It was my first encounter with Buddhist monks in Thailand. I arrived bright and bushy-tailed in Bangkok and wanted to see more of the city before I headed off to Chang Mai for my jungle adventure.
I was chatting to one of the guys working at the hotel where we I was staying and I casually asked him if he wanted to be my personal guide for the afternoon. First he didn`t want to but I said I would pay him off course. He reluctantly agreed. I could see it wasn`t about the money. He had no experience as a guide but that didn`t bother me at all. I love local guides. They know the city and the history. For me it was perfect.
Soon we encountered the monks. They fascinated me with their bright orange robes. A monk was sitting chatting to a friend and an empty chair was next to him. I wanted to grab the chair and have a chat to him. My guide nearly had a heart attack.
“No, you cannot do that!”, he exclaimed.
“Why?”, I asked.
“Women are not allowed to talk to them”, he explained.
“Oh”, I said.
Luckily he agreed to make things easier for me and he offered to ask the monk the question that I wanted to ask. I wanted to know why the monks wear orange robes. In the photo below you can actually see the man pointing to the robe of the monk.
Saffron robes are meant to symbolize the humble clothing of the Buddha and are worn by the monks of the Theravada tradition of Sri Lanka, Cambodia, and Thailand. The monks of different traditions wear robes that range from simple to ornate.
I also learnt that back in the early days of the Buddhist movement, the robes were to be made from found cloth (rags) and dyed in the cheapest dye available. I knew so little about them and I wanted to learn more during my stay in Thailand.
He thanked the monk on my behalf and we walked on. We found a group of monks in prayer and I took a quick photo. I had so many questions but didn`t have the time to because my guide had a lot of things to show me. We walked past a temple and saw the monks eating together. What a lovely sight!
Foreigners can participate in giving offerings to the Monks at temples. Many shops sell orange buckets with daily necessities like food, soap and toothpaste which can be bought and offered to monks. What is the custom to offer a monk this bucket? Bow your head to the floor three times while holding the palms of your hands together.
When: 8 April 2006