Saturday, 16 November 2013

A very special day for Khao Sok and for Curious Adventures

Saturday 16th November

We woke up early again this morning for the fete at the Wat in Khao Sok and there were problems before we even got dressed. When I woke up, Carol was already in the loo, but in typical Curious Adventures style, rather than get a runny bottom when abroad, Carol got a cork! 

Breakfast was lovely as always and Sih who cooks our food was looking absolutely beautiful as she prepared for her day at the Wat. Carol and I even managed to make something of an effort and both of us look almost respectable. In truth Carol looked lovely and with her hair flowing over her shoulders she fitted in perfectly with the other woman who had come to celebrate the day. Mr Bao picked up the three of us in his truck and drove us to the monkey temple and the place was heaving with people and yet there was not a single tourist in sight. Sih obviously felt that she had to look after us a little and took us over to her group of friends and family to sit down which was lovely in so many ways. 

The purpose of todays event was to raise money to finish the building work and to bless the temple, so it was a big event locally for these wonderful people who welcomed us into their hearts and happiness. After being sat for a few moments, one of Sih's family presented us with ice cream sprinkled with nuts with some rice. I cannot begin to describe the wash of delicate flavours that filled my mouth, but what I can tell you is that it was probably the nicest ice cream I have ever eaten. 

Having excused ourselves from the lovely family group, we went for a wander around and saw only smiling people who greeted us warmly and often. What would happen is that we would get a brief look of concern over who we were, followed by a smile and then we would greet them in Thai and the smile that would come back was as bright as the sun. I keep coming back to the difference between the travelled and the traveller and once again it was apparent because we were in the community, so much so that when the blessing of the Wat started, Carol and I were both pulled into the dance of women who dance three times around the building accompanied by a group of musicians. Meanwhile a bus of tourists arrived and a very sullen bunch they looked as they clustered by the Monkey temple for a while before leaving. 

The dancing was exhausting and with our whole bodies running with sweat we attempted to sit down, but were immediately grabbed by locals who wanted to chat or say hello or just have their photos taken with the strange Westerners who had turned up to their special day. The whole event was spiritually invigorating if physically exhausting. Finally we were able to speak to a lovely woman who guided us to the place where we could make an offering to the temple fund and after our special welcome into their happiness it woudl have felt very wrong to not do so. We took off out shoes and entered the temple as Monks sang and were lead to the place where we gave our offerings. Our attempts at doing the right thing were met with gentle happy smiles and a great deal of tolerance not often seen in some of the other major religions. As we walked outside the main chant started and the Buddhist devout sat in contemplative silence listening to the chants as children played around them, chickens pecked for dropped food and dogs wandered in and out of the cool of the temple. I could not imagine  a more gentle and yet beautiful spiritual experience. 

It was so hot even the camera got into a steam!

Right in the middle of the dance around the Wat

This is where we made our offering

Away from the main temple is a large cave in which there are several statues and religious icons, even in these caves the temperature was baking hot, but how could we not have a look when a happy local waved us inside and showed us where to look? 

As we exited the cave, we found a few locals trying to guide another Weston tourist away from the cave and towards the celebrations, however the tourist was not interested and instead turned and walked away a little disgruntled heading to their tour bus.

Finally as we sat listening to the emotion of, if not understanding the wording of the chants a happy smiling Mr Bao found us and sat down next to us. He asked us if we had enjoyed our time and seemed genuinely pleased that we had been so welcomed into village life so readily. As it became apparent that we were melting in the heat he asked us if we would like a ride back to the Lodge and he kindly loaded us into his truck and drove us back home where we climbed the steps to the lodge and dropped everything that we had, bags, hats and clothes! A few minutes later we joined him again in the bar for a drink and to say thank you for allowing us to spend such a time with his community. Both Carol and I felt honoured to have been involved in the celebrations, given how we saw other tourists react to the event and how in turn they were reacted too. 

So we come to our last night in Khao Sok Valley Lodge, although we have loved our time here and will cherish the memories we have built here, we are ready to move onto the next place of our adventure in Thailand. We have seen so many wonderful things here, poisonous snakes, huge spiders and beautiful people that we would of course be a strange breed if we were not a little sorry to be going. We will miss Mr Bao, the lovely Sih, the cheeky Min (AKA Mr Lady-boy) and the jungle itself. This has been for me as a former Environmental Scientist a place that has re-awakened the person who cared so much about the world. I can see the amazing thing that Mr Bao is doing here, his teachings and philosophy make this place just a little more special and where else in Thailand can you sit down with a beer and talk with passion about Liverpool Football club? 

If any of you would like to stay with Mr Bao, then you can do so by making a booking with him at this e-mail address. If you do come, do please bring him a new Liverpool sticker for his truck!