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Thailand: Offering Food to the Monks in Amphawa & a Heavenly Street Food Breakfast

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At dawn, all over Thailand, the local buddhist monks travel from their temples to the markets and past shops and houses, where local people offer food / alms in exchange for blessings.

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Each monk carries a large silver lidded bowl, wrapped in orange and with a shoulder strap. When the bowl is full, they return to the temple, where the food is shared. Some monks have temple boys that travel behind them with yellow shoulder bags, so that they can carry more for them. Many of the monks are very elderly, and they can walk a considerable distance, depending on the location of the temple. The monks eat twice a day, strictly.

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I arose at 5am to offer food to local monks that might be passing my hotel. We had arranged that the hotel would provide us with some food packages containing items that might be useful (a temple I visited today had food packages that contained detergent and paracetamol). At home or at food stalls, the monks would get cooked food, ours contained several things including candles, noodles and pandan cake. I was warned not to give a full package to one monk as once his bowl is full, he must return to temple, and can’t come back again.

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I waited in the dark, for 15 minutes, no monk was spied. But then, in the distance, we saw the familiar orange robe and the gentle walk. The monks walk barefoot and with great grace. We offered him some of our food, it is important to be clear, and also not to touch the monk or his bowl. I had learned the Thai words, which I recommend you do too should you want to do it. He smiled, gave us a blessing, and then he was gone.

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It was quiet where we were so we followed, turning the corner and walking towards the floating market. Here there were many more monks, and we quickly offered all of our food, eventually buying more, freshly cooked light fried doughnuts and bananas primarily.

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As I wandered around soaking it all in, watching all of the monks walk solely and serenely down narrow streets and by the river, I spotted one coming down the river in a boat. I had been told that occasionally, when a temple is on a river, they will use a boat. It was magical, watching him row towards us, and stopping for alms as he did. We have him the last of our offering, again in exchange for a blessing, this time he gave us an amulet too. It was truly wonderful, I was struck by the generosity and kindness of this gentle tradition. It was so lovely to be part of it, if only briefly.

It was only 6am, and I wasn’t that hungry but the smells and sights of the street food had awakened a curiosity. I stopped at a stall and had a beautiful pumpkin congee with minced pork to start with (and it cost about 65p). I followed it with thoes delicious doughnuts and pandan custard (40p). It was already very hot, so I finished with an iced coffee, before progressing dreamily back to my hotel.

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What a special morning. When in Thailand, I highly recommend you participate. I plan to again, before I leave.

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I like food. I like to make food. Eat food. Photograph food. Write about food. Mainly in London but when I am lucky or organised further afield.

16 Comments

  1. Touching,gorgeous and mouthwatering at the same time.Thanks for sharing.

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  2. What a majestic experience. Your photos are beautiful – they really capture the peaceful morning atmosphere. The colours are gorgeous.

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  3. that was a brilliant article. great pictures. they really highlighted the contrast between traditional practices and the modern world. stunning.

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  4. A beautifully written and photographed reminder of the saying ‘ In giving we receive’. You were so lucky to be introduced to the etiquette of it by those carrying the tradition for generations. Thanks

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  6. Oh my goodness I just stumbled across this blog and I feel like its Christmas morning! Your photos are amazing. Really. And you are making me miss Thailand like nothing on earth ever has. I’m so excited to follow your adventures!

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