Today is a temple party, and for the next 4 days there are festivals in all the Buddhist temples across Thailand. I'm visiting Wat Tham Mongkhonat (13.6872N 100.6150E). Wat is Thai for temple, and Wat Tham Mongkhonat is a large and popular complex of temples and schools a short bike ride from On Nut Skytrain station.
It starts early, I arrived at 7.30am with an offering of food for the monks and there was already a long queue snaking around the car park. On this day the monks eat first, so I have not eaten breakfast.
Shoes off as you enter the temple, a regular Thai thing, we don't take dirt into the house or temple. Shoes are dirty and dirt is bad. Outside the temple today shoes were everywhere.
There a lot of ways of donating to the temple, this is a money tree, one of the more public ways to donate money. You take a stick, place notes to make the leaves, then stick them into a bucket to make the tree now complete with leaves.
You never offer money directly to the monks, at best you put it in an envelope, but normally things like the trees are the ways to donate money to the temple.
Most people are here to hand food to the monks, the food is all hygenically wrapped and freshly prepared. I bought mine on the street just before I set off. The queue to offer to the oldest monk is huge, but a whole line of monks are waiting to receive the offering. The newer monks wonder why nobody is lined up to offer food for them.
The drum is used to call the monks to pray, behind it is the food processing area.
Food is accepted by the monk, then taken away by the helpers to a preparation area where it's sorted. It's practically an industrial operation, a chain gang hands the food back from the popular old monk's area to the prep area.
Some of this food will be eaten by the monks after prayers. The rest of the food is available to eat later if you wait at the temple. There's always a lot of food at these parties, people donate generously but often then leave to go to work and don't stay to eat and so spare food is plentiful.
This is also a school, so you also see a lot of you monks in training. Schoolboys often do a short stint as a monk as part of their education.
Another way donations are made are these buckets and gift packages. They have some essential items for the monks, noodles, soap, drinks toilet paper, all carefully wrapped up. You 'buy' the package, donate it to the monk, later the package will be taken back for resale. The gift is mainly the money, the monks really don't need 500 tubes of toothpaste each day and this recycling avoids them getting more than they can use. Excess produce is donated to the poor.
Once all donations are made, the oldest monk offers a prayer, a word of wisdom and often a joke or two. The laugh is because he blesses us with a wish that we can all win first prize in the lottery.
We then all leave so that the monks can eat in peace.
After the ceremony, I looked around the temple complex. There's a lot of temples and a lot of Buddha's here, in the picture above you don't really get a sense of how massive that Buddha is.
You also see a portrait and statues of one of the original monks who founded this temple. He seems to permanently frown. There's a white cat at this temple with black-hair around his mouth that looks like a frown. I noticed him before I noticed the portrait of the monks. Perhaps its the reincarnation of the monk.
It's worth spending an hour just wandering around the complex and seeing all the temples. Including one in a concrete dome. It's in not such a good state of repair, but still very well worth seeing.
Some of the temples here are almost like old factories. With rooms inside the tower. I assume storage rooms for relics and remains of old monks, but very gritty and smoke covered.
I also found the Buddha stances status around this tower. A different Buddha for each day of the week, you pour water over the shoulders and hands of the statue corresponding to the day of the week you were born on. I'll do a full article on that soon.