There’s a standard pilgrimage in Ayutthaya province of nine temples, all to be visited in a single day. I’m not sure if this is something stemming from religious authority or a gimmick by the Tourist Authority of Thailand. Anyway, eight of the temples are in the provincial capital, but the ninth is in a small village a few kilometres away called Nakorn Luang. The name itself means something like “Royal City”. In ye olden days it was used by the kings of Ayutthaya as a resting point on trips to view the Buddha footprint at Wat Phra Phuttabaht . (See here for an account of my visit to that temple.) Now the village is dominated by a cement factory and a large rice mill.

The temple itself is nothing special to look at – no magnificent edifices or stunning Buddha figures, no significant ancient ruins, just a jumble of modernish buildings. What was a little extraordinary, though, was a senior monk. When he saw me wandering around he sent one of his assistants, a young woman, to invite me in to meet him. He told me he was in his sixties and had been a monk for all his adult life. (That’s hard work, but somebody’s got to do it.) He summoned another of his assistants to fetch a treasured relic: a WBC boxing prize belt and a signed glove. I hadn’t heard of the boxer concerned (which isn’t surprising, since I can only think of the names of three boxers, and I think Cassius Clay and Muhammad Ali are the same person).

The monk ordered drinks for me – a glass of water, a cup of instant coffee (teeth-rottingly sweet in the Thai tradition) and a cup of black tea. He was very generous. Since it was after midday he took nothing himself.

He spoke no English, apart from a couple of phrases which he trotted out.

He spoke at some length, sharing the teachings of the Lord Buddha.

He talked about the turtle – an animal which can only move forward, not backwards – and then gave me a small, cast yellow metal turtle to help me remember the teaching.

He also gave me a medallion.

The exposition finished he took me on a tour of the temple, pointing out pictures of him and one of the Princesses who visited the temple a few years ago.

I know that the monk was acting from the heart but, to be honest, I found the whole experience more than a little uncomfortable. Still, I won’t forget it.


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