I guess some context is due though. In both Laos and Thailand, people are very afraid of ghosts. Where kids in the U.S., for example, might be scared of monsters, Thai kids grow up afraid of ghosts. Monsters obviously don’t exist. But ghosts.. they might. So it’s kind of a fear that they never lose.
That’s why what I’m about to describe is so, so scary for Thai people. But not for me…
After the evening chanting I was led deep into the wilderness. It was very dark and I had to use my headlamp.
Throughout the day, people kept on trying to scare me. They’d put up their hands as if they were claws and hiss at me. If they knew some English, they would say things like “Tonight you die” or “Scary ghosts.”
When we arrived at the site, there was a hut containing the partially-buried coffin, pictures of the deceased woman, flowers, and a place in front of the coffin to meditate.
I was never really nervous, and to be honest, I was relieved when I saw there would be a mosquito net. I was more afraid of the bugs than the dead body in front of me.
Or was it a dead body?
They opened the lid and it did smell quite bad. But I saw her and I thought it was a plastic mannequin or something. First, it was just a bit weird that there would be a real body. Second, the body looked plastic.. all the skin still there, yellow.. it just looked fake.
I later learned this lady died only a few days ago.
They made me recite something over the body, including daring her to kill me. Ok… So I sat down on the meditation mat they had there, they pulled down the mosquito net, and I settled in for the coming two hours.
While I was sitting there, I did the meditation they instructed me to do. The ideal outcome is that the fear pushes you to new heights and you gain some special ability or insight from the ghost of the deceased. It didn’t work for me and it didn’t work for many of the people I met at the temple.
But as I sat there, the lid of the coffin kept making noise. But it was inside the dug hole next to the coffin. It was impossible to touch. And the wind couldn’t have been doing it. So, I still don’t know what that was all about. But I also heard leaves making noise next to me. Not sure how to explain it, but it was as if a sniper dressed like a bush started jumping up and down.
It was obviously someone doing it. But the people at the temple swear they don’t interfere with these things. Well, it had to be humans. If I were a ghost, I’d do something cooler than making noise with leaves… especially if the person sitting there is skeptical and unafraid. If I had seen a ghost, yes, that would have left me with an empty bladder.. and colon.
So, otherwise, two boring hours to be honest. I may have even dozed off a couple times.
People congratulated me for surviving when they came back to collect me. I was just happy to not be sitting down anymore after it was over. And I was happy to be going to sleep. It had been a long day!
About Adam Pervez
In mid-2011 I left my cushy corporate job and took the plunge into a life incorporating my passions of traveling, writing, volunteering, learning, educating, and telling stories. I study what happiness means to others, offer what I can from my engineering/MBA background as a volunteer, and try to leave each place better than how I found it. Read more.