What an incredible week it has been in this beautiful country! Each day has held a new adventure and learning experience. Exploring in Bangkok, Thai cooking lessons, monk chatting, school and village visiting, fraternizing with elephants and spending quality time with some old souls of Thailand are just a few of the experiences that have moved me in the short time I have been here. Throughout all of these activities, one key aspect of the Thai culture has stood out to me the most. The prominent role that spirituality plays in the lives of Thai people has been apparent to me since I landed in Bangkok.
While driving to my hotel from the airport upon landing in Bangkok, the first thing I noticed about this country was the attention to detail surrounding artifacts of significance to the Thai culture. Right away, I could tell spirituality was a huge part of their lives. The highway was decorated with well-tended flower boxes displaying a large, gold Buddha. As we drove deeper into the city, I kept noticing beautifully decorated little houses outside of every building and home. I figured these houses were praying stands for those practicing Buddhism. However, I learned they are called spirit houses and are not part of the religion.
I was informed by my Thai cooking instructor that the people of Thailand believe spirits protect their buildings and houses. They put spirit houses outside on the property and decorate them with flowers and bright colors. These houses provide a place for the people to leave an offering for the spirits who protect them. Thai people leave water and fruits on the stands of these houses for the spirits that inhabit them. This is how the people give thanks to the spirits for protecting them from harm and bad luck.
What I find most interesting about these spirit houses is the placement of them. They can be found outside of every facility in Thailand. I think it is so unique to have such an ornate structure amidst such an ordinary setting. Concrete, advertising and garbage surround these beautiful spirit houses. I have even seen them under large trees and on the outskirts of forested areas. It shows that spiritual belief holds very strong to the people of Thailand. Even as the country moves towards globalization, the people hold on to the spirituality that outlines their culture.