The Kanchanaburi Trek to Wat Pah Sunan

Home  /  Blog  /  Asia  /  Current Page

The visit to Wat Pah Sunan almost didn’t happen. Not because of the crazy multiple modes of transportation situation that I had to navigate, but because I had to take a shit real bad on the bus ride there. When I tried to tell the driver he just waved me off, thinking that I was  prematurely trying to get off at my stop. I frantically dug into my bag to retrieve my Lonely Planet book and looked up the  word “bathroom” in the Thai language section…

…it’s “hawng nam”.

(Tan Thien later told me that it”s the most important word to learn when you’re traveling!)

When the bus guy came by my seat, I pitifully asked him, “Hawng nam?” like the sad little person that I was. Hilarious. I’m like a 2 year old child out here.

He finally understood what I was staying and got the driver to pull the bus over so I could run to a WC. I was kinda embarrassed, but pretty thankful and relieved. Literally. Before they stopped off at a spot, I was contemplating whether or not I should jump off the bus to find a restroom, even if the bus took off without me (with my backpack still on board) on the way to Songklaburi. Better than taking a shit on a bus, even if I’d never see those people ever again.


After finally hitching a ride up to the monastery’s reception area (with the kind little old lady), I found Tan Thien waiting for me on the side. It was dope to see him there! We were both surprised and relieved that I had finally made the trek out to see him in the far forests of Kanchanaburi.

My time there was a bit of a culture shock at first. I had to learn what to do and what not to do:

* Don’t point your feet at anyone, especially buddha statues (feet are considered the lowest part of the body, both literally and spiritually).

* Sit in certain ways when facing monks.

* Don’t wear certain clothing or put my belongings in certain areas.

* Say “namasa kan ka” when greeting monks, which means “respect”.

* Don’t go into the “monk only” section of the reception area (I had no idea until I went over there and saw surprised monks staring back at me. It’s not like there’s a sign or a door or anything!). Tan Thien said that when I walked away, one of the monks said, “Oh, that’s Tan Thien’s American friend”.

I felt like a little kid again. Growing up, I always felt that there were certain rules to life that somehow “everyone else knew” but I somehow didn’t know. Thankfully, however, Tan Thien’s mama-guardian helped me most of the time during my stay because she spoke English and could direct me to where I needed to go at all times. She was firm but really sweet.

My first day was very introductory: buying appropriate clothing to wear at the monastery (baggy and dark-colored fisherman’s pants and white shirts for women), getting to know the buildings and the area, getting settled into my room (a small tiled room with a straw mat and blankets for a bed), and doing a walking meditation with the rest of the group at the monastery (they have tons of visitors year-round, especially during New Years). They walked too fast though; my mind was wandering all over the place! When they came to the main meeting room and started chanting, I stayed for a while but then decided to go to bed since I couldn’t follow along in Thai.

Being at Wat Pah Sunan was a great break from the chaos that I experienced in Bangkok and Koh Samui. It is absolutely beautiful out in Kanchanaburi — green farms and tan rolling hills, whispy forests, and bright stars all over the night sky. I loved the peace of mind and tranquility that it embodied. It was the grounding that I needed after all my travels so far.

Please specify a Flickr ID for this gallery



Posted: January 6, 2012

Author: Tiffany

Category: Asia, Blog, Thailand

Tags: , , , , , ,


Leave a Reply