All this history was unknown to us when we trekked through Thung Yai, as we travelled much in the same way as I imagine Plains Indians in
once travelled at the height of the Horse Culture. That is,
few compromises were made when it came to having lots to eat; all ages and both
genders worked together; religious rites and observances were frequent;
everything we needed we packed with us and few high-tech solutions were
employed. Most of all, we were lead by a single man, Ajan
Boon Long, who would confer with his fellow monks and rely on the expertise
of some others, but who once making a decision, all followed without
questioning, doubts or fear.
This was novel travel for me. My fellow villagers didn’t give it a second thought.
I vividly remember the first time I spotted a hoe in the back of the truck I was traveling in. My first thought was: “Isaan farmers just can’t leave their hoes at home.” Well, these Issan farmers showed me much in their capability and problem solving, not only by frequently using their hoes on the worst roads, but fixing rather complicated mechanical breakdowns.
At the beginning of this article, I mentioned how I had my doubts about going on this trip. Well, those doubts stemmed from what I observed en route to the gates of Thung Yai. What it came down to was that all my fellow travelers were new to me and I really didn’t know Ajan Boon Long all that much and here we were going into one of the most remote areas of
as what appeared to me to be a “rag tag bunch.”
I lacked the trust.
I lacked the faith.
My Thai-Lao wife kept encouraging me just to follow Ajan Boon Long’s leadership and enjoy the ride. Just like each person had their own reasons for going and their own lessons learned, mine was this one. Once I saw how truly capable my friends were days away from any help from anyone else, my trust in them skyrocketed. And once I gave up trying to mentally micro-manage the trip and not be so critical – once I, in essence, just let Ajan Boon Long take me on an adventure of a lifetime… then and only then did I have a great time.
Now that we’re back in our village in
Thailand (the Isaan), again there’s already talk of next year’s
pilgrimage. And, Ajan Boon Long has made it be known: he wants me to go again.
The poem Ajan Boon Long composed about this trip:
“Far, far away,
And even farther still,
Thung Yai is way beyond me now,
But my heart still clings to that special place.
Even when I sleep,
I dream of the land –
Where flowers grow in trees.”
A video that I did not make but gives an accurate audio and visual appreciation for being “Under the Canopy” at Thung Yai: