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Last Sunday 12,600 Buddhist monks visited Chiang Mai. They had come to collect alms from people in celebration of the Buddha’s enlightenment 2600 years ago. This year the offerings will be donated to the victims of Thailand’s floods.
We hadn’t planned to attend the event to be honest – the huge crowds and the 5.30am start put us off. But it was happening on the road where we live and we were woken at 6.30am by announcements on loud speakers, so decided to go and have a look.
We are glad we did.
At 6.45am the event hadn’t begun but huge crowds had formed on the edges of Chang Klan Road, some kneeling in preparation of the monks’ arrival. We managed to squeeze ourselves into a decent position at one end of the road.
Thai events start slowly with lots of speeches so we were glad we hadn’t arrived too early. As we waited for the monks to arrive we observed the offerings the Thai people had brought. Most people had bulging shopping bags full of food, some had flowers and one proud couple even had a computer along with their piles of food. For those of us not quite as prepared (mostly the tourists) a smiling lady took monetary contributions and gave a packet of malted milk powder in exchange to offer to the monks. The notes were displayed on a colourful money tree.
Finally the monks began to take their places and we were all told to sit down. Unfortunately we were behind a banner at one end of the road so couldn’t see anything as the monks approached. Tourists and Thais alike were itching to stand up and take a peek, and when the monks reached us we couldn’t resist.
12,600 monks walked towards us. A never ending stream of orange.
It took quite some time for so many monks to get in position to receive alms so we had plenty of time to observe them on their procession. With closely shorn heads, one bare shoulder and bright orange robes they made a striking image.
The monks had come from all over northern Thailand and were of all ages. Many young Thai boys spend time in a monastery, even if they don’t stay monks all their lives.
Mostly their expressions were serious.
One smiling monk stood out.
They all carried bowls to collect their alms.
Some more images of the monks as they took their places.
When the monks were in position the gathered people could make merit and present the monks with their offerings. The crowd surged forward and enveloped the monks until they could no longer be seen.
Reaching the monks seemed impossible so we left it to the devout Buddhists and popped our small offering in the bag of a Thai woman next to us, who was waiting patiently. We were impressed by the Thai people’s eagerness to give alms to the monks and support the victims of the country’s floods. Most of all we were glad we made the effort to see the astonishing sight of 12,600 saffron clad monks parading down our road. It’s events and festivals like these that make being a temporary resident in Thailand always interesting.
I think it is happening on the 28th this year. I was planning to go, but 6:00 am start on a day off? hmm…I don’t know…
It appears this idea was inspired by the Lao Buddhist Monk processions that take place in Laos every day in Luang Prabang. However, it’s unfortunate that a planned event like this in Thailand was the result of a flood rather than it being a genuine, daily ritual like in Luang Prabang, Laos.
We’ve not done a good job planning our trips around major events in our destinations. You’re inspiring us to do a better job planning :) Great post capturing your experience!
We aren’t usually good at that either but there was so much going on in Chang Mai when we first got here. We got lucky without planning it!
What a sight and colors AND what a cause. Great capture of this moment!
Now that’s a LOT of monks. Seems like a great experience for an even better cause.
It was amazing to see so many people being so generous for such a great cause.
That’s a LOT of orange!!! :)
What a wonderful wonderful experience. Witnessing and experiencing events is what keeps that travel itch alive.
Very true Pete. We’re glad we got out of bed for it!
It looks lie an overwhelming experience. I’m sure are glad to be there at the right moment.
We were lucky to be living so close by, otherwise we might have been too lazy to go. So glad we did!
Great photos I would love to go to Thailand
We are falling more in love with it each day.
That’s an incredible collection of humanity. Must have been quite the experience.
We have never seen anything else like it.
Lovely pictures guys! Their orange robes really make everything pop!
Love the pictures, so much orange :)
I love that orange colour.
Looks like it was an amazing event! So many monks in their orange robes
Wow, that’s a whole lot of monks! Great shot of the cheerful chap :)
I love monks watching monks! I find them so fascinating. I saw the procession in Luang Prabang and normal morning alms in CM, Sukhothai, eve Cambodia but this event and procession is insane! They must’ve come from temples all around CM and beyond.
Yes, they came from towns all over northern Thailand. They are fascinating aren’t they?
What a nice experience this must have been! The sea of orange robes is beautiful.
I think it’s the orange that really creates the effect. I love seeing the bright splashes around town but it’s even more impressive on mass.
I got up early this morning to see the alms collecting of the monks in Luang Prabang, Laos, where over one hundred monks came to collect the alms – I couldn’t believe how many monks lined the streets, but after looking at your pictures I realize that this was NOTHING compared to 12,600 monks!!!
It is a crazy amount of monks! I don’t know how they all got to Chiang Mai!
What an incredible experience! The monks looks like a never-ending line of orange. I wonder why only one of them seemed to smile?
I guess it’s a serious event rather than a smiling one. Some looked quite sleepy too!
12,600 is a LOT of monks.
It really is! Glad we got the opportunity to see it.
There seems to be something happening in Chiang Mai constantly, it’s like there is a festival or event every week :) I knew there were a lot of temples in Chiang Mai, but enough for over 12,000 monks? That’s a lot of monks
It’s so true! Since we’ve been here there has been the lantern release, Loy Krathong which went on for a week, a hot air balloon festival, the 12600 monks, and I think there is stuff this weekend for the King’s Birthday.
I was expecting to see Simon with his head shaved and sporting the orange rob. Very cool experience.
Haha! I don’t think he has it in him to be a monk :)
Haha… that would definitely be a sight!
What great timing you had to witness such an event ;-)
I know, we were lucky – especially living so close by.