Larger versions of these images can be found in my online portfolio.
10,000 Buddhist monks assembled in central Bangkok this morning for a mass alms-giving ceremony. This was the latest of three similar events held this year to raise support for monks, soldiers, policemen and victims of natural disasters in Thailand’s troubled southern provinces.
The event was held in the early-morning, starting at 5:30am, outside Bangkok’s busy Central World mall. Even at 5:30, Ratchadamri Road is usually a busy thoroughfare but this morning, with impressive efficiency, it was transformed briefly into a venue where many thousands of Bangkok’s Buddhist devotees could present donations of food and toiletries to 10,000 Buddhist monks.
Donations are made in order to earn merit but the 10,000 monks in attendance today were simply accepting gifts on behalf of their fellow monks in Thailand’s southern provinces. Giving and receiving alms is a traditional part of Buddhist culture but it is a practice which is under threat in the south, where monks are often targeted by insurgents and so do not have the same opportunities to receive offerings.
It’s really impressive that an event with so many participants can run so smoothly. There were few policemen and even fewer stewards but most were really only concerned with taking photos on their mobile phones. There were no directions, no signs and no fuss. Everybody in attendance seemed to know where to go and it seems indicative of the Thai approach that tens of thousands of people can arrive for a pre-dawn ceremony, completely fill one of the largest roads in central Bangkok for two hours and then dissolve back into Bangkok with the minimum of disruption.
One of the reasons that I enjoy living and working in Thailand is the freedom and accessibility that photographers enjoy. There was an official press area at today’s event, staffed by helpful attendants who spent their time looking for anyone who appeared to be a professional photographer. Without any hindrance, a smiling press assistant registered me whilst I worked and provided a Press Release before moving on. Photographers were able to move around freely and the only interaction I had with the press staff was when they indicated some great vantage points that they thought I might like to try.
Whilst a 3:45am alarm isn’t usually the best way to improve my mood for the day, having the freedom to walk around and work without hindrance and with the added bonus of so many friendly smiles is more than enough to compensate for the early start. Plus, the job is over in time for breakfast!