Location:Thai Plum Village 174,176 Ban Sra Nam Sai, Moo 7, Tambon Pongtalong, Pak Chong (district), Nakhon Ratchasima (province), Thailand
Alms Round A forward-thinking monk at Thai Plum Village, Bro. Nguyen Luc, asked if I could be a part of the monastics' alms round to a nearby village by carrying the food received by the monks and nuns. It was a privilege I wouldn't pass up. An alms round is when the monks and nuns go out of their monastery and essentially beg for food. They are given food / water and sometimes money by householders (people who earn a living and not in the monastic order). The householders in turn, are given a blessing by the monks and nuns. Monastics, by tradition, cannot earn a living in order to devote their lives in the pursuit of self-realization. As such, they have to beg for food. This is a tradition that dates back to the time of Buddha.
Luang Prabang, Laos The first and last time I witnessed the alms round was in Luang Prabang when I was a passing backpacker. The monks came out of their temples to a waiting line of tourists who came prepared very early in the morning to give them food. This ritual became popular in Luang Prabang that it has become a tourist attraction.
Informing the Villagers The week prior, some monastics already made their rounds in the village to distribute leaflets letting them know that monks and nuns from the Thai Plum Village would be passing through for their alms round. This would prepare the villagers to make ready anything they'd like to give the monastics.
Theravada and Mahayana Tradition Buddhism, in the last 2500 years since the time of Buddha, has branched-off to many monastic traditions and remains the staple religion in Thailand. The widely accepted tradition is the Theravada Buddhism. These are the monks who wear the dark mustard colored robe. They subscribe to the original tenets of Buddhism which is rigid and steeped in the ways of the old world. They do not cook so they have to beg for food. They only eat one meal (or 2) a day. These are the monks the Thais are accustomed to.
The other branch of Buddhism is the Mahayana Tradition to which Thai Plum Village is a part of. Mahayana adapts to the changing norms of society and is viewed as 'modern' by the traditionalists. Even within Mahayana, there are other traditions, some, more open than others. Thai Plum Village is perhaps one of the most open - it allows its monastics to play music, play sports, cook and eat 3 times daily and even have precepts to govern the use of cell phones and cars! It doesn't mean they're party people - they simply adapt to the changing norms of society and make their tradition more accessible to the younger people. As monastics, they live by defined precepts that govern their moral and spiritual conduct. They wear a dark chocolate brown colored robe - and Thais are not used to seeing this. Thus, even though Plum Village is Buddhism in a Buddhist country, it remains largely unheard of, and unknown to Thais.
Ending Thoughts Thai Plum Village has a well-stocked kitchen and the monastics eat healthy vegetarian food. When they do the alms round, it's not really because they need food. They do this because it's part of the Buddhist tradition, and also because this practice connects them to the nearby villages and allows them to share their merits and showcase their mindfulness. It encourages people to visit the center and benefit from its tradition.
Thank you Bro. Nguyen Luc for making me a part of this time-honored tradition.
Thai Plum Village International Practice Centre
with direction coming from Bangkok
GPS waypoint: 14°33'25.4"N 101°31'45.0"E
174,176 Ban Sra Nam Sai, Moo 7, Tambon Pongtalong, Pak Chong District, NakornRatchasima, Thailand
How to Get to Plum Village from Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport
You are encouraged to arrive at the Center Friday afternoon between 2-4 pm
Suvarnabhumi Airport to Bangkok proper (Phaya Thai Station) there is already a direct train from the airport that goes all the way to Bangkok with a final stop at Phaya Thai. Upon airport arrival, go down to Basement and take the Airport Link train to Phaya Thai Station35 mins | Baht 45. Get off at Phaya Thai Station (the last stop) and walk (.8km) to the Phaya Thai BTS Station.
Phaya Thai Station (N2) - Mo Chit Station (N8) by BTS TRAIN board the BTS train heading to Mo Chit and get off there.
Mo Chit North Eastern Bus Terminal - Platform 6, public van at #78 this is a short walk. Go to Platform 6 and get on the public van at #78 offering Jamnong Tour.
IMPORTANT ! - make sure you make it clear to the driver that HIS van drops you off at Plum Village. Otherwise, they might finish the tour in Pak Chong proper. If this happens, you're still 45 minutes away from Plum Village which costs 500 Baht by cab! Best to copy/print/take a picture of the image below to show to the driver:
Mo Chit North Eastern Bus Terminal - Plum Village by VAN the trip all the way to Plum Village, Pak Chong costs Baht 500 and takes 3.5 to 4 hours. Take the 11am or 12 noon van to ensure you arrive at the center before 4pm.
How to Get to Pak Chong (Proper) from Bangkok by train
ignore this if you plan to go to Plum Village. Take the direction above instead
If you are arriving Bangkok and would like to proceed directly to Pak Chong without spending a night in Bangkok, best to take a plane that will land in Don Mueang Airport in time for the #71 Train (Bangkok to Si Sa Ket) to stop at the MRT Train Station, Bang Sue, which is only a short walk from the airport. Train schedule at Bang Sue Station: Fri 10:27am, arriving Pak Chong 1:30pm. Express aircon car (Baht 289), non aircon (Baht 198). Duration is 3 hours, stopping right in the heart of Pak Chong. From Pak Chong.
You can also take the train from the main terminal near the center of Bangkok at the MRT Station, Hua Lampong Railway Station. Departure, Friday 10:00am.
Plum Village Cost Index
(US$1 = Thailand Baht 35.77 = Php 47.52 as of Feb 28, 2016)
Baht 500 van from Victory Monument to Plum Village
Baht 289 Express train from Bang Sue MRT Station (Bangkok) to Pak Chong Train Station, aircon (non aircon, Baht 189)
Baht 500 taxi from Pak Chong to Plum Village (call this taxi number, Mr. Khun Paisan: 085 772.4519 for the trip to Plum Village)
Things to bring if staying overnight
not a requirement, but it helps if you bring clothing in the dark brown color in order to blend-in