When my girlfriend Lawt proposed my visiting a Buddhist temple with her, I could not hide a snort of derision. What place do religious beliefs have in here in Pattaya, the Sodom and Gomorrah of Thailand? But when I realized the temple was far closer to my apartment than hers and might end up with her spending the night with me, I decided I was being a tad too judgmental.
The monks in Thailand have taken a vow of poverty, relying on public generosity. (Much like the homeless in Seattle, but without the public ur-ination.) For that reason, Lawt brought along two bags of fresh fruit and vegetables. I suggested we also include some chips and salsa for the guys to enjoy as they followed the NFL playoffs on ESPN2, but Lawt felt this thoughtful gesture might be misinterpreted.
We rode to the temple on a pair of motorbike taxis handled by drivers with a rather flexible interpretation of the traffic laws. Any double yellow lines, for example, are ignored if there are no oncoming vehicles. Traffic lights are mere advisories and crossing pedestrians dive for cover. As a helpless passenger, all I could do was hold onto the driver’s shoulders and pray his body would absorb most of the impact of a collision.
The grounds of the wat contain a series of residential dwellings circling the central temple with its white pillars and gold-trimmed windows. Nar-row, dark red rooftops radiated out from a blue and gold spire. (It made me wish I had brought a camera.) Our destination was one of the small houses on the far left-hand side of the compound. The stroll there was uneventful until we came across a small dog that let Lawt pass unmol-ested, but for some reason began barking at me. Snarling a bit myself, I nevertheless backed away. As it began edging closer, I pulled out one of the mangos we were taking to the wise man and made throwing motions. Apparently fruit assaults are a common form of canine discipline as the mutt retreated.
When we arrived at the house, I elected to stay outside, fearful that the monk would ask about the mangled mango. A few minutes later I found myself wishing I’d kept it when a second dog began barking at me. But this one was too lazy to get up and advance upon the heathen intruder. At this point I began to wonder why supposedly gentile and peace-loving men kept such mean animals for pets. The only kind of enlightenment I could see coming from a dog bite would be an intimate knowledge of the rabies vaccination series.
Lawt’s session with the monk took about fifteen minutes. When she re-emerged from the house, she went to a small tree growing in the front yard and sprinkled water at its base. This act seemed to bring her a mea-sure of inner contentment. I did not have the heart to tell her that while she was inside, one of Buddha’s Fidos had already watered the sapling. For all I know, that could have been part of the ritual.