On the morning of the 4th day, I awoke as usual around 5:30 AM, but instead of the quiet, dark courtyard I was used to, I found a crowd of villagers happily preparing for Archan Sa-ad’s 60th birthday celebrations.
Before I came, I had no idea that I was arriving just in time for this little festival and felt very lucky to be able to witness it. Plus, after days of very little food, I was looking forward to the festival goodies the villagers were going to make.
I was also very touched by the friendliness and generosity of these people. Knowing I didn’t speak English, they offered me food without asking (which led to some trouble later). An English teacher from Bangkok talked with me a while and made me feel very welcome in a foreign land.
Another lady saw me sitting alone and came over to talk; she confessed her English wasn’t very good but her Japanese was excellent, having spent 10 years working there. My good fortune — I’d spent 5 years studying Japanese! So there we were, a Chinese boy from Singapore and a native Thai lady from rural Udon Thani having a fun conversation in Japanese.
After the ceremony, I was lucky to have a dialog with Archan Sa-ad, where I asked him many questions about Buddhism, meditation, and life, which I will share in a later post.
Sadly, that was to be my last day in Wat Pa Don Hiay Soke. Despite the hard wooden bed, very cold showers and lack of dinner, I’d grown used to and loved the slower pace of life in this quiet, tranquil monastery. Even up to then, I’d still had this surreal sense of unreality: I couldn’t believe I was in a remote forest monastery far-up in the north of Thailand.
This is part of what I wrote, later that evening:
Right now, I’m sitting outside the temple. It’s 6:45 PM and outside it’s already pitch black. The insects are chirping away – loudly – and there are 2 monks sitting nonchalantly in front of me. I can’t believe I’m here! It’s the most amazing thing and the best I can do is to stay in the present moment and be here.
That night, Paiboon and I left for Bangkok in a 9-hour long overnight ride. It was on this behemoth of a coach where we both were freezing, he more than me in his simple robes, and I had the worst stomach pains of my life. But after discovering that mammoth coaches had inbuilt toilets, I managed to get some rest and recovered completely after that night.