After 19 hours on a bus, words could not have expressed my relief upon my arrival in Phuket. The journey was full of silent stares and wordless communication – I felt like the smelly kid on the playground that no one wants to talk to. Worried at first that this was a sign of things to come, I was overjoyed to be greeted with English in Phuket, and was able to find my way without stumbling over my rough Thai.
On a day exploring the city, I discovered there was more to Phuket than the rumors of crazy parties. Myself and a group of girls took up an offer for a ride from a Thai man while walking around. Expecting a tuk tuk, we were surprised when he led us to a pickup truck and motioned for us to climb in the truck bed. Not to be discouraged, I happily climbed in and found myself clinging to the side for dear life for the rest of the day. We saw some of the beautiful beaches that surrounded the area and bit our nails on the drive up steep mountain roads to see the Big Buddha Temple.
The temple is still under construction, but the view is breath taking. Despite its unfinished status, many tourists make this a must-see while in Phuket and I was happy to find myself among them. While in beach mode, I was wearing a tank top. Luckily, the temple had shawls and sarongs that they offer to tourists who were not appropriately dressed.
There was a building at the entrance that acted as a museum/ souvenir shop. It was in this building that my dream finally came true – I got to talk to a monk! While there are plenty of monks in Uttaradit, I’m very hesitant to approach them. From what I’ve gathered, monks are not allowed much interaction with women, this is in order to avoid temptation. For example, if I wanted to give a donation or anything to a monk, I could not hand it to him directly. I would have to place it next to him or, if he offered one, in a cloth that he is holding. In addition to that, Uttaradit has very few English speakers and I’m not yet confident enough in my Thai to attempt a conversation with a monk. So I was ecstatic to see a monk meeting with visitors.
After a few minutes of pacing I worked up the courage to go and talk to him. This required removing my shoes and sitting appropriately on my legs. It is considered an insult for the bottoms of your feet to face someone, especially a representation of Buddha. I got to speak with the monk, and he was just as happy to have an opportunity to practice his English. Then, he gave me a bracelet that they make at the temple and gave me a blessing for good luck. If getting a blessing from a monk doesn’t make your day then I don’t know what will!