Monday, April 29, 2013

WAT PAN TAO - MAKHA BUCHA DAY - CHIANG MAI

Having spent most of the Makha Bucha holiday in various temples of Chiang Mai, I returned to Wat Chedi Luang for the evening prayer and ceremonies. Since I had a little bit of time left, I went over to the next temple, Wat Pan Tao. A beautiful wooden temple, which was a former palace, this temple had a huge crowd waiting in the back for the ceremonies. Talking to some American tourists I learned that Makha Bucha will be celebrated here with a huge candlelight activity, so I also hung around. A lot of photographers put up their tripods and got ready well before the sun was ready to set. I had a great spot in the first row, where the novice monks started to set up the floating candles in the water and along the back of the temple grounds. 
What bothered me though was that I held out for something which I did not know and which in my mind had nothing much to do with a traditional way of celebrating this important Buddhist holiday. It was more an event which was put in place for photographers, tourists and other visitors. When the sun finally set and the moon came out over the Vihara building of the temple, I got a bit anxious (not a good virtue for such a holiday). When I heard the prayers I was thinking "what am I doing here?" and gave up my good spot and went to the Vihara to participate in the prayers and in the following candlelight procession which goes around the Vihara three times. I felt better after that and went back, now behind the masses of people who still waited for the "photo shoot". I saw it only from the back, with my camera high above people's heads and with a (in my mind) mediocre and blurry result. Still nice to see the novice monks lighting the candles and slowly walking though hundreds of candles on the floor, sitting down as in meditation while the crowd clicked away. It was nice to see but not what I had come for, so I went on to Wat Chedi Luang to do my traditional style celebration of Makha Bucha Day. 
I returned once more after that. The novice monks were all gone and the lights were still burning. Now the almost meditative setting of the lights had turned into a massive photo shoot with every Thai lady and man wanting to look pretty while standing amongst the candles, smiling into cameras. The meditation music which was supposed to give the place a serene setting was hardly able to fulfill it's role amongst the chatter of people. I left with a very mixed feeling. While the photos looked nice, meditative and serene, it was just too big of a crowd and to set-up of an event, which I like to spend meditating, praying and paying respect to the Buddha. In a tourist place like Chiang Mai, it might be a nice idea to draw people to a temple and at the same time keep the tourists away from the traditional ceremonies. I am sure it was well meant but the sheer amount of photographers and onlookers was overwhelming.

The beautiful Buddha statue inside the old temple building.
Festively decorated for Makha Bucha holiday.
Photographers setting up their gear in first row well before sunset.
Setting up the floating candles.
Novices putting up decorations, laterns and candles.
Sunset - full moon rising

Floating candles being lit in the water.
Candle light procession around the Vihara.
Candles in a blocked off area of the temple.
Novice monks lighting up the candles around the Buddha image.
Meditative and serene setting for the photographers

Sunday, April 28, 2013

WAT PHRA SING - MAKHA BUCHA DAY - CHIANG MAI

Makha Bucha Holiday in Chiang Mai was something I wanted to experience, so I flew in and celebrated this important Buddhist holiday with many other worshippers in the temples of Chiang Mai.


 
Starting early in the morning at Wat Phra Sing, for me the most important temple of Chiang Mai, which has a 700 year old history.
 Phra Buddha Sihing, the Buddha statue in the small Vihara  is for me the most important Buddha image in the city, so I started my prayers there.
 Daytime is quiet in the small Vihara. Plenty of options to quietly sit and meditate in the Vihara, despite the tourists who visit it.
 Using a break in the blessing and prayers of worshippers, this monk is cutting the long cord which is later used to tie it around the worshippers wrist into smaller pieces.
 Worshippers come and go all day long to pay respect to the Buddha images in Wat Phra Sing.
 The larger larger Vihara which houses another important Buddha image is more busy. Worshippers flock in and make donations, prayers and other auspicious tasks.
 Pouring holy water onto the big white Chedi in the back of the temple.
Praying and making donations in the back of the Pagoda is mostly done by Thai worshipppers. Rarely do tourists participate in those activities.

PERFECT BEAUTY - THE NEXT LEVEL

Perfect Beauty  is what we called our web presence covering temples in the Kingdom of Thailand. It started out in the year 2000, which was the year we visited our first temple. The site has grown substantially since and we have maintained the look and feel we had from the start. It has become outdated, specially because we had used Frontpage to create and publish the pages and this web publishing tool has since seen the end of it's life. Nothing is permanent, as we all know! Converting it all to a new look and feel would be an option but it would also come with a lot of work. We do not want to remove the content simply because we do get a lot of visitors and feedback. Some of our visitors have become virtual friends and in some cases even real life friends, so we will keep it up and running. 



We cover over 1000 temples located in most provinces of the Kingdom, yet we have never been brave enough to travel to the deep south and for the time being this will not change. 

The name "Chimburi" is our personal homage to our good friend and driver who guided us to many of those temples in the years 2000-2004 and who has sadly died from cancer since. Keeping chimburi.com alive reminds of the good natured and friendly guy who got us started on the idea of covering Thai temples on this web site. 

Starting up this blog Perfect Beauty - Inside the temples of Siam will enable us to get more of our personal stories and experiences inside Thai temples online by using a more sophisticated way of publishing it. It also allows us to cover more photos. After all, all of our blogs and web sites are photographic journeys. So, sometimes there will be stories to go with it and sometimes it will be just a minimal text which accompanies the photo. While blogging here we will continue to update www.chimburi.com as well but we won't do a major overhaul on it.