Clockwise from top: floating nun in the temple pool; a sign lists fees for tourists; memorial to the original floating nun, who is believed to have transmitted her secrets to disciples.
Thailand is a country full of magical surprises. One of them, located in the Kanchanaburi province, is a temple called Wat Tham Mangkhon Thong. As you enter, you're swallowed by the giant head of a dragon and climb the stairs of its throat.
But most surprising are the so-called "floating nuns." I have arrived in this place by coincidence and as it was on a Monday the place was empty. I read this sign (left).
But my curiosity was too intense to not witness this mysterious phenomenon where you could see a nun meditating in yoga postures in the water – without sinking. So there I am paying and sitting in front of the small circled pool, waiting for my exclusive show to begin.
I'm skeptical as I watch the nun descend step by step into the water, proudly thinking oh, I can do this. But as the seconds and minutes passed by, I was touched by the atmosphere of serenity she created. And even more than that, impressed by her skills in keeping the water still.
I began to marvel at the performance of the little lady. I saw how the ripples causing movement in the water subsided very quickly. There was no movement except for that required to change posture.
Thailand's Floating Nuns
Maybe the fact that I was alone and not among dozens of ahhing and oohing onlookers added to the performance – and my sense of a great serenity and powerful, yet relaxed concentration. I do not know. But after the sequence of postures including the impressive reclining Buddha, I was convinced I couldn't do it, at least.
Later, on the web I read accusations of cheating (they wear life jackets, or there's something in the water) as well as the site being a "tourist trap" because they sell their "powers." It made me hesitate to spread this short video.
And then I thought of the monk amongst others who died in meditation and whose body is very well preserved, on the island of Samui. He asked that his body would be exposed so that people could see the greatness of the Buddha's teachings. So what – would it be improper that this temple make some money by doing the same? They have to live somehow.
I saw no trace of a lifejacket through the fine nun’s clothes. Besides, you'd find out quite fast that you float in a special way wearing one of those, which I think would make impossible the postures the nun made.
But I'm stubborn, so I still asked to go to experience the pool myself. First the nun asked money for that, saying I couldn't do it unless I paid 200 baht. I replied I had already given her 200 baht.
After a short discussion she finally let me into the pool for free. I noticed that the water was not salty - another argument made by skeptics - and here I am trying to do the lotus posture. Everyone, including myself, laughed when seeing me struggle around in the water anyway! I tried several positions and we laughed even more.
I thanked the nun for her welcome. I think we're all capable of extraordinary things if we dedicate adequate time and energy. But one thing I know for sure is that these floating nuns have worked intensively to achieve a mastery of their bodies through meditation.