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Luang Pu Supha at the chaofa-raising ceremony last year on Phuket

World's Oldest Man: Phuket Birthday Special

Wednesday, September 16, 2009
World's Oldest Man: Photo Special

TO BECOME world's oldest man is no mean feat. But we suspect it was not something the venerable Luang Pu Supha set out to do.

On Thursday, the Phuket monk celebrates his 113th birthday, and many devoted supporters will wish him well.

Luang Phu Supha is already widely respected and acclaimed not for his longevity, but for his good work over many decades.

Last year we were privileged to see him at a chaofa-raising ceremony at the Buddhist temple in Chalong where he has chosen to make his home.

It was one of those magical Phuket days when everything was bathed in sunshine and the best of the island's culture was on display.

Luang Phu Supa was wheeled in a chair to the ceremony, accompanied by a doctor and other aides, all under a giant golden parasol.

The ceremony itself was spectacular. Hundreds of people applied gold leaf to the chaofas, which were wrapped in colorful cloths and blessed many times over.

Most of Phuket's leading citizens were there, and they were the ones who hauled on the ropes and pulleys that carried the chaofa up to the symbolic corners of the temple.

It was a day of color and fun, a memorable demonstration of Phuket's culture at its best.

We have also been at the Koh Sireh temple, high on a hill overlooking the island, that Luang Phu Supa had a hand in founding.

He wanted it to be for the underprivileged, and that's the way it is. We were there for a Songkran Festival, and it was the place the local Burmese chose to celebrate.

There are many temples on Phuket but the one on the hill in Koh Sireh is special.

Another place where he spent time was in the small shrine on Koh Rang, in Phuket City. It's a little bit away from the tourist path to the top, where most people go to take in the views.

Yet like the temple at Koh Sireh, the Koh Rang shrine, although much smaller, is a wonderful place for contemplation.

The deeds of a long life will be celebrated on Thursday, when we look forward to learning more about the life's work of a good man.

It's quite an achievement to lead a long existence, but so much harder to lead an unerringly good one.

We can't help but wonder, over 113 years, what he made of his first sight of electricity, or a motor car, or Mickey Mouse, or telephones and television, or an aircraft, or of the landing on the Moon, and what he thinks about materialism.

We suspect he has seen the sun come up thousands and thousands of times, and that he has probably enjoyed each and every morning. We hope Luang Pu Supha sees many more sunrises.

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