will lose something and never get it back.  I hope it's not a body part, as I'm rather fond of all of them.  Her fortune was you put good energy into the world and will receive good energy in turn.  She laughed and made the quaint observation that her fortune was the dog's bullocks.... mine? Quite lamentable. 

Altogether, a rather thorough ritual process that I was unaware of previously, and had a splendid time participating in!

Today, I took a motorbike and ran around looking for Spam.  That strikes me as a rather odd thing to say, as though I just made it up; as I am wont to do in my sometimes random and contrary fashion, but it was indeed my mission for the day and several hours were delegated to such task.  I was ultimately successful, in that I purchased 8 tins of potted luncheon meat, as Spam was more than twice the price.  And finding it was not easy.  Thai are big on cans of tuna and other fish, but rather uninterested in the procurement and disbursement of other species.  I found every variety of sardine and tuna in a can that I have ever seen, plus a few new ones such as curry and (couldn't read the can, but looked spot on).

Last night I decided to stay off the boat, to save William the trouble of coming in the dinghy to pick me up, and also to get a nice shower in without the knowledge that I would shortly thereafter hop in the ocean and get all salty and sticky before going to sleep in my humid bunk.

 I didn't really plan ahead and someone mentioned to me that reception at most places has a closing time.  I forget I'm not in Bangkok or Chaing Mai anymore!  So I started running around and looking for a place to stay, not entirely dismissing the possibility that I might end up outside.  As I walked along I began to take note of places that would be suitable.  I wanted a place away from water and plants (mosquitos) and hidden from public view so I would not be disturbed in the middle of the night or early morning by law enforcement or a property owner.  My wanderings took me in front of the pier, where my friends called out to me.  In less than 30 minutes, they had popped me onto a motorbike and had me well sorted out in a nearby resort for 400 Baht!  We socialized for an hour or so then I was chaperoned back to my room where I showered, took in a film on the TV (inclusive to the rate :), and slumbered like a pig. 

I might take this opportunity to point out (and not for the first time) that rocks don't sleep and pigs don't sweat.

Tchau to all of my readers and I intend that you are well, happy and loved! 

 As a final note, I would like to share a thought I had last night smoking a cigarette outside my temporary domicile.  Travelling, like life, isn't about the temple trip, the people I meet or the foods I taste.  It is, but it isn't.  There was a little frog hopping by a tree and that moment I thought "that frog is what traveling is about.  It's what life is about."  It's the moments, the little moments in between the big things.  It is about the big things too though, I realize.  I'm a little unsorted explaining this, maybe you get it, maybe you don't.  I get it sometimes, and that frog was one of those times.