An early morning start, a taxi trip across town, the first and the most cramped tuk tuk ever, and we were in the middle of this. (The we on this trip was my husband, our daughter-in-law, both our sons and myself.)
The welcome was warm and friendly and those around us made sure we were included. They made room for us on the mats and tried to explain, despite our limited Thai, what was happening. I managed okay by doing what everybody else did and following the helpful tips of our Bangkokians. This meant being careful not to touch any of the monks and to keep my feet tucked away.
Making merit is an important part of Buddhist beliefs. When the lady in the foreground of the video realised I had no food to contribute she gave me some of hers. I think she didn’t want me to have the shame that comes with offering nothing.
We were told this gathering was to celebrate a special feast day and to show support to the monks, especially those from the south of Thailand. It’s an area where there’s an ongoing dispute over the border, some call it a secret war. As with all such things, it’s complicated.
On an island the borders are naturally defined. Living at the bottom of the world probably helps, too. On a continent it’s not the same, which history has shown many times all over the world. My limited understanding of the situation in the south of Thailand is that the insurgents want to return to Malaysian rule. They are worried about losing their culture and their customs.
I don’t pretend to know the rights and wrongs of it all. I abhor violence as much as I support freedom of religion.
Regardless of the politics, it was a privilege to witness people declaring in a gentle, peaceful, and prayerful manner what is important to them. Public prayer on this scale is something I’ve never been involved with at home.
As a foreigner with no Thai language it was impossible for me to really understand the significance of the event. But I’m grateful to our Bangkokians for making it possible for me to be there. You can check out their adventures here.
What do you think? Would you have wanted to be there?