Meeting the New Year with the Monks

Just got back at the hotel room after the New Year’s Eve celebrations at the old town.  Fortunately,  the only bar at the soi  where the hotel is has turned-down its music.  No more thumping bass.  The bars along Loi Kroh are still in full swing.  Why oh why had I forgotten that getting a hotel room at the bar area is not a good idea? Anyway, spent the few hours of 2016 at Wat Phan On which is famous for its unique way of greeting the new year.

The temple complex was beautifully lit with candles and gaily festooned with tung, those flags hung from the ceiling from a string net to ask for wishes.  Because it was for the new year, the tung featured images of animals of the Buddhist zodiac sign.

Chairs were set-up in front of the area where the novice monks were going to chant.  It was already filled with people.  In spite of the crowd, the mood was one of solemn reverence fit for a temple.

I was actually in the temple a little past 9 and there were still many vacant chairs and not too many people.  Even sat on one.  Bad decision to leave and go back to my hotel to get my power bank thinking my 50% battery life wouldn’t be enough (it did last).

So when I returned around 10, the place was packed.  Had to squeeze so I can have a good view of the main area. Found a spot at the back by the stairway of a small temple being built.  At 10:30, the novices came out in a line along the bamboo walkway that lead to the dirt ground with a buddha under an enormous tree.

Beautifully lit by candles, the novices sat under the tree.  Two monks were under a bamboo structure on the side.

It was mesmerizing just listening to the chanting amidst the reverential silence of the crowd and the flickering of candles.  As explained later by one of the monks, reciting the Buddha’s teachings is a fitting way to usher in the new year.  After about 30 minutes of chant, the chief monk (I just call him that because he was the one leading the chanting)
A  few minutes past midnight the chanting ceased.  The new year  was greeted by the sound of the temple gong.  No shouting or clapping.  Just the low sound of the gong and the monk’s voice.  Beautiful.

People then took one of the many dangling white strings  and wound it around their heads for good luck while a monk blessed the crowd.  

The abbot gave a short speech about being a good person in the new year which was translated in English by a monk.The ceremony ended with the novices exiting in a single file.

I joined some people in taking the white strings and tung as souvenirs.  Nice keepsake.  

Leaving the old town, I passed by one of the wats and joined the locals in ringing the temple bells.

It was past 1 am when I made my way back to Loi Kroh.  The street market along Rachadsmnoen had wrapped-up.  At Thapae gate, lanterns were still being lit and set-out.

Happy New Year!

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