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February 25, 2006

Wat Tham Sua - the Tiger Cave temple

The main reason I came to Krabi this weekend, besides just to do something cool and different, was to check out Wat Tham Sua, the Tiger Cave wat.

Wats are like Safeway grocery stores in Washington DC: each has its own nickname and specialty. This wat boast caves, and was built on ground where tigers used to roam, and has a pinnacle 1237 steps above the rest of the wat.

And not all steps are of regulation height.

It was a very lucky day. It began with a blessing from some women monks (I need some background on this, but women can't really be monks, but they can study and do a lot of things monks do...for this reason they wear all white instead of saffron, but they still shave their heads.). It is very lucky at a temple to have a monk tie a red crocheted bracelet around your wrist and wish you good luck. Which is how my day began.

In the first room, I bought a small amulet with a monk's image on it for my friend Roscoe, the main dance instructor at the Derby, who was in an awful car accident over Christmas and is not able to work as he heals. "Very Lucky, this one," the woman behind the glass counter assured me.

But of course I forgot the guy's name in two minutes.

So further into the grounds, I met a nun, or maybe she was a nun-in-training. She explained that shaving all the hair helps one concentrate on meditations. She's 23, and from Surat Thani (Ko Samui) and is at this wat for two weeks. She felt a lot of empathy for Roscoe, since she's been in a car accident herself, with a bad break to her leg and some other scars. Her name is Lek.

She explained about the man on the amulet and we chatted for a while. This is a lucky thing you can do when you travel alone, you can make new friends with strangers because you are easier to approach, and it is easier to approach them since you're not on a 'schedule.'

Then as I walked away, she called me back. "Here," she said, "For you friend. Good luck." and she demonstrated wearing a long red crocheted string around her waist. I thanked her deeply. It is a very special gift, and I know Roscoe will draw strength from the passion and fortune she put into it as a gift.

Then I walked a monkey gauntlet (There are always monkeys at wats. Don't ask me why.), and climbed all 1237 steps to the top, with people on the downward path encouraging me in a variety of languages. (A couple from Sweden told me they called their friends back home from the top and reported that it is below zero and snowing there. Since it's about 92 and 105% humidity here, we had a good laugh at that.)

The view was beautiful, and the large Buddha at the top was pretty cool, protecting the whole city.

At the bottom again, I checked in with Lek. She is very worried for Roscoe, and asked if we could exchange email addresses so she could hear how he is doing. I promised to send an update.

Then I ran into a guy buying amulets for himself. I think he saw the TVC pin on my bag, because suddenly he told me, "I'm a tsunami survivor."

He was in the Khao Lak area—Nam Khem, actually—to do some hotel training for employees at the Andaburi. For his last night, he'd moved to a room closer to the highway. (Luckily—as most of Nam Khem was washed away.) He was in bed when the tsunami happened that morning, and his room, all that way from the beach, filled up with water and he floated to the ceiling. He prayed to Luong Phu Thuad for safety. He prayed that it couldn't be his time, that he still had many students to train. He asked Luong Phu Thuad for some more time, so he could continue teaching his students. He could hear a large, strong German man calling for help in the room next door.

The German man didn't make it. But the hotel man got out alive. And he was buying some more Luong Phu Thuad amulets for luck.

He says he never stays on the first floor of any hotels any more. Even in Bangkok.

And he just trained a brand new crew at the Andaburi.

I told him he was very lucky, and I was glad he made it out safely.

Posted by sedda at February 25, 2006 09:35 PM