Eat, Pray, Blast Off: Protocol Of A Thai Monk’s Funeral
July 1, 2014, Chiang Mai, Thailand: Attending a Thai funeral is a special experience. From what to wear to when it’s appropriate to take photos, it’s helpful to have a friend to guide you through.
Dear Live and Invest Overseas Reader,
"Grandma Vicki, we must wear white clothes to the monk's cremation. OK?"
We were in Phayao, Thailand, visiting a dear Thai friend who'd invited me to attend a cremation ceremony for a local head monk. And, now we were getting ready for the drive to a small wat (Buddhist monastery) near her ancestral village for the big event.
I'd been told about the cremation before traveling to Phayao and had packed black for the event: Thais wears black and/or white to funerals. But now I'm told "white only" for this one.
"Mai pen rai!" said my friend. (No problem, easy to fix.) We drove to a local superstore where I was thrilled to find an extra-extra-large white blouse to fit my Western-sized body. It was important to me to wear the right clothes to honor the monk, my friend's family, and her village. Suspecting I'd be the only Westerner there (as it turned out, I was), I wanted to dress like everyone else.
On the appointed day, we drove to the small, mountain monastery. The deceased monk had served six nearby villages for decades. Hundreds of villagers had arrived long before we did to attend the solemn goodbye. We had to park far from the site, behind farm trucks and motorcycles.
As we walked up the narrow road to the wat, a cacophony of Thai funeral music and the emcee's announcements over a loudspeaker assailed our ears. As we got to the entrance, I pulled out my camera to start taking photos.
"Not yet," my friend said. "First we must pay our respects to the monk."