Monday, August 8, 2011

Day 95 - Isaan Buddhist Cremation Ceremony

Well, you could knock me down with a feather at the moment, as I have
learnt so much today and had a most privileged experience with Top, his family and all of the local community. Talk about an eye in to a new culture and how it ticks. I honestly am blown away by so much and how sensible so much of what they do is.

I have lots to talk about today so I am going to break it up in to parts -

Of a practical nature....

1. The toilet - :) Now, I don't want to get too graphic but I am getting the hang off going to the loo. Now, just to make it clear here, there is no toilet paper and no flushing or anything like that,so it is amatter of whipping your daks off, doing your business then using a bucket with water and manually cleaning yourself.

As a side issue, the whole squatting thing is very sensible because it aids your actions, as it were, and minimizes the cleaning process. :)

The death and cremation process...

2. The community - when someone dies in the community, everyone comes out to help, assist and celebrate the persons life. This is a great way of doing it I reckon. In fact, until the cremation ceremony, no one in the community is meant to work at all. People cook, sit with the body or sit outside eating or drinking or talking or playing card games. Most of the older women in the community sit in the room with the body, chewing on tobacco, talking or just sitting.

3. The monks - monks rely solely on donations of money and food. They came twice to the aunts house to pray before the body was taken to the temple for cremation. (as a side issue, kneeling for an extended period of time is bloody difficult)

4. The cremation ceremony - this is amazing - first the body is moved from the house to the cremation area at the temple. Everyone in the community jumped on to all available transport and made the short trip to the temple. Here the body is first placed beside a raised open cremation area and there are more prayers while everyone got a small cold drink. Then, everyone is given a little candle to put in the open crematorium. After this, everyone gets a small glass of water to pour on the head of the deceased. Idid this and was a first time for me. You get to see the body and everything. After this the body in the open casket is moved on to the open crematorium and a fair among of gas is put on to it. Then it is lit and lollies are thrown in the air and there is lots of laughing.

Top explained to me that although it is a sad occasion. People are happy because there is no more suffering for the person and it just means it is time for them to move on from this world. I think this kind of thinking is brilliant!

I have just shared a meal with tops family at his house and am feeling very fortunate that I have had this snapshot in to this part of life (and death) here.

Thanks for taking time out of your day to follow my blog. Cheers, Nick.


Unknown said...


That sounds like a beautiful and powerful experience. Being brought into a culture - a world - so different from your own is amazing. On one hand you feel like a tourist, on the other, you feel so thankful to experience life through someone else's eyes. All the more poignant when death is involved. Amazing.

Behind Bars - Motorcycles and Life

Geoff James said...


I liked this post (well, maybe we could have avoided the first para, haha!)

The Thai approach to funerals is very much like that of the Irish and Maori - a celebration of a persons' life as opposed to just sorrow. something I heartily approve of.

Even from our limited (and probably skewed) experience of the Thais from our time at Phuket, you were right in that we liked them enormously. If I had to choose, I would prefer Vietnam slightly as overall, it's less westernised but I'd be splitting hairs really.

Anonymous said...

Hi Nick
Still checking in on your blog with interest. Apartment looks ace. Cool to hear about you and Top, he seemed like a really nice bloke.
Living in Bangkok is going to be insane I'm sure, hope you have a blast

Barry (the mid-life crisis English chap)

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