Ghostly Monks of Amphawa

March 10, 2015

It moved with grace, floating in silence so as not to disturb the wooden houses that lay asleep beside it.

I can't remember if I had my alarm turned on that particular morning or that something else woke me up. All I can remember is that I was half-asleep and half-awake standing on the terrace of the house I stayed in.

A mist concealed some of the houses as far as my eyes could see and you'd think that because it was too early at dawn, it would have been cooler but it wasn't. It was still hot and humid. I had on my jacket but I was starting to sweat so I took it off.

As my eyes adjusted to the scene in front of me, I noticed a slow but steady ghostly silhouette gliding through the canal.

It moved with grace, floating in silence so as not to disturb the wooden houses that lay asleep beside it.

I had some guesses: a fisherman, bringing in his early catch to the market; a vendor, sliding his way to his favorite spot; or someone who just happened to like waking up early and floating about in the canal.

The orange robe gave him away. The silhouette turned out to be a monk (a bunch of monks to be precise. There were several little boats floating about after the first one). I watched in wonderment as they received goods from people living in the houses. In return, they offered prayers to these generous folks.

They carried plastic bags and sometimes big drum-shaped bags with a strap that hung loosely on their shoulders. Someone told me about this--how the monks had this routine filling up their bowls every morning before heading back to the temple to share the food once their bags are full.

I wondered if this basic practice of trading goods still existed in our city today. My thoughts bring me back to a memory of my younger years when I traded my good grades for toys with my parents.

Sometimes they walked a considerable amount of distance barefoot. It might seem odd but I found it refreshing how these gentle souls interact with those around them. They go about their routine so quietly and gracefully that observing them gave you this feeling of calmness.

I walked around the market one last time before I boarded a bus bound for Ayutthaya.

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