Buddhism is the dominant religion in Thailand, and Buddhist temples are scattered across the kingdom. Nai Yang Temple is one of 29 Buddhist temples located in the Southern Thai island of Phuket. The nearby Proud Phuket offers hotel guests a chance to visit the temple.
Buddhism is the dominant religion in Thailand, with nearly 95% of the population following the Theravada School, which literally means “school of the elder monks”.
Theravada Buddhism developed in Sri Lanka and spread to Southeast Asia. In addition to Sri Lanka and Thailand, it is the dominant religion in the neighboring countries of Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar.
The sect is also practiced by minority communities in Bangladesh, China, India, Nepal, and Vietnam.
Visitors traveling in Thailand are likely to notice two things: first is the surprisingly large number of teenage boys wearing the orange saffron robes that Thai monks wear.
The second is the sight of Thai monks walking the streets in the early morning, with devotees putting offerings – usually in the form of food – in the silver-coloured bowls that they carry.
One of the many interesting features of Thai Buddhism is the temporary ordination of teenage boys.
Before the age of 20, most boys in Thailand become monks for a short period of time in order to receive good karma and make merit.
The period of time is not fixed. It could just be a few days – or even just a few hours. It can extend to a few weeks. The average length of time is about three months.
The boys must shave their head and eyebrows as well as partake in a number of ceremonies at the temple they are assigned to.
They also receive daily duties in the temple they reside at, such as cleaning up or receiving offerings in the mornings.
At the end of this period, some monks decide to stay on at the temple, specializing in either scholarship or meditation.
But most of the monks return to a secular life, get married, and have children.
The Generosity of Strangers
Another interesting tradition about Thai Buddhism is that monks rely exclusively on the generosity of others for their food. The generosity of strangers?
Generally speaking, monks leave the temple early in the morning to wander the streets and receive alms from passers-by. The alms are usually food, but they can also include flowers and incense.
The offerings are taken back to the temple, where they are shared among the monks living there.
Sometimes Buddhist devotees also visit temples to leave food at the altar. I believe that many devotees do this on their birthday or other auspicious or important occasions.
When I checked into the Proud Phuket, I was told that three activities had been arranged for me during my two-night hosted stay at the hotel.
The first was a spa treatment at the hotel’s gorgeous spa. The second was a visit to a nearby Buddhist temple. And the third was a Thai cooking lesson.
I awoke early the next morning and ate breakfast at the hotel’s Yai Yai Kitchen. Then I walked to the hotel lobby, where a member of staff was waiting for me.
He was carrying a colourful basket full of food, flowers, and bottled water.
I was escorted to the hotel van, which drove us to a nearby Buddhist temple.
I was given an hour to explore the temple grounds and take pictures while the hotel employee gave the alms to the monks residing at the temple.
We were then driven back to Proud Phuket in the hotel’s van.
Nai Yang Temple Grounds
Construction of the Wat Mongkol Wararam Temple, a.k.a. Nai Yang Temple, began In 1757. It is set on a 23 rai plot of land near Nai Yang Beach in Northwestern Phuket.
Several enclosed and open-air structures are scattered about the site, including an a two-level eight-by-eight square metre ordination hall, a 21 by 40-square metre hall where sermons are given, and eight monks quarters.
In fact, the temple grounds seem a bit like a college campus, with different structures scattered about landscaped grounds, and I can only assume that they served different purposes.
Nai Yang Temple is one of 29 Buddhist temples situated on the island of Phuket.
According to the Office of National Buddhism, there were 40,171 Buddhist temples in Thailand, of which 33,902 were in current use, as of 2004.
Wat Mongkol Wararam – 48 Thep Krasat Tri-Nai Yang Road, Tambon Sa Khu, Amphoe Thalang, Chang Wat Phuket, Thailand.