We took our newest crew member, Anna, to see the Big Buddha yesterday. It is simply impossible to gaze up the mountain at the glowing figure and not want to see it. This is my third trip and each time I get more thrilled. There is something about the magnificence of the Buddha, the teachings and the reverence to the King that speaks to me. I am reading all I can about Buddhism and the more I read the more I like. The people here live it, they live the love of the King and they live the spiritual connection. You can see this in every bow, every offering and every time they talk about their beloved King, it is the essence of their being.
Before we hit the twisty road up the mountain we took a side trip to the Chalong Temple, another magnificent manifestation of the Thai devotion. Buddhism embraces capitalism, no wonder Mao hated it so, and donations and offerings are a part of the process. It is more a joy to give than an obligation. The girls were not dressed appropriately to enter the temple so I went solo. I watched the ritual and then joined in. Fortunately an older gent saw me fumbling about trying to light the incense and helped me. I followed his every move as walked up the steps, dropped to our knees and bowed to the shrine. Then we took the three small paper wrapped gold leaf pieces and placed them one by one on the already golden statues. This took a bit of practice but my mentor was patient and with no common language took me through the process. We then dropped to our knees and chanted what must be a set number of times and he indicated we were done. I bowed and thanked him. He gave me back a sincere look of appreciation and a warm Thai smile. Again I know why Thailand is “the Land of Smiles”
We left the golden temple and blasted the scooters up the windy road, past the elephants and to the Big Buddha. I ran my hands on the wish bell and we entered the main room. I felt a set of arms going around me and looked down to see a lady friend from Chalong. We had a good laugh as we walked through the displays.
The girls went for their blessings from the monks. I still have my brightly colored rope bracelet and they got their new ones. We then trucked up the stairs to the statue and enjoyed the panoramic view. We could see Furthur in the anchorage way below. With a blessed crew I know Furthur will be watched over.
The display is centered on the King and his ascension to the throne. I studied the lineage and the many pictures of the King. I was recently appalled at our US ambassador to Thailand who vocally criticized the laws against speaking badly about the King. The Thai people were outraged and protested at the embassy. The embassy web page had to be taken down as it got so many enraged comments. She later made a half-assed attempt at apologizing but too little too late. It is amazing to me that the US would put such a moron in the position of ambassador to such a good ally as Thailand. She clearly has no understanding of the Thai people nor seems to care.
As an American I am used to mudslinging and an overall lack of long term respect for our leaders. Out system is based on it, just read the news any day. Here the respect, love and devotion to the King is total, it is the essence of their beings, it is certain. We tend to think of this as oppression but it is not, it is a calm and thorough belief. It is foolish to judge which is best but more foolish to assume we are right and they are wrong. As I get to know the Thai people, Buddhism and the profound love of the King I think they may have it right.
Blessed, impressed and hungry we headed down the hill to a find a secret beach an expat had told us about. We stopped by the view point, saw another shrine to elephants and ate at one of my favorite places. I was singing “ Zipidy Doda” and told the girls, assuming the generational gap would protect me, the lunch was on me if they knew who sang that song. After a few guesses Anna hit it, “Jimminy Cricket”.
After lunch, which included a banana split, we found the secret beach and enjoyed a great swim until the sun started to head towards the horizon in the Andaman Sea. Back on the scooters and back to Furthur where the girls made a pizza—from scratch!—and we enjoyed a calm warm evening at anchor, so grateful for a wonderful day in the Land of Smiles.