you look at this and think 'Ohhh, lets go down there!!'
Friday saw the start of Buddhist Lent (If your not interested in the history just skip this bit) which is also known as the Rains Retreat (The Thai's call it 'Phansa'). The tradition of Buddhist Lent dates back to ancient India when all holy men spent three months of the rainy season in permanent dwellings (Normally they roamed the county - walking is considered a form of meditation). The idea was to avoid all unnecessary travel during this period because the crops were still new and, if travelling, the Monks might accidentally step on, and destroy, the young plants. So, at this time of year Thai Buddhist monks choose a temple to live in for three months during which time they study, meditate and teach local boys who wish to be ordained. The celebration of the beginning of Buddhist Lent is marked by the ceremony of presenting candles to the monks so it's an interesting time to go visit temples and see Buddhism in action.
Chris had Friday off work so we decided to go and do some exploring. We visited a couple of temples in Bangkok - There is a large temple near Saphan Taksin Skytrain Station that we have talked about going to for ages so we went there and on the way back discovered a tiny little Chinese temple hidden away down a little soi so had a mooch round it too. Then we decided that we would get on the boat to Nontaburi and if we saw any temples that looked interesting on the way we would hop off the boat and go have a look. That idea lead us to pier 28 and the lovely plank walkway that is pictured at the top of this post. A short walk across a swamp (yes, the plank was over a swamp) brought us out at a car park with a huge Buddha in it (now that's not something you see every day!!) so we followed the signs for Temple and came across THE largest temple complex I have ever seen. There we were in the middle of bloody nowhere and completely surrounded by Nuns!! (In Thailand it is common for women to become a Nun for a week or two as a way to make merit. They live at the temple, pray and meditate....I reckon that was why we were suddenly surrounded!!)
The complex was amazing and unlike any I have seen before. Instead of the temple being blinged to within an inch of it's life it was made from muted tones of coloured glass in the shape of a lotus flower and was surrounded by trees and gardens with paved pathways through it. It really felt quite magical - it was cool in the shade of the trees, sunlight danced through the leaves, curly wisps of burning incense floated through the air and Monks were chanting in the background. We were the only white faces there and it was fascinating watching offerings being given. We didn't stay too long as there was another temple nearer the river that looked interesting but we were both very glad we had found it and I think we'll go back again with Moon so that she can explain to us why it's so different to the others we have seen.