Monthly Archives: July 2007

Buddhist Flower Festival

Buddhist Flower Festival

One of my favourite festivals in Thailand for taking pictures is Tak Bat Dok Mai Festival at Wat Phra Phutthabat Ratchaworamaha Wihan in Saraburi Province. This always takes places at the start of the Buddhist Lent. I wasn’t able to make it this year as I was covering the same event at a more remote temple. However, these are some of my never before seen pictures I took a few years back. This temple is famous for the Mondop at the top of a hill which houses a large Buddha’s footprint. Quite often, when I travel north on Highway 1, I stop here to pay respects. There is a slightly scaled down replica of this mondop at the Ancient City in Samut Prakan. It is just as beautiful both on the outside and inside.

Buddhist Flower Festival

In most temples at this time of year, lay people go to their local temples to give food and other basic essentials to the monks. However, this temple is quite unique in that the followers make merit by giving flowers to the monks. And not only a handful of monks. There were literally hundreds of monks as you can see from the above photo. The flower is called Dok Khao Phansa and only blooms during this time of the year. The monks approach the temple gates on both sides of the street. Lay people are waiting to present them with flowers. The monks then climb the steep steps to the top of the hill. Then, after paying respects to the footprint, they descend the other side where even more followers are waiting. This time the lay people wash the feet of the novices and monks as they walk down the steps. This is a lovely festival and I will try and make an effort to go again next year.

Buddhist Flower Festival

Candlelight Procession

Wat Chaimongkhol

Today in Thailand it is a Buddhist holiday. It is Asanha Bucha Day. Tomorrow is Khao Phansa which is often translated as the start of the three month Buddhist Lent. A better translation would be the Rains Retreat. as it is now the rainy season, monks are not allowed to go out and wander between temples during this time. So, at the start of this retreat, people traditionally go to the temple to present the monks with large candles which are big enough to stay alight for the entire three months.

Wat Chaimongkhol

This evening I went to visit one of my local temples called Wat Chaimongkhol. Hundreds of people were expected for the traditional wien tien – the candlelight procession around the temple three times. I was a bit early so I sat down to talk with some of the monks. The picture above is of one of the novices. He told me that he had been at this temple for more than one year. Most novices only stay a short time when elderly relations die or during holidays. However, boys from poor families might go to temples for free education.

Wien Tien

The candlelight procession started finally just after 8 p.m. It was led by about 80 chanting monks. There must have been several hundred local people. Most of them families. The same scene was repeated at many of the other local temples. It was interesting for me to be there early as I got to see the monks preparing everything for the arrival of the lay people. The monks were very friendly chatting with me. In my last two photos, I was aiming to get a blurred effect of people carrying the candles around the temple. Didn’t quite work to my satisfaction as it was too dark and little lighting.

Candelight Procession

Mass Ordination of Monks

Ordination Ceremony

Cutting hair and eyebrows before becoming a monk

While I have been in Thailand, I have witnessed a number of ordination ceremonies. These have been mainly for my former students when they turned twenty. It is traditional in Thailand for adult males to become ordained as monks for a short period of time. People believe that you are not a full man until you have been ordained. Some people, who have work commitments, only stay as a monk for 15 days. Others remain as monks for three months during the Buddhist Rain Retreat. It doesn’t really matter. However, if you are a government official, you are allowed full paid leave to become a monk. Though I presume there must be some kind of time limit. I know some people who ordained for a short period but ended up staying for years.


Parading around the town of Paknam

Over the last few days, there have been a mass ordinations of monks nationwide in order to celebrate H.M. The King’s 80th birthday in December. In total there were 7,476 Buddhist men being ordained. There were 89 men from each of the 75 provinces and then also 89 men from each of the main temples in Bangkok: Wat Bonornnivet, Wat Saket, Wat Chanasongkhram, Wat Paknam, Wat Trimitwittayaram, Wat Suthatthepvararam, Wat Phrachetupon Wimolmangklaram, Wat Yannawa and Wat Rama 9. An American friend of mine was being ordained at the same time though he wasn’t counted as one of the 7,476. The 89 men from Samut Prakan came from all over the province. On the morning of Thursday, each temple held the hair shaving ceremony.  For this I went to Wat Chaimongkol where my friend would be living as a monk. Then, in the afternoon, everyone came together at Wat Pichai in the city centre, for some chanting and also for the parade around the town.


Then, on Friday morning, all 89 men, wearing white clothes, went back to Wat Pichai for the mass ordination. There was a lot of important people at this ceremony. Including the governor and police chief. Some of their staff were also being ordained on this day.


Ordination ceremonies that I have been to before usually only took an hour or so. However, as there were so many people, we were there for nearly three hours. After the presenting of the robes and some more chanting, it came the time for the men to put on the monk’s robes. This of course is not that easy and they had to have plenty of help from other monks that had already been ordained.


After some more chanting and a sermon it was almost time for the monks to have their last meal of the day. At this stage, all of the men had been ordained as novices. The building that this ceremony was taking place in wasn’t a sacred place. So, what they had to do was go back to their individual temples in the afternoon in order to complete the ceremony.

I will be writing about the ordination and then subsequent life of the American monk in a future blog at I want to give him a month or so to settle in and then I will visit his temple in order to document his life there. If you would like more information about ordinations and life in Thai temples, then please visit where I have archived all of my blogs about Buddhism.

Amazing Thailand Facts! (Part 1)

Last year, over on the forums at our Webmaster buddy here Mr. Richard started-up one day a thread on 100 Things You Didn’t Know About Thailand. It has turned into a block-buster of a thread getting, so far, approximately 34,000 hits.

After the thread was born, some folk kinda just ran out of weird and wonderful facts. I really liked the idea for the thread and felt it would be a pity for such a thread to be lost in the archives, never to be seen again. Since I had been writing columns for The Nation anyway, I had of course, at times, to research some stuff which I had only heard of – but didn’t have any concrete evidence. It was during these searches that I uncovered quite a bit of stuff mostly unheard of before, and so as of late, I have been leading the thread.

I want to leave out facts such as Bangkok in the Thai language has the longest place name in the world or that The King was born in America etc…. as they are pretty well-known facts already. I have also left out facts which lack solid evidence or have originated from dubious sources.

Here today, in the first part of a mini-series are 25 amazing Thailand facts.

(A complete mix-up. Posted below in virtually the same order as posted on the forums)

1. The Thai greeting “sawatdee” was invented during the Second World War. Before that, people greeted each other by asking if they had eaten yet. (Richard)

2. According to the World Meteorological Organization, Bangkok is the hottest capital city in the world. (Stephen)

3. HRH The Crown Prince, an avid collector of classic cars, has the largest private collection of ‘Classic cars’ in Thailand. (Stephen)

4. H.M. The King once met Elvis Presley and Walt Disney. (Richard)

5. HM the King is a renowned Jazz saxophonist who has played with many of the world’s greatest Jazz musicians. (K.Don)

6. HM the King is an Olympic standard yachtsman. (K.Don)

7. The Orchid is Thailand’s best flowering export. Exports of the Orchid are valued at US$250million per annum.(Stephen)

8. According to the Thai media, the estimated public gathering of 1 million people on 9 June 2006, to celebrate HM The King’s 60th year – was the largest public gathering in history to celebrate a royal event. (Stephen)

9. The beautiful Similan Islands in the south of Thailand got their name from Malay language. The islands are 9 in total and the Malay word for ‘nine’ is – Similan. (Stephen)

10. In Thailand, both Father’s Day and Mother’s Day are celebrated on the birthdays of Their Majesties the King and Queen. (Richard)

11. Prior to 1913, most Thais did not have surnames. (K.Don)

12. Thailand’s most expensive pure-breed of dog is the beautiful ‘Bangkaew’. Half-wolf/half-house dog, the Bangkaew has it’s origins in Phitsanulok province. Premium Bangkaew dogs sell for around 50,000 baht ($1,300). There is currently one in Phitsanulok (Top Father) which is watched by a security guard as it is valued at an astonishing…….2,000,000 baht ($54,000)! (Stephen)

13. According to the ‘Guinness Book of Records 1995’, the Thai language has the second largest alphabet in the world. Second only to Khmer.(Stephen)

14. The name Bangkok (Thai language in origin) means ‘Village of Olives’ (Ban Mah-gork). (Stephen)

15. An English mistake is the ‘Maekhong River’. Known in every English book about Thailand – as the ‘Maekhong River’, it ought to be called the Khong River instead. ‘Mae’ already means ‘river’ so there is no need to repeat oneself. (Stephen)

16. The 1994 Guinness Book of Records contains the entry: the world’s biggest restaurant – the Royal Dragon Restaurant, Bangkok – can serve 5,000 eaters in its palatial dining rooms at one time. (Jai Baan)

17. According to extensive research carried out in 2001, there is an average of 5.2 cockroaches per Thai house! (Stephen)

18. Nakhon Pathom, boasts the tallest Buddhist pagoda both in Thailand and in the world. (Jai Baan)

19. Wat Traimitr (Temple of the Golden Buddha) this is the world’s largest solid gold Buddha, cast about nine centuries ago. The image is three meters high and weighs five and half tons. (Jai Baan)

20. It is illegal in Thailand for women to visit night-time entertainment venues alone. They must go with a man! (Stephen)

21. It is illegal in Thailand for men (and women of course) to go bare-chested in public. You must wear a top at all times! (Stephen)

22. It is illegal in Thailand, to leave your house if you are not wearing underwear. (Jai Baan)

23. After spending the night together (unmarried couple) the female is entitled to ask the man to marry her – and give a dowry. If the man doesn’t want to get married, the women is entitled to seek compensation ie….money. (Stephen)

24. The man is entitled to sue his new wife in a court of law and get his dowry back, if it is found that the bride had had sex with another man before, and so – not a ‘virgin’ at the time of marriage. (Stephen)

25. Since 1939, it has been illegal to NOT stand-up for the national anthem. (Stephen)

If you know any great facts, pls do comment! Or post them on the Paknam Web Forums if you are a member.

WiangkumKam : The first capital of LanNa


During my recent visit to Thailand I found a place called WiangKumKam. It is situated about twenty minutes outside of Chiang Mai. WiangKumKam is a relatively newly discovered site, comprising of approximately 28 temples. It was discovered about 14 years ago, many of the temples are now abandoned but some are still standing. The foundations and walkways of these beautiful buildings have been carefully excavated and restored for all to see. Before I go on, I have to write from memory and a little help from a guidebook I bought, having lost my diary (with my luggage) on my return to the UK.

Noy, my friend for many years is a tuk-tuk driver. He was advised we go early to visit the temple. We arrived at about 9:30am,it was very quiet, no farrang yet. The temple grounds being over a vast area the mode of transport was on hand.

Heading off, I was overwhelmed by the beauty and tranquil surroundings that we passed on our way to the Temples.

We came to the first temple called Wat PuPier (abandoned). It is hard to imagine what this Temple and those others in the grounds were like all those many hundreds of years ago. The magnificent architecture is there for all to see. We hope it will remains so for a great many years to come.

The following photographs are of a stucco Buddha image which is situated alongside Wat TadKhaw. The sheer beauty that greets you upon arrival at this particular Wat is hard to describe, it is breathtaking and quite emotional and you start to imagine, all those years ago, what was it like then? How did they manage to build such a magnificent place?

Below is another photograph of the Temple Wat PuPier, carefully tended to as you can see.

Moving further on, yet another Temple, sadly abandoned but still sitting proudly, it’s presence there for all to see.

Again I must apologise for the lack of information regarding the Temples but I will visit them again shortly and hope I do not lose my notes again! For now, please enjoy the photographs and I will update it again in the near future. Here is another beautiful Temple that is in use.

I must say, I found my visit to WiangKumKam quite remarkable, it was a very moving experience and I felt honoured to have had the privilege of visiting and will definitely do so again. Here is a photograph taken from within the Temple.

If you are planning a visit to Chiang Mai I would most certainly consider visiting WiangKumKam.

I hope this little insight to WiangKumKam has been helpful to anyone who may be planning to visit and I can only add, you will not be disappointed. Enjoy your travels!