First Steps in Siem Reap: Surrounded by Monks

Surrounded by Cambodian Buddhist monks

I have seen many monks in my life so seeing one or two on the street is not a surprise. However, seeing 10 different monks a day every day and interacting with them is something completely new to me.

Two monks strolling down the streets.

You can see them walk to the temples, do some shopping on local markets, read books in the park or pray in the temple.

Buddha statues, more than 100 in this particular Temple.

Each statue has a different shape, color and size.

This is how the Temple looks outside.

Looking at this photo, I would never guess it is a monastery. Would you?

It is nice to get a lesson of Buddhist history and be in monks’ world which is completely different from ours. I learnt a lot about monks’ lives this week when I visited one temple and one pagoda and spoke to some of them. Even went to their house to see how they live.

Me listening to Buddhist stories.

Monks live their lives easily and peacefully. They do not worry about anything. They often ask us “Why do you people worry so much? And say “No worry, no problem. You worry too much”. Yes, monks’ lives are different from ours. They don’t have to work. They do some voluntary job when they want to or go to temples and pray but this is not a 9-5 job as we do on a regular basis.

Moreover, they get free gifts of money and food from locals which is more than enough for them and locals often pay a lot for prayers. The education is free or cheaper for them and they have a lot of free time to rest.

One of the monks preparing the temple for pray time

However, once the monk leave the temple for good and decides not to be a monk any more, it is extremely difficult for him to get a normal job. They are mostly considered as knowledgeable people who are useless in most of manual jobs offered in Cambodia.

One of the monks explaining to me the meaning of Buddhist statues.

What surprised me the most is the list of prohibitions in the monasteries. Monks are not allowed to touch a girl so I couldn’t shake hands with them when introducing myself. They can’t exercise, stay in one room with a girl alone, cook at night (they can eat breakfast and lunch only- two meals a day in total) or drink alcohol. Of course, these are only some of them I could remember from my first visit in the temple. I bet there are more of them I couldn’t even think of.

Smiley monk.

Despite all of these restrictions, monks stay always positive. They are humble, kind, friendly and down-to-earth. They always treat you like a friend, will help you with everything and never ask for anything back. What is more, they are selfless, extremely focused when praying and stay calm all the time.

When I look at them during their pray time, I can see innocence and total dedication to Buddha. When they speak to you, it’s like a conversation with your best mate- they make you laugh, tell you funny stories and you both make fun of each other. It’s so cool!

I wish I could live according to one of their rules “Be humble, don’t worry and sleep peacefully”.

 

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Agness Walewinder
Agness Walewinder
Travel freak, vagabond, photography passionate, blogger, life enthusiast, backpacker, adventure hunter and endless energy couchsurfer living by the rule "Pack lite, travel far and live long!"
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