Yes, it cudda been a movie.
Tong is a force of nature—she picks us up at 6:30 to “make merit” before we leave for the floating market. Thai monks must eat only what they are given. They cannot cook for themselves or own anything except their bowl.
Most Thai make merit every day. There is a precise ritual to follow-precise but simple. You must put the food you buy into the bowl in a proscribed manner. The monk blesses you. Done. Start you day with a blessing instead of a traffic jam.
We go to an area where there are many disabled or elderly monks. Some come with caretakers and people who hold their “bag’. There is a cottage industry that has built up around this custom—vendors that come with your “merit” pre packaged: rice, vegetable, something unidentifiable, water and a flower with incense. 75 cents. A pretty economical way to get on the good side.
Later they will return to their temple, share all that has been gathered, and if they have too much, they will feed the poor.
For an American, we who buy something new everyday, or clog landfills with our Starbucks cups, this is sometimes a difficult lifestyle to grasp.
Do not touch the monk. You will want to because they have an allure not often experienced here. Don’t.
We move on to the Floating market. Not normally into heavy tourist items, I really wanted to do this for some reason…now I know why: Chicken skewers and noodle soup, fried bananas at 8:30am YUMMY!!! Don’t go without Tong or someone from her team. They know the right places and do not allow you to shop in the relentlessly touristy places. And everyone knows them. Including the animals. As we floated along, we noticed that Tong was buying LOTS of food…I mean way way too much for me and the last French tour bus we passed to eat. We asked why and she said for the animals …but “what I bought for you was better quality.” Good to know.
We veered away from the “beaten” canal and as we did Tong and the boatman started to sing out…and the dogs started to appear. It seems that Tong feeds the strays. For most she doesn’t take the skewers out—in fact we saw several that had learned to hold them down with their paws and remove the meat…but still there is more than just for the dog, but we will find out about that later.
After the market we head for the Tiger Temple. You can read about the controversy about this on Fodors---or other places. Yes, I was skeptical too, but now I understand that at least they are doing something. And something is better than nothing. None of the animals that we saw seemed to be worse fro wear at all—in fact they seemed to be well taken care of. Yes, there is an air of commercialism that didn’t set well, but, hey, we have Disneyland.
Kristina REALLY wants to take this one home to Nem.
And by the way, all the animals here know Tong’s voice as well…as we entered she would call out and goats and dear and dogs would come running.
And really, the trip out there and back was made all the more worth for BamBam…Tong seems to have adopted a bear…found on the Thai-Myanmar border as a baby this bear was brought to temple, and is quite taken with Tong ….she used to run free but there is construction going on for new habitats and she has to be caged for now…
This was a long day, and I look forward to some rest tomorrow before we go to Cambodia.
For better pictures (and more of them) see http://www.wired2theworld.com/, and click on Thailand and Cambodia.