Koh Tao Travel Blog› entry 4 of 49 › view all entries
Buddhism to me invokes images of smiling monks in orange robes, laughing--or quiet, serene, meditative men paying homage to another humble man, the Buddha himself. But that can't always be the case; human nature bets against it.
Several days ago, in the town of Phun Phim--14km from Surat Thani, Thailand--I saw a monk that scared me. His face was rough, brow tight-knit and intense, his jaw set and eyes downcast. He was barefoot on the broken, half-city's road, his steps slow and deliberate. The casual, early morning pace of backpackers and locals alike were hectic insects swarming about him. Once or twice his gaze lifted, shaded by his brow, an observer to the alien world we pretend to live in.
He carried something large beneath his robes, as they extended out like they were being worn by a pregnant woman. His presence was so intense I actually wondered for a moment if it might be a bomb--Al Qeada's ironic trick. His measured pace eventually ended near the store front at which we were sitting. He turned, his robe slid to the side and he stood there with his head bowed. The 'bomb' was a wooden basket. The Thai store owner eventually emerged bearing two boxes of tofu tied together. With the same deliberate pace, the monk lifted the basket's lid and she placed the offering inside. He replaced the lid as she put her palms together and bowed to him. He rewarded her offering with a prayer and soon other store owners and patrons followed her lead; several small bags of liquid spice--blessing; bundled foodstuffs that wouldn't quite fit--blessing.
I had turned away from him, distracted by some mundane activity--possibly to check the time until our bus was to arrive--and when I looked back he was several blocks down the street; his signature, steady pace reminding me that what I'd believed to be mere moments of distraction had been far longer.