Wat Traphang Thong is centrally located in Sukhothai outside the historical park. The “temple of the golden pond.” is on an island in a small lake. It’s lit at night, very pretty, and a great place to watch the sunset. It is the only one of the ancient temples within the old city walls that is still in active use. Originally built around the fourteenth century. The main remaining structure is a large bell-shaped chedi.
Another artifact in the temple grounds is a Buddha footprint that dates from 1359. It was originally at another temple in the hills outside of town and was moved to Wat Traphang Thong in the mid-twentieth century.
We went to see the Wat and watch the sunset on our first night in town and we saw a sign referring to the giving of alms ceremony at 6:20 am.
The next morning, thanks to jetlag, we were both wide awake at 5:00 am so we decided to go and watch. Thai men are all expected to spend time during their lives as Monks. Some only stay for a few months but most stay for at least one year. Each morning Monks all over Thailand go out and collect alms from the public. If you are lucky you will get a blessing in return.
At Wat Traphang Thong is it a bit of a tourist attraction primarily for Thais but there were signs in English, although they must have used google translate because we could not understand the English translation. The giving of lims to the Monks at Wat Traphang Thong takes place on the bridge to the Wat each morning at 6:20 am
We were not sure exactly what was about to happen but there were a few other tourists out so we watched and waited. By 6:10 am the bridge to the Wat was full of people with baskets of alms for the Monks.
The baskets contained everything from flowers to noodles to coke. There were even baskets of toilet paper. The town market was open and they were selling pre-made mixed baskets of goods and flowers to give to the Monks.
The bridge was full and bus loads of people continued to arrive. These were tourists but they were Thai not foreigners. They could not all fit on the bridge so they were lined up down the road with their baskets.
At 6:20 am sharp the Monks started across the bridge collecting alms and passing them back to helpers because there was too much to carry. Every once in a while, they would stop and chant. It was a remarkably moving sight.
The next day, after studying the ceremony we decided to take part. We were not entirely sure about it but our adventures in Asia so far had indicated to us that Buddhists were pretty open to non-Buddhists taking part and asking questions. We had seen one western tourist the previous day as well. We were also a bit hesitant because it had been so crowded the previous day and we did not want to take space from someone who it would mean more to. We walked over and saw no tour busses so and a much smaller crowd so we decided to give it a try.
We went to the market at 5:50 am and purchased flowers and bags of alms to give to the Monks. Everything is prepackaged so we just had to pick a couple of bags. Our bags included many things, bottled water, a baggie full of soup and some vegetables, Coke and Pepsi and toilet paper.
We went back to the bridge and carefully selected a spot close to the beginning but not at the beginning. We wanted to participate but we also wanted time to watch what everyone else was doing so we could get it right.
There were baskets provided so we put our bags and flowers in a basket. It did not look like we had enough so Harold hurried back to the market to buy more bags.
The bridge was quickly filled with people. The space beside us was taken by a family who were accompanied by some staff from a local hotel. The staff had baskets full of alms which they arranged for the family. One of the family was an older gentleman so someone brought him a chair.
At exactly 6:20 am the Monks started walking along the bridge in a line. Buddhist Monks can not touch women but they all had brass pots. As they passed along the bridge they stopped in front of you and you placed one item in the pot. There was a line of non-monks with baskets behind the monks. Every time the pots got full the monks would empty them onto the baskets. You gave one item to each monk as they passed. We ran out of bags before we ran out of Monks. (note to self buy more bags next time).
The Monks stop occasionally to chant and they stopped right beside us. You pray as they chant as the chant is a prayer. We did not film it but the video below is the Monks Chanting earlier in the day.
It was very moving. As soon as the Monks passed everyone was taking selfies and pictures so we did too.
If you are ever in Sukhothai it’s worth getting up at 6:00 am to witness it even if you don’t take part.