Thai Buddhist Temples

Theravada Buddhism is Thailand’s predominant religion which is woven intricately into Thai identity and culture. The census of 2000 reports 94.6% of the population identifying as Buddhists of the Theravada tradition. Muslims constitute the second largest religious group at 4.6%.

Thai Buddhism has evolved over time with beliefs originating from Hinduism, animism as well as ancestor worship. The official calendar is the Eastern version of the Buddhist Era which is 543 years ahead of the western Gregorian calendar.

There are many Buddhist temples, and despite trekking to many temples in the cultural week, no two were the same. Almost always elephants feature somewhere being, of course, Thailand’s national symbol. The population of elephants is alarmingly low at around 2,000.

So, in a week I had plenty of opportunities to see sleeping Buddhas, tallest Buddhas, smiling, reclining Buddhas and everything in between.  One of the temples even had an embalmed monk in a glass casket and of course the number one temple was allegedly the Buddha’s foot.  Almost every house, business and in temple grounds would have a Spirit House.  Usually in a corner or auspicious place of the property.  The Thai people believe that the elaborate little house is the home of, and for the spirits so that they can maintain surveillance and protection of the property.  On the drive to the volunteer placement, there were often spirit houses seemingly in the middle of nowhere or under trees.

GoEco certainly provided me with plenty to see and experience in that cultural week. However, the one place that I would have liked to have seen was the Royal Palace and Emerald Buddha, but this closed at the time due to the death of Thailands king, however, more on that in a later blog.

Each temple had much to admire, and if one was on their own, there were certainly many quiet places where one could meditate and drink in the beauty of the surrounds.


Of course if one committed errors in one’s judgment, one can expect to be punished and these too were graphically represented.

Dancing with spirit…

Well, what an exciting few weeks I have had. No doubt if you have children in the higher school years conversation may turn as it did for Emma and myself as to what or how is the gap year to be spent. You see Emma was a brilliant scholar and was top of her class more times than not and so it was a given by her and myself that University would figure in the plans. One plan though was firm. The Gap year. Sadly Emma never got to her “Gap Year” passing as she did at 15. But her mother did.

So what were our plans together for the Gap Year. I would be taking a year off work, and together we planned to volunteer at projects around the world. One of the attributes that made Emma different from her peers was her mind and heart. We had already travelled to India together, and we were constant travellers of our country. But to Emma, this was a way to give back before settling down to a 4-6 years study program and something she wanted to share with her mum.

Although I did not quite make the right year, grieving tends to take over one’s life and has a course of its own, but I have completed a project that I am sure she is mega pleased her her mum did it.

This year is the year of the monkey; I was born in the year of the monkey, so what could be more fitting than to volunteer in a monkey (primate) project. So that is what I did. With the help of an organisation called GoEco who arranged the volunteer placement for me, along with so many other details that accompany such a journey I set off to the far regions of Thailand to volunteer in a primate sanctuary that is primarily home to Gibbons but also has monkeys.

I spent the first week of the three as a cultural week where I learnt about Thailand, history, culture, food, beliefs and general life. I was even a special guest at a long boat/dragon boat races. This honour came with some serious responsibility. I was required to dress in traditional Thai garments and dance with a group of very experienced Thai dancers. I confess I stumbled my way through a nationally televised version of a Thai dance. What an experience! I would never have foreseen me, a shy 60-year-old woman step out and dance in front of so many people. But that is the beauty of travel one gets the chance to do things that are out of the norm and experience life through others eyes.

Deep down I know somewhere in spirit my Emma was also dancing.