You'll need a few lifetimes just to explore all the mesmerizing temples just a hop, skip and a jump from where you'll stay. Temples are a focal point of Thai society and offer a fascinating peek into daily life.
Countless nearby temples with resident monks surround us, reminders everywhere that Buddhism is a way of life.
Temples live and breathe. Communities band together as a matter of pride to build and maintain them, each with their own style, and they're always alive for days of observance, social gatherings, religious rites, and festivals.
We'll have many opportunities to enter temples and observe quietly or even take part in raucous celebrations. We might very well bump into a party of people dancing their way to the temple for a monk's ordination ceremony, and get compelled by complete strangers to join the party!
It's nearly impossible to get "templed out" here. Each temple is unique in its design and posture, and because our temples aren't on some tourist circuit, there are no preconceived notions or false pretenses when you walk in. You'll be treated as a real person without any expectations in return.
Apart from admiring intricate designs and statues and murals, you'll discover how monks these days are all over the spectrum, and never quite the same as the ones we've learned about in textbooks. There are temples we'll visit whose monks are quite traditional -- they wrap themselves in drab orange cloth, meditate and chant a lot, walk in the mountains, and eat only once per day. But there are also plenty of "reform" temples, whose monks you might spy walking around in shoes, driving mopeds, buying things, or even posting to the internet!
Thais are such friendly and tolerant people because everybody recognizes that there's no one way. Language barriers mean nothing to locals or a monk, and your interactions with them are always a welcome distraction. Don't be surprised if you provoke a laugh or a comment, or if the tables turn after a visit and they end up feeding you!
Some useful words and phrases:
"wat" = temple
"bood" = "monk ordination building"
"ong" = "monk"
"sai baht" = "offer alms"
"nang samadhi" = "meditate"
"gnan sop" = "funeral party"
"satu" = "amen"
"na mo ta sa, pak a wa toh, ara ha toh, sama, sam poo ta sa" = the most basic prayer chant in Buddhism