‘BINTABAHT’: A happening thing early in the morning

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Hua Hin's Soi Bintabaht... right behind the temple

Soi Bintabaht is once again one of the liveliest night time alleys in Hua Hin after the prolonged lockdown.

This is the location of the city’s many bars and pubs, now able to ply their trade once again. ‘Bintabaht’ may be considered a curious name for this vibrant and boisterous centre of the city’s late-night bar scene, sometimes referred to as Hua Hin’s ‘Walking Street’.

However, as the western end of the soi is adjacent to Wat Hua Hin, the origins of the name become clearer. It’s difficult to directly translate the Thai word ‘bintabaht’, but essentially it refers to the collection of alms, including food for the morning meal of Buddhist monks each morning.

Monks doing their early morning rounds collecting food and alms from locals.

Alms giving is a daily ritual in the Kingdom. Monks will leave their wat (temple), each morning at around 6 am, having risen at 4 am, meditated for one hour, followed by one hour of chanting. They travel bare-footed and silently through the streets of Thailand’s cities, towns and  villages.

During their alms rounds, they will carry their alms bowl (บาตร Pali patta; Sanksrit patra) with both hands held close to the stomach. The bowl is seen as the monk’s emblem and according to Buddhist rules, it is the only dish that monks can possess. The bowl is usually stored and carried in a cloth or crocheted bag, both for protection and ease of carrying.

Then there are many monks, the first monk moves on a few paces and the other monks follow the same path a few paces behind. The monks walk in order of seniority – not age, but length of continuous service.

The monk does not expose the bowl unless someone has food to give. The bowl is then displayed and the lid removed. Most of the food is given by women who drop the food into the bowl. This is literally ‘drop’, not ‘place’, as a female must not touch a monk or an object that a monk holds. The lid is then placed back on the bowl and the robe is once more draped over the bowl.

This is not charity as perceived by western people. Buddhists believe the giving of alms is a way of connecting the giver to the monk or nun and to show humbleness and respect to the religion that they represent. There’s probably many a tale that the monks of Wat Hua Hin could tell about walking through Soi Bintabaht in the early hours, but that’s another story!

By Hua Hin Today

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