Friday, January 21, 2011

Vat Simouang - January 21st, 2011


Every morning I take the kids to school. Marie-Do is now totally pregnant, but if you looked at her face and the rest of her you wouldn’t guess it. Still, I try to limit the time she spends on the scooter.

Maya-Swann’s day-care is called Simouang because it is on a street of the same name, in a Village of the same name and up the road from a temple of the same name.

I can hear Reb Dovid reading this and cringing, “All that history and all you can say is that it’s stuck between a day-care and a Shell station?”


The facts are in every Lonely Planet and all the other stuff Reb Dovid

told me about the 12th Century naga sculpture I have already forgotten. So here is my take on the place.

I show up early every morning before the circus begins. The photographer is just setting up and the honey lady lays out her bottles. She then sits there all day straining honey through a cloth from a honeycomb she brought in a bucket.

Driving around here as I do it is sometimes easy to forget that this is a Buddhist nation, other than the philosophical inertia of the population. Many of the houses out there and even in my neighbourhood look like they came straight out of an American image of the good suburban life in the 50’s. Which they did.

So every morning Simouang Temple is my little treat. There are statues of scary gods and of course there is Me Thourani. There are also two live storks who live on a prehistoric rock that Reb Dovid once told me all about.

The ancient beauty of the temple lies in stark contrast to the kitsch of a lot of modern religious accessories. Just inside every temple people make and sell vegetable arrangements of flowers and folded banana leaves used as an offering to the gods. Sometimes bank notes are folded in the same way. Some people burn votive money – Benjamin Franklins going up in smoke as the spirits receive advance payment for services to be rendered. Everywhere you look there is a Buddha ignoring your very existence.

Before the temple fills up, and it is one of the more popular ones for local believers, I take advantage of the calm and the morning light. Simouang fills me with peace before I have to face yet another day filled with polite and gracious students, perfect weather and excellent food. How could I survive without it?

No comments:

Post a Comment