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Consecrating Wat Padungthamapotivad

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A new temple is opening in Khuekkahk, a little bit north of Phuket on the Andaman sea. This is a rare event, and it's said if you get to attend 9 of these in your lifetime, then you are blessed indeed. This is my second, the first I went to as a small child. Too small to remember much.

The basic ceremony is: The temple is surrounded by stone balls. The balls hang suspended above holes in the ground into which they will stay. They're suspended by sticks forming a cradle. You cut one stick each with a knife, the ball falls into the hole and a statue is moved over it to seal the hole.

It's such a prized thing, being part of this ceremony, that you have to book well in advance. There are a fixed number of sticks holding up the ball, and a fixed number of knives. Naturally, I called well ahead and booked my place.

I thought I would stop for a quick swim in the warm Andaman sea, and try out my new underwater camera. I have plenty of time! And, after all, I did book....

I arrived a little late, too much splashing around in the water. With 15 minutes or so to spare I was cutting it fine. But where's my knife? I'm not on the list! They lost my booking, the line of engraved knives are there, but my name isn't on any of them!

The places are limited, each knife has an allocated stick on an allocated ball. No knife, no stick, no ceremony for me. Worse, the army was helping out, and they want their lists according to their rules.

After some argument, they let me go talk to the women who prepared the knives, lucky for me, there were some small ones left. No shows! They'd booked, but not arrived. Next up, a visit to the monk to make my donation. I'd booked a large knife, so I paid for a large knife, even though I only had a small knife now. No matter, it's the donation to the temple that's important, the knife is just symbolic of that donation.

Large knives $160 (5000 baht), small knives $100 (3000 baht). A lot of people simply can't afford to do the knife ceremony.

5 minutes to spare! But Mr Jobsworth won't let me go, he wants a receipt from the monk! Then he still won't let me go, the lists are full, the sticks are all allocated. I go up to the temple anyway, I can see I'm going to have to fight for this!

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I move from ball to ball, but I'm moved on, there isn't room, the sticks are all allocated. At the back of the temple, this one is half empty. While people at the front get one cut of one stick, I get 3 sticks to cut!

Once the ball is in the hole, the sticks get cut up and distributed. They're highly prized, people cut them up, and give them for luck. I get 3 of them! Well at least I started out with 3. I give 2 away to less fortunate people, and on the way out, an army man asks to look at the knife. I can see his eyes are really on the stick, but he's too polite to ask. Do you want some of the stick? Yes? Another third of the stick is gone.

As I said, it's a privileged to be a knife holder at these ceremonies and I was particular lucky to cut three sticks. But giving away so much of the stick, means only small pieces are left for my family and friends. A fragment is enough, at home I cut it up into small pieces, place it carefully in little gift boxes and off it goes to them.

Only 7 more temple openings to do in this lifetime.


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