The following story is entirely true, only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.
I’m not really a religious person and when I say ‘not really’ I mean ‘it means nothing to me, it’s all fake, oh no am I going to hell now?’
But I am in Thailand, a country with a strong Buddhist faith (94% of the population considers themselves buddhist) which for most atheists is the religion they’d plump for if they really, really, really had to pick one.
The Buddhist faith, which is ingrained into the Thai culture dates back to…ever such a long time ago…way before telephones, Instagram and Beyoncé.
Being a culture vulture and wishing to smother myself in Thai culture like a parsnip in gravy, I decided to go and visit a temple not too far from where I am living in Bangkok.
The temples name was Thung Wat Don and from the bits I saw, it looked beautiful. It had a main temple and what is best described as a few other smaller ones that surrounded it (I am guessing for buddha’s who aren’t quite ‘premier league’).
Sadly I didn’t get chance to see the whole site as I was obviously due some bad karma because of all the terrible things I’ve done in the past. I’ve never done anything seriously wrong, I don’t steal or hurt people but I’ve been known to occasionally mumble my disapproval at people who suddenly stop walking as I’m behind them and I sometimes, not often, look at men that are much more handsome and sophisticated than me and murmur ‘he looks like a wanker’ to myself. I’m sure they’re mostly nice blokes really…
So, I’m pretty much a saint, which is why I was so shocked at what happened on a day that will go down in Thai history as ‘The Day That Sweaty Farang Got His Shit Trainers Nicked Outside The Temple’
Even though I’m not religious I do have an interest in the Buddhist faith as it seems less ‘moody’ than all the others with much of it being based around karma. Be good and good things will come your way, the world would be a nicer place if more of us followed that teaching. I decided to start my visit by going to one of the smaller (League One) temples around the site and after removing my trainers by the entrance I found myself in a small temple with some cows. Not real cows, but plastic life-sized ones…
Here I am in high spirits and not feeling self-conscious at all in front of the cows…
If you look closely you can see that the one on the left has taken quite a shine to me. Also, as a side note, as I write this blog I am wearing the same shorts as in this photo – what a great fact and inside info into my life!
After contributing to Cow Aid I turned my attention to the main Buddha in the room. As I had entered the temple I was given a candle and some joss sticks to light to show my respect to the Buddha and to make a wish for good luck. After lighting my two flammable objects and coughing loudly a few times due to the smoke they were giving off, I stepped back and respectfully gave actual believers a bit more room.
After what seemed like 10 minutes but could have easily been 15 I stepped outside as I was starting to sweat like a cheese and ham sandwich in a pottery kiln.
The sun was bright and high in the sky and I had to squint my eyes as I stepped out onto the hot tarmac. My eyes refocused and gazed to where I’d left my trainers…’Tut’, I said to myself in my head, not out loud like a mad person, talking out loud to yourself is only to be done when you are sure no one else is around, (I have been caught doing it SO MANY TIMES!). ‘Tut’, I said internally, ‘someone’s moved my trainers’. My eyes scanned the other twenty or so pairs of footwear that were scattered around the door…I still couldn’t see my trainers…someone…hang on…what? Intelligent thoughts such as those three flashed before my eyes as the panic set in and my body temperature grew. I looked more and more at the same tiny patch of ground for my trainers my eyes bulging out ever further in the hope that this would somehow make me see better and find my hidden footwear. But alas, they were gone, they had ceased to be, gone to the footwear buddha in the sky leaving me in the middle of Bangkok, sweaty, angry, with nothing on my feet and a fifty minute walk away from my apartment…great! Just…fantastic…super…super-dooper-trooper!
I spoke to the lady who had handed me the candle and joss stick as I’d entered the temple and asked her about my trainers, she was a friendly lady but her english wasn’t great and my Thai is about as good as blind man in a semaphore reading competition, (I am determined to learn the Thai language and will enrol on a language course in May…I’m sure this course and my classes in it will appear on this blog at some point). So having pointed at my bare feet for a while making gestures along the lines of ‘gone away’ I decided there was nothing else I could do but to leave with all the grace I could muster. I strolled confidently out onto the busy street barefooted and immediately attracted the attention of many of the Thai people entering the temple. I would love to know what they were thinking, maybe they thought I was some deeply religious guru that had chosen to walk without shoes as a sign of respect to the buddha’s and penitence for my past ill deeds. Or maybe they thought I was just a stupid farang who had lost his mind. My anger had given way to an almost containable embarrassment and being British and despite none of this being my fault I felt like apologising to the people walking past me about my lack of footwear, “I’m awfully sorry for my bare feet but I let someone steal my trainers in the temple, please forgive me”.
Eventually a taxi stopped for me and within 20 minutes I was walking into a JD Sports shop at IconSiam, the brand new, plush shopping centre and buying new trainers. You see, I forgot to mention that the trainers that I’d had stolen were the only footwear I owned (great planning by me, I know!)…I’d had to walk into a store barefooted, buy new trainers and suffer the embarrassment of confused looks from the JD Sports staff and the 20 or 30 other customers in the store. I would personally like to thank shop assistant Noy for all her help, confused looks and stifled laughs.
I hope I havent come across as disrespectful about the temple or the buddhas in the photo of this blog. Despite ‘Trainer Gate’ I love this country and after getting home and calming down I began to think of the person that stole my trainers. Maybe they were hungry and could sell them for a meal, maybe they have a kid that’s hungry, if you’re going to steal an old pair of my sweaty Adidas trainers from a temple you’ve got to be pretty desperate…so maybe I will get some good karma out of this escapade after all! I prayed for good karma and someone stole my shoes…karma works in weird ways.