The sparrows of Doi Suthep

Peter Leith is 89 and describes himself as ‘half-deaf and half-blind’, but he has never been one to dwell on his challenges. This is another in his series of true short stories.


After climbing the innumerable stone steps to Doi Suthep temple, I reached a platform where numerous people stood, each person holding a small split bamboo cage that contained a sparrow.

They were considering the wish, or prayer, they would make before releasing the sparrow from the cage.

After the sparrows were released, cute little Thai children picked up the empty cages and returned them to the temple.

Apparently, the belief is that freeing the grateful sparrow enables it to carry your wish, or prayer, up into the sky where your emancipating gesture is favourably viewed by the celestial powers that can grant your wish or prayer.

Delighted with this happy conceit, I too bought a caged sparrow and after making a long-forgotten wish, I released it.

The sparrow circled my head for a few seconds, but did not ascend to the heavens. Instead, it flew off behind the temple.

Intrigued, I followed it and came to a platform where a flock of sparrows pecked happily on a seed-strewn stone slab. A Thai women then appeared, picked up a sparrow, and put it into a small split bamboo cage.

Recycling at its best.


This is one of a series of short stories by Peter Leith. He says the anecdotes are based on fact. Do you have a story or an observation for Peter? Send it to and put ‘Sunday’ in the subject line.

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Written by Peter Leith

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