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Published: April 12th 2012
Grand scale alms giving
Military members are in the middle rows with the blue and khaki
The Louis Vuitton store was to my right. To my left was one of Bangkok's biggest mall, Central World with eight stories towering over me. The Skytrain was whizzing past above me transporting hundreds of people all over the city. On a typical day in front of me would be congested traffic down a road dotted with malls. A maze of motorbikes, buses, taxis tuk-tuks and cars not really in any specified lane but using whatever room available to get a few inches further, then a few more inches. A bit further down the road is McDonalds and the massive hypermarket Big-C. But I would see that on a typical day, and today is not a typical day.
In front of me in the fresh morning sun at 6am sat 22,600 monks composing a sea of saffron-colored robes, taking over one of the city's busiest intersections. A silence hung in the air I've never heard before in Bangkok. Bangkok, the city of 12 million, was silent. Then the prayer began. In a language I don't know the prayer sounded rhythmic and lyrical like a song. Past the saffron sea of Monks was endless white – thousands of people listening and
taking part in the prayer, waiting to give their offerings to the monks.
All of this was a grand scale alms offering to commemorate the 2,600 anniversary of Buddha attaining enlightenment. The ceremony lasted two hours, ending with the offerings being given out to the 22,600 monks. The non-perishable alms given were packed up and sent to Thailand's southern provinces to help monks and laypeople in the areas experiencing heavy unrest.
We walked on the side of the road, occasionally taking a pedestrian overpass to cross the road, stopping on the overpass to marvel at the scale of what we were seeing. We saw families sitting cross-legged in rows, lined up waiting to give their offerings with the young children still asleep at the early hour and the elderly in folding chairs. It was an amazing spectacle of the kindness and gentleness of Thai culture.
I fell back into bed when we got home around 8am and wasted most of the afternoon sleeping, but I will be forever thankful I witnessed that.
Our friend works for The Grand Prix channel here in Thailand so on Sunday we ventured over the the 33rd
Bangkok International Motor Show
to say hi to her and check out the show. We spent the day weaving in and out of mobile showrooms from the highest end cars of Rolls Royce, Bentley, Mercedes-Benz, Lamborghini, Porsche to the moderate Toyotas and Hondas to the car makers I'd never heard of like Ssang Yong from South Korea. We saw some concept cars that may or may not make it into production like the Nissan Townpod, which I especially liked. Thailand has high tariff rates on imported cars, something around 200% minimum. So take a Porsche that sells for $100,000 in its home country - the price tag of that same exact car in Thailand would be at least $300,000. Ouch.
The strangest part of the motor show was that each car company had what they call "pretties," girls dressed up posing with the cars. Several times during the day these girls and other dancers performed a large-scale show. So on the whole, the motor show was as much of a fashion show/dance off as a car show. Always entertaining!
Tomorrow we'll head out onto the streets of Bangkok for the Thai new year celebration of Songkran. Welcome to the year 2556!
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