It’s not really a respect for the past sort of heading photo is it! I couldn’t come up with anything better and these children formed a fun part of the morning so let’s respect the past by embracing the joy of the future as represented by these faces.
Today some of my Isaan family visited the local temple in our village of Si Bun Ruang to pay respects to deceased relatives and give them a good feed. I so enjoy these sort of events, which are totally part of the natural everyday life here and don’t involve anyone dressing up for the occasion for the tourist buses (a la northern hill tribes). Someone wrote on my Facebook page that it’s the difference between the reel life (like the movies) that tourists see and the real life I enjoy. I am usually the only farang at these events but have been here long enough that I’m no longer seen as particularly unique or strange (still a little bit odd and always will be) in the landscape!
I think locals are used to me turning up with the camera. I don’t think they have ever seen me without it so it comes as no shock. For those of you who know Thai people you will also know that they are the least shy individuals, which is reflected in their own obsession in taking selfies in every situation imaginable. One farang with a camera doesn’t worry them a bit. As a result I have heaps of wonderful photos that capture a lovely ceremony and an interesting morning. Although the main subject for this post is the ceremony to respect relatives, those of you who are regular reader will know that I will head off topic as my camera has a mind of its own and I just follow along adding words later!
Walking to the wat we were passed by this lady loaded up with banana leaf packages to offer to her family later.
This is Wat Thung Sawang Khongkha, which you can find on Google Maps HERE. It’s a traditional village wat with the monk’s ordination hall at the front and a larger public Buddha shrine and meeting place being constructed at the back.
The formal part of the ceremony was being held inside this old building that used to be the village’s primary (middle) school. You can see the school bell on the right outside the doorway.
It is being replaced by this huge Buddha hall and meeting place. The construction has been happening ever since we got here over three years ago. I believe they have raised enough money to get it mostly finished and workmen are putting the detailing touches to it now.
These decorations are handmade onsite and then painted once installed on the walls.
Inside the floor has been completely re-levelled and these bags are full of small pebbles that will be used to form a patterned pebblecrete floor. The contractor is the same guy who did our pebblecrete driveway.
Food is prepared for the monks to eat once they’re finished the chants involved with this ceremony. The monks don’t eat after noon so this meal has to last them until tomorrow.
Outside the meeting hall the village’s pre-schoolers had walked down with teachers to take part. Kids in pink are 5th year and the ones in blue 6th (as in age).
We sat under the trees as there was limited space inside and it was cooler. Gaun is carrying her food parcels in the basket.
Gaun and her best mate and younger sister Yuan. Both ladies had got dressed up for the occasion in Isaan gear. Very lovely.
While we waited for the official ceremony to get going I went for a wander to see what else was happening.
Looking down on the crowd from the new temple building.
The bell tower, not that I have seen it being used. It is sort of on the tick list for a standard village temple with money.
An old wasp nest was hanging in one of the outside shrines. Never interfere with these guys – they are the ones with long legs. Super aggressive and protective and give you quite a bite. Amazing architecture revealed by the part of the outside someone has peeled away.
Nothing special but I thought I would mention the elephant and monkey you might spot here.
You will come across them usually in statue form everywhere in Thailand. The scene is based on a story relating to Buddha where the elephant offers him water while the monkey a honeycomb. If you want to read the story you can find a version of it HERE.
There is a pond at the back of the temple, which is the home for these two buildings, an unused shrine and a unused sala behind it. Building things is part of Buddhism here but using what has been built is less important. It’s the merit involved gained by those funding it that’s the goal. The final result, unless it attracts more money, is less vital and often slowly falls into disrepair unfortunately.
Maybe used come the beautiful festival of Loi Krathong, which this year will be held on 23rd November. You can read more HERE.
This is me looking as if I have made these krathongs back in 2015 – decorated floating rafts that are released at night into rivers, lakes and ponds for good luck. Gaun is obviously the real creator but I am happy to take any credit that’s going.
It’s a shame this has no use. Full of potential but no follow through and no maintenance of course.
Large bees/wasps were building a hive above our heads. A local pointed it out – I see nothing in a typical male way.
Lottery ticket anyone? A national obsession and no place is safe from ticket vendors even a wat. I have seen them come around at a funeral!
This is May, the daughter of one of Gaun’s nieces, Her mum is working with her husband in Chonburi, Bangkok way. I always try to get photos of May when I can to post on her mum’s Facebook page.
It is difficult to take a photo of just one person in Thailand. The keen participants just multiply.
Yuan joins in the group shot.
Don’t you just love the different poses.
Yet more arrived. We got the whole school! The spontaneity of Thailand is one of the aspects that I so enjoy. How can you stay serious and not get involved with a scene like this.
Now you have a bunch of Isaan school kids – what do you think this might be set up for?
Duh. Food of course. Schoolkids aged 5 – 12 years old get a free lunch and it was transported to the temple with the children. This lot is actually back for second helpings.
I am sure some thirds were in this lot!
A pretty good meal. Better than school lunch in my day. I was offered a helping!
Hunger focuses the attention in a way schoolwork never will!
By this time the monks had arrived and the formal part of the morning had kicked off.
Only three monks. I believe that some temples are finding it hard to get a full quotes of monks. The west is doing a great job of teaching Thais that it is far better to chase a material happiness illusion than look at other non-material paths.
I had to include this one and I explain why below.
As part of this ceremony there are two bits where the head monk chants and everyone attending pours water from one container to another. The trick is to do it at a speed that you neither run out of water before the chant has finished or you are left with water at the end. It is quite an art 🙂 This time the chant seemed to take forever and Yuan has filled her mug but still has water left in the bottle! What to do? Well lean over and continue to pour so the overflow runs away. Buddhism is a lot more flowing and forgiving than other paths and the rituals involved are pretty relaxed.
After the formal part of the ceremony everyone went to the wall of the wat, where the ashes of people are placed, and food was set out for relatives. Their names are said to call them to lunch. If they aren’t around it is assumed that another spirit will pass the message on! A lovely way to maintain a connection with family members.
Yuan and Gaun lighting candles and setting out the food.
Bear, Gaun’s older sister, hanging up packages that will be taken down and given to relatives based at home and at the farm. I guess some of them may not have transportation so would miss out outwise 🙂
Gaun hanging her packages. I love this simple colourful clothes presentation. The sarong and a stylish top.
These are only left hanging for a short time before being taken down again.
Villagers in the process of feeding relatives.
A food parcel opened up plus chewing tobacco for the yai (grandmothers) and a hand rolled cigarette for the guys. I will publish a story on what goes into these tobacco packs in a separate ‘Living in Isaan’ post soon. Very interesting.
My lovely wife. She brings me joy every day.
Takeaway packages waiting for pickup! Food on the ground underneath.
Ceremony over the school children line up for the walk back to school. A head count happening here.
Our house and the family home is only a short distance up the road but Bear grabbed a lift from a passing saling. Isaan people never walk when something with wheels is available. Gaun rides either the motorbike or a bicycle to mama’s house and it is less than 100 metres from us 🙂
The concept of the disciplined and orderly walk back to school seems to have broken down. This photo taken from the family home as a gaggle of kids (is that a formal description?) passed us by.
Order is being restored further up the street!
These ceremonies are 95% female attendees. Gaun tells me that the ladies build up more merit points, which is why Isaan men die younger 🙂
Lud was home based preparing more garlic for planting at the farm. Poor Lud had an accident climbing a tree to get some coconuts and got very bad rope burn on his hand and arm. Being the busy time for preparing fields and planting vegetables Yuan was less than impressed and told him he should have had the rope around his neck 🙂 Husband and wife relationships are universal! She does love him really. With everyone in formal gear, which is very unusual, photos were required to be taken to record the moment. In this case in our tropical garden.
Gaun and Yuan under the jackfruit tree.
Yuan and roses. Looking rather beautiful.
One more couple photo.
I knew the boat would come in useful! Gaun has just added new plants to the ‘sea’ that will grow underneath the boat. Give it a couple of months and it will look as though it is floating in flowers and plants.
A formal one of Yuan. Spot on.
Gaun wanders around hanging out the ‘takeaway’ parcels while at the same time calling out the names of relatives.
The last couple being placed.
How lucky am I to be in the situation where I can enjoy a morning like the one I have shared with you? It was a combination of being involved and being accepted by both family and community and that’s pretty special. I hope the spirits have been well fed and are looking kindly on their earthly based relatives.
Thanks for reading. As always please leave a comment to let me know you were here and enjoyed (I hope) the story. It’s the only payment I ask for a resource I fund myself. How many blogs do you see with popups and commercial advertisements? Not here.