Bangkok – Monday, June 21
This morning began with a ninety-minute visit with พระมหาประสระสมาจาโร (Phramaha Prasarasmajaro), who speaks only a little English but likes to laugh a lot and calls himself "Obama Monk." He began by entertaining questions, the first of which was from Aiden asking the monk's favorite color. Red was the answer which led to a yet another brief discussion of Thailand's color-coded politics. When I asked if he were a Red or a Yellow Shirt, Obama Monk replied that he was somewhere in between — which seemed entirely fitting given his peaceful nature and saffron-colored robes.
We ended up spending the next hour discussing ghosts, which have little to do with Buddhism and a lot to do with animism. This was particularly interesting to me because in 8th grade Benyapa had written an extensive report exploring the relationships between Buddhism, which took root in Thailand roughly a millennium ago, and the animism which preceded any organized religion here by several thousand years. Buddhism and animism still overlap in varying degrees in the minds of most Thais, but this was the most earnestly I'd ever heard an urban monk discuss his own beliefs in spirits and ghosts.
When we left Obama Monk we took a river boat to lunch at a riverside restaurant near the Grand Palace, and from there rode tuk-tuks to Wat Pho – the temple of the reclining Buddha. While we were admiring the sights there, the sweltering heat was suddenly relieved by a cool breeze, followed by a brief rain as we were walking back to the riverboat pier. We arrived back at the hotel drenched (mostly in sweat), for a couple of hours free time before Megan and Matthew came to visit us at the hotel and — extraordinarily graciously — treated us all to dinner.