Friday, September 02, 2005


Monk-ey business

I visited the Tiger Cave Temple yesterday near Krabi, the town in which I am staying this week. I saw my first big golden Buddha statues there. The cave has a temple built in front of it and inside it. You can go inside the cave temple. It's pretty big, maybe the size of a conference hall at a hotel. Dozens and dozens of golden Buddhas of all sizes sit in the curve of the cave. Lots of saffron-colored candles burn and several monks sit praying. It all combines to light the cave in peaceful orange golden light. It was one of those "wow" moments I have been having.

Near the temples, there is a flight of about 1,200 concrete stairs that leads to a mountaintop temple I didn't earn the right to see. I tried climbing to the top, but I only got to step #469. Heart slamming, sweat running off my nose and fingertips. It was as far as I could go and climbed back down. Some fit guys in my group made it all the way, and they shared their photos from the top.

Some monks were wandering around the temple grounds. One of them approached me and asked me the usual information. He asked me so many questions that I couldn't ask him my questions before my bus left. It was delightful. I wish I had a photo of that but will have to keep it in memory: me in my Adidas and big sunglasses talking with a monk who was wrapped up in yards of orange fabric and stirring a cup of Nestle instant coffee while I explained the difference between Austria and Australia. I guessed he was about 19 to 22 years old, as calm as could be, carrying a pink shoulder bag (not like a patent-leather purse or anything, more like a fabric satchel). He said his "job" is teaching a certain type of meditation in a secondary school. I wish we would have had monk-taught courses in high school instead of how to balance a checkbook.

I am of the opinion that it's completely obvious that when you visit a temple you are supposed to dress modestly and take off your shoes. Shoulders covered and pants down to the ankles. But of course, there are women who show up in bikini tops and Paris Hilton jean skirts wearing their flip flops inside the temple. I wonder how offensive it is for the monks and nuns to see all that skin in such a holy place? I don't understand why some of the tourists don't know better or at least throw on some shorts and a sarong over their arms. I doubt they would attend church back at home like that ...

If you like, inside the temple, you can look over a stack of clear plastic boxes and buy one to offer the monks. I watched a girl purchase one and take it to the monks praying in the cave. She quickly talked with them, then they prayed together. The boxes hold things like toilet paper, soap and toothpase.

Laying low for a couple of days. I had my first bout of food poisoning two nights ago and am getting my energy back. It was bound to happen, and that's all I'll say about it.

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