The 50 Things You Must Do in Asia

By Hanya Yanagihara - 2013-07-23T16:27:10Z

Photograph Keith Levit/Alamy

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Give an Offering to a Monk at Wat Sri Soda: Thailand

Each country in Asia has its own relationship to religion, of course, but it’s fair to say that the Thai relationship to Buddhism is unusually vivid. Even Thai men who aren’t active-duty monks try, in small ways, to “make merit” for themselves. Here, as across the region, this quest can manifest in spectacular ways—remember Jayavarman VII and his prolific temple-building?—but (given the lack of slave labor) it is often done in a more quiet, quotidian fashion, such as donating an offering of food to one’s local temple. Bring (or ask your guide to bring) a packet of food for you to give to one of the monks, who will receive it with a chant. As you descend the hill after spending an hour so exploring the temple, you’ll see a chain of young monks walking along with their begging bowls, accepting food from the penitent locals who line the streets early in the morning to receive a blessing. It’s a sight both timeless and touching, a reminder—despite the motorbikes and hotels—of this area’s unshakable belief and age-old rituals.

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