There is one vivid memory that has stayed with me since my return from the small Northern village of Chiang Khan in Thailand.
It’s of the morning when I had to get up around 5 to prepare myself for the ceremonial offerings to the monks. Chiang Khan is not a particularly bustling place, especially during the early spring nor is it hot in temperature. In fact, the morning air was chilly – or rather, comfortable for me, chilly for the locals, and the streets were quiet.
Chiang Khan in the early morning.
As I walked out of my hotel, I could see small groups gathering with their offerings. Some vendors lined up to sell them, though many locals simply cook their own.
This is a daily ritual, one that takes place at dawn. The food or alms are giving as the monks make their way to the temple. Residents line up along the path and wait for the monks to receive their offerings and in exchange, give them blessings.
They walk in order with the eldest monk, or he with more years in service, in the lead. They carry with them tins often wrapped in the same cloth and color as their robes. The monks don’t cook or shop, as their commitment is to prayer, community service, and learning. So it is the role of the community to provide for them in this way.
Though offerings often consist of rice or fruit, there are times when they will receive something more unique; an offering that speaks more to the tastes of a departed beloved in exchange for a prayer and a blessing from the monk in that person’s honor and memory.
There’s a lot of waiting around at first.
But when you hear the bells and chants, something in the air shifts and the energy changes.
I thought it an honor to be invited to take part in this ceremony. I couldn’t understand the blessings that the monks bestowed on me, but it felt rewarding to give back a little something to a community that opened itself up to my experiencing their culture to the fullest.
I highly recommend taking part in this experience when visiting Thailand. It might also help to ask a local guide to explain and maybe teach you what to say during the offering, as well as after, and to give you a translation of what the blessings are. But, even if you don’t have access to a guide, do take the time to take part. One other thing I noticed was how grateful the locals present were with the gesture. And there’s nothing more rewarding than that.
Photography is property of the publisher and may not be used without consent of GirlGoneTravel.com
Disclosure: My first trip to Asia was sponsored by Thailand Tourism and their partners, and I was invited to experience what they have in store for those planning to attend this year’s TBEX Asia conference in October of 2015. All opinions are my own.