Sunday, 28 June 2015

Wat Maktham Vanaram Thai Buddhist Temple, Tai Po

Thai Buddhism isn't something you would necessarily associate with a place like Tai Po but it turns out that Tai Po is the location of one of several official Thai Buddhist Temples. Now, of course I'm not talking about the rather grand and very ornate temples that you see in Thailand itself, but a much more humble place that has been converted from what seems to be a  couple of old village houses. The temple's name is Wat Maktham Vanaram and is located in a small area referred to on maps as Tin Liu Ha. 

The Thai community in Hong Kong is small but well established (anyone who has had a Thai Green Curry in Kowloon City can confirm this) and widely dispersed. Most Thai's are employed in the catering trade, as manual labour and as domestic helpers. There is enough of a community though to make places like Wat Maktham Vanaram very important and an obvious focal point for Thai Buddhist religious celebrations.

The temple buildings seem to be former village houses

The temple consists of some small two-storey old Chinese village buildings, erected in a large clearing at the end of a path that starts on the edge of Shek Kwu Lo village near the Lam Tsuen river. One of the buildings has been turned into a chapel/altar whilst the others serve as offices, catering and accommodation. The temple entrance is flanked, strangely enough, by a small Taoist altar with God Kwan inside, but once inside the central courtyard is dominated by a large Buddha statue that sits in the shade of some banyan trees on the far side. Don’t be afraid of the dogs that start barking as soon as you appear, they are harmless and their bark is worse than their bite *ahem*. Once I had let them smell my hand they relaxed and went about their own way again.

Chinese Taoist deity overseeing Thai Buddhist Temple

The monks seem to be very friendly and don’t mind you taking a few snaps. To be honest, I did wonder how many non-Thai visitors they actually see given the remote location and its seeming anonymity. There is a sign board immediately past the main entrance which contains news of recent events written in both Thai and English (didn’t see any Chinese mind you) and it looks as though I just missed a celebration known as Kathin in which pious followers donate new robes to the monks. Once donations have been received “crocodile flags” (see below) are put on the temple sign to demonstrate that donations have already been received and people should instead go to another temple to make their donation. The flags had been hoisted by the time I arrived on the scene due to the fact that I am visiting at the end of this particular festival.

Kathin robe offering sign

The short journey to the temple is quite pleasant because it passes through a quiet village with a stream running through it. If you are Thai, then i suspect you already know about this place, but if not feel free to wander over and make a donation - it's a much better way to donate than getting scammed by those fake monks walking around town.

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