Late afternoon – after a day taken up by cycling – we had a rest at the road side for a fruit dinner with a couple of mangos, half a watermelon and a pomelo.
A monk in his characteristic shiny-orange dress came along the road and half and hour later walked back again. A good indication for a nearby ‘Wat’, i.e. a temple. Since the day was already advanced in time, we actually needed a place for the night soon and it was very unlikely that the next small villages along the road had any hotels. Consequently, we either had to camp or, for instance, ask at a Wat. And indeed, a couple of hundred meters up the road, there was the little, almost inconspicuous Wat, the previously seen monk belongs to. A few wooden huts, a small place of worship under a roof, and a temple building under construction that is covered in bamboo scaffolding. The monk turned out to be the only one living there. He agreed upon our inquiry to stay for a night with a motionless and serious expression and pointed to the roof-covered place of worship where also the Buddha altar was situated. We were also allowed to use the basic shower and toilets as well as help ourselves with the drinking water tank.
It turned out that Chan, the monk, luckily spoke a little bit English what is, according to our little experience with monks, usually not the case. Thus, over a coffee in the late evening and next morning we were able find out a little bit more about Chan’s life in a slightly labored conversation: Chan is about 43 years old, spent a few years in Taiwan in his twenties and as well a couple of month in Auckland, New Zealand. There he supposedly drank quite a lot alcohol, actually too much such that he got severe problems and got sent back home to Thailand by his boss. He called it an ‘accident’ caused by the alcohol while pointing to his head. As far as we understood, this incident marked the turning point when he became a monk. Eight years under the supervision of another old monk a few kilometers up the road, he lives since 4 years here and, for instance, helps building the new temple building. Currently, there is no money to continue but there is supposedly more to come the next month.
Although we were a bit tired from the day of cycling, it wasn’t before 9 p.m. when we were able to got to sleep. A little ceremony was to be held in the honor of Buddha’s birth. Hence, a few people, two or three families, dropped by around 7 p.m. to participate and we were invited to do so as well. With little flowers, a candle and some joss sticks at hand we followed the relatively short ceremony. With the monk’s mobile phone ringing during some prayers and some giggling and smiling here and there the ceremony was happily far from being dead serious.
We at least left a pack of cigarettes and a pomelo in return for the invaluable kindness Chan treaded us with. In his presumable solitude we were hopefully a nice little change for him, too, and, occasionally, we were even able to raise a smile from him.