Ghostly Monks of Amphawa

March 10, 2015

It moved with grace, floating in silence like a fallen petal carried downstream by the river.

I can't remember if I had my alarm on that particular morning or that something else woke me. All I can remember is that I was half-asleep and half-awake standing on the terrace of a house. For me, early mornings are the best time of the day, and no matter how tired I am, I always try to wake up early when I'm traveling.

A mist concealed some of the wooden houses in the distance. You'd be forgiven for thinking that it was cold because it was still early. It wasn't. It was hot, sticky, and humid.

As my eyes adjusted to the view in front of me, I noticed a slow, ghostly shape gliding in the canal. It moved with grace, floating in silence like a fallen petal carried downstream by the river.

I tried to make out what it is: maybe a fisherman bringing his early catch to the market or a vendor just starting the day.

A closer inspection showed a distinct orange robe coming into focus. The silhouette turned out to be a monk. He was alone at first, but several more arrived just moments after the first one.

I watched in wonderment as they parked their boats and groups of people approached them. They received goods in exchange for prayers. Hanging loosely on their shoulders were drum-shaped containers used to store food. I heard stories about this—every morning, the monks visit the towns, filling their bags with food, then went back to the temple after.

Sometimes, they walked a considerable amount of distance just to get food. The act of trading goods with other people is so primal that I wonder why it's not as common today. I found it refreshing how these gentle souls interact with their environment. They moved so gracefully and quietly that just by observing them, I felt a sense of calm.

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