Hat Yai. This morning, reading a newspaper over coffee at a bakery, I observe three Monks leaning over the cake counter facing the street. Beautifully decorated cakes are lined up on the shelves to be selected for special occasions. The cakes are hidden behind glass coverage. The monks are huddled together, talking animatedly with pointing gestures.
I am intrigued. I go up to the cashier and ask her to speak to the monks. If they desire a cake I will happily purchase their choice and have it decorated with any message desired. The cashier looks at me hesitantly; I confirm my offer. When the monks are told of my gift they look at me happily but also surprised; it is not often an offer like this granted by a farang, a foreigner. They see me smiling and a look at my necklace shows the image of Luang Por Khun, a revered living monk. The monks relax and start to discuss between themselves the message to be iced onto the cake. Once a consensus has been reached one monk firmly tells the cashier. A bakery staff removes the chosen cake and starts to ice the message onto the cake. The monk’s eyes follow each movement in delight. The cashier tells me that it is a birthday message iced in red onto the cake. The monks are on a pilgrimage down to a temple in Hat Yai; they have walked all the way from close to where I live in Hua Hin, nearly 700km away.
I happily pay for the beautiful cake. Once the decorating work is completed the cake is put into a box. A plastic cake knife and a box of candles are placed on top; the box handed to me. I look at the smiling monks; the happiest must be the birthday monk. I gently hand the boxed cake to him. He is absolutely delighted and blushes a deep red. The oldest monk faces me, stares at me, and then, in the crowded bakery-coffee shop blesses me at length. Then he gently takes my right hand and places a small Buddhist statue into my open palm. A short further blessing and then the three monks walk off, led by the oldest. The birthday monk happily carries his boxed birthday cake.
As soon as the monks are out of sight, shop patrons come to me to have a look at my gift. Envious looks gathered at the stone image of “Luang Por Tuart” a very famous monk of long ago.
The cashier of the bakery tells me staff, the monks and the present patrons would be talking about today’s event whenever a birthday celebration would occur in the future. It had been a highly unusual event end; many patrons were envious of me. (Why didn’t one of them offer to pay for the birthday cake?) I am told that I should feel very blessed as this particular image of “Luang Por Tuart” is quite rare and hardly ever given away; surely never to a foreigner. I do feel blessed. My little gift of a birthday cake made three monks happy, and created quite a stir among the bakery staff and its patrons.
Just another happy morning in Hat Yai.