Monks From Udon Thani Trek Barefoot Across Thailand

Almost every year monks from Udon Thani Province in Thailand, walk across the country barefoot to make merit. Merit is a popular concept among Thai Buddhists. Thais believe that if you make enough merit in this life you will be rewarded in the next life and you can also improve your lot while you are living in this life. I was fortunate enough to catch up with them on their long walk two years in a row, as they walked through the Khao Yai mountains not far from my home in rural Thailand. The first year I joined a group that cooked breakfast for the monks before they started their trek for the day. This meant a very early start as we needed to arrive at 5AM, so we left home at 3 in the morning. The second year I passed on the breakfast and photographed the wonks on their walk through the mountain passes of Khao Yai. The trip for the monks is a long journey and also hard on the feet. I asked one monk what was the hardest thing about the journey, and he replied without hesitation “walking Barefoot”. Making merit is a spiritual act, and in Thailand, should be done barefoot. Monks usually walk on their morning alms gathering rounds barefoot, and while this trek was much longer, the same rules apply. The monk told me the asphalt roads were very hot and hurt the monk’s feet.

100 Monks Trek Across Thailand
100 Monks Trek Across Thailand. The above image was featured in the French issue of National Geographic Magazine, Feb. 2015.

2 thoughts on “Monks From Udon Thani Trek Barefoot Across Thailand

  1. Ahron Rasabi

    Lee Craker,

    You mentioned in your article that you had breakfast and met up with monks doing merit twice. When or what time of year do they practice merit and or when can I find more information.

    Thank you

    1. Lee Post author

      Ahron, Monks in Thailand make merit by collecting alms almost every day early in the morning, although usually in small groups of 2 or 3. I photographed the Monks from Udon Thani on Khao Yai twice, once in March of 2011, and again in January of 2013. Each time I was informed by local devout Buddhists wanting to travel to where they were camped for the night and serve them breakfast. So for me both times was more or less a chance encounter, without prior planning. I was informed that they do walk every year, but I have no advise for you about when and where, because as you can see the times varied substantially when I photographed them. Also I am writing this in 2016 and have not seen the monks in this area since 2013. I think your best bet would be to travel to Udon Thani and ask the locals there when the monks are planning to do their annual pilgrimage.

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