Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Busy in Chiang Mai

Thailand has sure kept me busy in the past few weeks!  It is hard to believe it is March.  Each day brings a new adventure, whether we are traveling out to the city for a field trip for a class or finding a new street vendor or restaurant for dinner.  And of course... doing homework - lots of reading and now due dates for papers and midterms are due. Luckily I have a large selection of coffee shops to study in, which all include A/C, Free WiFi and cool drinks of Iced Lattes, Thai Iced Tea and fruit smoothies!!

School is in full swing and each of my classes bring an exciting part of the experience.  In my Buddhism class we are learning about the history as well as present life and the differences and similarities of Buddhism in surrounding countries.  We took a trip for Buddhism to a local temple which had cave temples for worship and a large Chedi on top of the caves.  We also examined many pieces of art which I enjoyed as each piece depicted a different story and symbolic meaning, and they were also painted directly onto the walls of the building!  It has been great to learn things in class and then go see them in real life. There is so much art incorporated into Thai culture, the structure of the temples are beautiful and then the murals and intricate details inside are absolutely stunning!  We have also taken another trip to town for my International Relations class where we visited the Burma Study Center.  A center with a library of books on the history of Burma as well as present day material.  The center helps Burmese students learn English and prepare for exams, as well as offer an array of resources which have made a huge impact in their lives.

One night while walking back from birthday dessert for a friend at the most luxurious hotel I have ever been to (http://www.dharadhevi.com/) we happened to walk right along with the Chiang Mai Flower Festival Parade for a few miles.  It was grand! Floats, marching bands, authentic cultural dresses and lots and lots of flowers!  The entire city suddenly blossoms with arrangements of flowers at every corner during the Flower Festival - a very beautiful occasion. There is always something going on in Chiang Mai and I have picked up a strong sense of community.

On Valentine's Day our group from America set off for a long weekend in Krabi, a delightful break from homework and classes.  Krabi is a destination in Southern Thailand for its stunning beaches and hot tropical weather!  During our stay we spent hours on the beach (mostly in the shade), rock climbing and spent a whole day out on a long tail boat island hopping.  Each stop was a little different, one included a cave temple, another a sandbar, wild monkeys, and snorkeling.  It was lovely to experience Southern Thailand and life on the coast.  The weather was much warmer than Chiang Mai, and each of us left with some sort of sunburn. (But we did apply sunscreen!)  My favorite part was being out on the green water, observing all of the rock formations that jet out of the ocean sporadically.  It was interesting to think about the amount of time it has taken for these formations to form.  Although I am learning I am not a fan of intense heat, I would love to go back to visit Southern Thailand. Beautiful landscape and so much to do!

Long tail boat in Krabi

One of my favorite things to do in Chiang Mai has been to visit the temples.  There are over 300 temples in the city and we have visited many for class trips and have had lectures in them about the art of temple structures, depictions of Buddha, as well as how they relate to Buddhism.  You can't go five minutes without seeing a temple and therefore it is easy for me to visit.  Each temple is different in size and includes a variety of sculptures, paintings and beautiful artwork.  It is always a quiet space and you must remove your shoes before entering and wear appropriate attire including covering your shoulders and knees to show respect.  During one class we had the opportunity to go to a Monk chat, which is an open question and answer format with a panel of Buddhist Monks from Thailand, Laos, Burma, Cambodia and Vietnam - all students at the temple we visited.  It was an amazing experience and no questions are off limits, the monks are also encouraged to ask the audience questions!  I am definitely going back with some friends because there was not enough time to ask them everything I wanted to know!

Temple over 600 years old, partly destroyed by an earthquake hundreds of years ago.
There are sculptures of Buddha for every day of the week and are considered when a person is born on a specific day. This one represents Wednesday night and includes a monkey and an elephant making an offering to Buddha.  I enjoy this one because I was born on a Wednesday night!

Large reclined Buddha

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the update, the info and pictures supplied are simply amazing. Lake still frozen in Maine. It's good to see you in the pics!! Miss ya