The 60km onwards to Prachin Buri from Phanom Sarakham pass without much drama and we arrive in the town at around 4.00pm without much of a plan for where we are going to stay. We vaguely think we might be able to camp if we can get to the other side of the town but the sun is setting fast so we keep an eye out for possible guesthouses too.
We pass a big temple complex and decide to ask if we can pitch our tent in the grounds. We haven’t stayed in a temple yet in Thailand but did a couple of times in Cambodia…
Paddy goes off to investigate and after a few minutes walks back down the driveway accompanied by an elderly monk. I wish I had been able to get a picture of the two of them as they walked towards me down the road – they are chatting as they walk, Paddy’s tall, skinny lycra frame towering over the orange robed monk who walks bare foot with a long walking stick.
After consulting with the ‘Abbot’ of the temple its agreed we can stay.
We’re not allowed to camp together in the grounds but instead get invited to join the other ‘temple visitors’. We split up, Paddy pitching our tent in a room with the group of men and me joining the larger group of women inside a big hall across the courtyard. After a few shy smiles and waves we get acquainted and they help me make up my bed.
At first we can’t really work out what this group of people are here for (around 15 men and 50 women, of all ages, the youngest must be about 10 or 11). They are all wearing the same lavender uniform and at first we think maybe the temple is housing them because they are homeless. Later we come to the conclusion that they are here on a kind of Buddhist retreat, how long for we’re not sure though. Later we discover it is an important Buddhist holiday.
At 5pm they all go to pray and we’re left to shower and cook our dinner. At 6pm they all take a walk in silence around the grounds led by the monks.
At 8 everyone goes to bed and Paddy and I part ways. I just have time to make a quick birthday card for P before lights out.
We’re invited to join the group for a big communal breakfast. We both have a good time explaining where we are from and where we are going next.
It’s been a very special experience staying here and we feel we’ve gained a real insight into the Buddhist way of life.