We are now just a few days away from the end of the three month Rains Retreat which some people refer to as Buddhist Lent. This is the time when monks have to stay within the temple complex and are not allowed to disrobe. In two days time, we will be celebrating “ok pansa” which also, apparently, marks the end of the rainy season. We had a pretty heavy rainstorm this afternoon so I am not sure if that will be true this year. October is a good month to come to Thailand as there are so many festivals going on. There are boat races, temple fairs and even buffalo racing! If you had gone to Bang Plee in Samut Prakan this morning you would have been greeted with the sight of thousands of people lining the banks of Samrong Canal. Everyone was here to celebrate the Rub Bua Festival which happens every year two days before the end of the Rains Retreat.
You may remember me talking about the Buddha image called Luang Pho Sothon which I visited at a temple in Chachoengsao. The legend goes that this Buddha was one of three brothers that escaped the fighting up north and floated down river. The second brother was called Luang Pho To and he ended up here in Bang Plee which is on my doorstep. Every year, local villagers make merit by collecting lotus flowers and then line the canal banks to throw the flowers at the Buddha image as it passes them. This is truly an amazing sight and if you get a chance you should go next year. The atmosphere is really electric as everyone eagerly awaits the arrival of Luang Pho To by boat.
I am not exaggerating when I say there were thousands of people waiting near Wat Bang Plee Yai Nai temple. But, there were also hundreds and hundreds of other people further up the canal. Some were standing on either side of the canal and others were in their own boats. As soon as the Buddha image arrived everyone just started throwing lotus flowers, stems and all, at the boat. I really should have taken my video camera as it is difficult to catch this atmosphere with a still camera. It seemed to go on forever as people kept throwing the lotuses. But, it probably only lasted a minute or so. Then the boat was gone.
For the whole day there was plenty of events for everyone to enjoy. There was boat racing, beauty contests and lots and lots of food! Later in the afternoon, I saw the boat returning and you could only just see the Buddha’s head peeping out of the large pile of lotuses.
Like I said, in two days time there will be activities at all the temples to mark the end of the Rains Retreat. Then, in Samut Prakan we have the annual temple fair starting on 23rd October. This goes on for 9 days and 9 nights and is a massive event that takes place on both sides of the Chao Phraya River. More about this later.