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2015 Thailand Adventure Blog

Hi Everyone,

We just wrapped up the 2015 Thailand Adventure a week or so ago and as I rest my weary bones in this quiet, beautiful place in southern Thailand, I finally have some time to write about it.  But I’ll start with a picture from the place were I’m at now.  It’s on Koh Yao Noi in the Andaman Sea, my favorite place in the world (though I hesitate to tell anyone).  Here’s the view from a beach there.

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Ok, back to the Thailand Adventure.  As usual we began in Bangkok.  Most people flew in late Thursday night and we went right to the hotel.  Got up the next day and walked to the amulet market, ate lunch in the back of the market on the Chao Praya river (the reason Bangkok is where it is), and then got on some Tuk Tuks (little three person taxis) and headed over to the Royal Palace for a tour.  Here are some pictures from that day.

Amulet Market

First thing we did was go to the amulet market.  This covered market has aisles and aisles of amulets and statues of every god, goddess, famous monks and Buddha images imaginable.  Collecting amulets is a big deal in Thailand and are used for good luck and protection from evil spirits.  The statues grace the altars and spirit houses throughout the land.

Christina and Jess checking out some amulets at the amulet market.

Christina and Jess checking out some amulets at the amulet market.

Vatsana with an amulet she just purchased.

Vatsana with an amulet she just purchased.

Lunch in back of the market on the Chao Praya river (you'll have to trust me on that one!)

Lunch in back of the market on the Chao Praya river (you’ll have to trust me on that yone!)

Royal Palace

The Royal Palace, though not the place where the king resides, is still used ceremonially by the Royal family for coronations, funerals, and state visits by foreign dignitaries.  It is the most popular tourist attraction in all of Thailand.  Here we are as a group at the entrance to the Palace.

2015 Thailand Adventure group at entrance to Grand Palace.

2015 Thailand Adventure group at entrance to Grand Palace.

There are a number of significant cultural objects on the Royal grounds.  One is the Emerald Buddha.  Though actually made of Jade, is relatively small and is the most revered Buddha image in the country.  Only the king himself is allowed to touch it, as he does three times a year when he changes the Buddha’s clothing in keeping with three Thai seasons, summer, winter and rainy season.  In it’s centuries of existence, the Emerald Buddha has traveled many places.  It is believed that this Buddha offers good fortune to the country that possesses it.  Because you are not allowed to take pictures inside the temple, I stole this one from the web.  It shows the clothing for each of the three seasons.

Three Season Clothing of Emerald Buddha

Three Season Clothing of Emerald Buddha

Another important part of the Royal grounds is the large golden Chedi.  In Thailand, there is a Chedi on the grounds of every temple and often times they contain sacred relics or ashes of revered monks.  This one is said to contain ashes of the Buddha himself.

Chedi at the Royal Palace

Chedi at the Royal Palace

Wat Pho (pronounced Wat Po)

On the second day, we head over to Wat Pho.  This temple is one of the most famous temples in Thailand.  It has the largest lying Buddha, the most Buddha statues and the first school for Thai bodywork that was opened to foreigners.   It also has some famous engravings that document some of the ancient knowledge of Thai medicine and energy.   We wander around the grounds in the morning and then get a massage at the school.  They practice a southern style method of Thai massage that involves more use of thumbs and less use of stretching.

Jess putting gold leaf on her "Birthday Buddha" at the entrance to Wat Pho for good luck.

Jess putting gold leaf on her “Birthday Buddha” at the entrance to Wat Pho for good luck.

The massive lying Buddha

The massive lying Buddha

Some of the engravings

Some of the engravings

Julie striking a Thai Hermit pose!

Julie striking a Thai Hermit pose!

Our group in front of the last remaining statue of Thai massage at Wat Pho

Our annual  group photo in front of the last remaining statue of Thai massage at Wat Pho

From Left to Right – or some facsimile thereof: Vatsana Vilayhong (furthest left in front), Stephanie Harbour (in back of her), Julie Pluss (hands in prayer), Jessica Brooks-Amorosa (lying down), Lauren Newmyer (striped shirt in back), Clare Sente (hands in prayer position), Christina Tomacic (lying down in blue), Rebecca Brink (in white), Tina Shiele (gray t-shirt), John Keith (sunglasses), Me (Paul Fowler – red tennis shoes). Not Pictured: Sara Cotton (she met us a few days later in Chiang Mai)

Wat Arun

After we leave Wat Pho, we eat and then take a water taxi across the big river to Wat Arun.  This is considered one of the three most important temples, a sort of holy trinity of Thai Buddhist and political history and power centers.  On the site of a previous capital (before it crossed the river to it’s present day Bangkok), and former home to the emerald Buddha, this stunning temple has a very unusual looking Khmer style “prang” or spire, that can be climbed for a great view of the city.  The Prangs  are covered in beautiful floral patterns of Chinese porcelain.

John and I on the Prang at Wat Arun

John and I on the Prang at Wat Arun

The main Khmer inspired Prang at Wat Arun

The main Khmer inspired Prang at Wat Arun

The Night Train

After resting a bit, we headed to the train station and hop on the night train to Chiang Mai.

Christina may be awakening the Buddha within but outside, the Buddha is definitely taking a snooze.

Christina may be awakening the Buddha within but outside, the Buddha is definitely taking a snooze.

It’s Sunday afternoon when we get to Chiang Mai.  We head to the guesthouse, rest up a bit and have our first meeting before we officially begin our studies on Monday morning.  We’ll need to get up especially early to go to the market to get our offerings for the teacher and the teachings.

Our home for three weeks!

Our home for three weeks!

Soi (small street) 5, right outside the guesthouse

Soi (small street) 5, right outside the guesthouse

First Day of Class – Picking up offerings at the market

Every Monday, as is customary, we go to the market to get incense, candles, flowers, and fruit to serve as an offering for the teacher and the teachings that we are to receive that week.  We put these items on offering dishes and kneeling, we go to the altar, give the offering and as a way of thanking the Buddha, the dhamma, the sangha, your teachers and your parents.

Getting flowers at the market

Getting flowers at the market

At the market

At the market

First Week of Classes – with Pichest and at SVG

We all get on the yellow songtao (taxi) to go to school.  The beginners in the group head off to SVG school run by our friend, Master PP and his wife.  The advanced group heads off to meet Pichest Boontumme, Paul Fowler’s teacher for the past 15 years.  We study at our schools for the first week, Monday through Friday.

Pichest, teacher to the advanced students.

Pichest, teacher to the advanced students.

Pichest teaching the body. Hard to find a block in his body, that's for sure.

Pichest teaching the body. Hard to find a block in his body, that’s for sure.

Pichest demonstrating

Pichest demonstrating

 SVG School

Students here learn a basic sequence of moves that will cover the entire body from toes to head.  They are mainly taught by Air and Khun Paul, one of the teachers at SVG.

Chiang Dao

After getting a much needed day off on Saturday, we head off to Chiang Dao, the sacred village to the north of Chiang Mai.  In Chiang Dao, there is a famous cave with many little altars and Buddha’s inside, there is a local herbal market and there is an stunningly gorgeous temple on the top of a hill overlooking the jungle in all four directions.  On this trip we also take a whitewater rafting trip down a river (at least some of us did).  Some just rested with a Chang beer and feet in the river while the rafts floated by.

The temple on top of the hill. Wat Tham Pha Plong.

The temple on top of the hill. Wat Tham Pha Plong.

The temple on top of the hill

Meditating Monks at Wat Tham Pha Plong

Jess giving thanks at the top part of the Wat Tham Pha Plong.

Jess giving thanks at the top part of the Wat Tham Pha Plong.

Looking down from the Wat Tham Pha Plong

Looking down from the Wat Tham Pha Plong

One of the many signs expounding Buddhist wisdom on the hundreds of steps leading up to Wat Tham Pha Plong.

One of the many signs expounding Buddhist wisdom on the hundreds of steps leading up to Wat Tham Pha Plong.

Herbs at the herb market in Chiang Dao

Herbs at the herb market in Chiang Dao

A lovely Mae Thorani (Earth Goddess) at the entrance to the cave temple.

A lovely Mae Thorani (Earth Goddess) at the entrance to the cave temple.

A Jivaka, the father doctor of Thai medicine, at the entrance to the cave temple.

A Jivaka, the father doctor of Thai medicine, at the entrance to the cave temple.

Taking a walk up the mountain in Chiang Dao

Taking a walk up the mountain in Chiang Dao

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The entrance to the cave temple

The entrance to the cave temple

 

 

The Second Week at our Schools  

Five days of classes and then we were done with our main teachers.  SVG students graduated and Pichest’s students just said goodbye for now.

Lauren and Kelsey on graduation day at SVG

Lauren and Kelsey on graduation day at SVG

The graduating class at SVG

The graduating class at SVG

The last day with Pichest

The last day with Pichest

On Sunday we headed over back to SVG to make and learn about herbal compresses

Chopping and smashing herbs

Chopping and smashing herbs

Rebecca at the herbal compress class

Rebecca and Jess at the herbal compress class

A completed herbal ball with our teacher.

A completed herbal ball with our teacher.

On Monday, we went to see Mor (Traditional Doctor) Noi.  Mor Noi is all about love and soft energetic touch.  She’s a one of a kind and the students loved her.  How could they not?!

Mor Noi talking to Tina

Mor Noi talking to Tina

Mor Noi working her magic with John

Mor Noi working her magic with John

On Tuesday, the group went to Wat Suan Dok for a two day, overnight silent meditation. 

On Thursday they went to visit Mor Ta (Doctor Ta) and his clinic in the countryside outside of Chiang Mai.  They did herbal steam, got massages, and drank Ya Dong (Medicinal Whiskey). 

On Friday we did a cooking class at a cooking school right around the corner from our guesthouse.  We went to the market first and learned about the food there and then then went over to the school to cook.

Our cooking teacher (name?) showing us something at the market

Our cooking teacher (name?) showing us something at the market

Rice at the market

A big variety of rice at the market

Appetizer.  Put all the ingredients together in a lettuce leaf (ginger, shallots, chile, toasted coconut, roasted peanuts and dip in a sweet sauce.

Appetizer. Put all the ingredients together in a lettuce leaf (ginger, shallots, chile, toasted coconut, roasted peanuts and dip in a sweet sauce.

Springroll

Spring roll

Ingredients to be pounded into a curry paste

Ingredients to be pounded into a curry paste

Three types of curry paste that we made by pounding chiles and other spices in a mortar and pestle.

Three types of curry paste that we made by pounding chiles and other spices in a mortar and pestle.

Cooking in our woks!

Cooking curries in our woks!

And before we knew it, it was time to go. Everyone did some last minute shopping or got one last massage before they packed up and headed to the plane. Join us next year, won’t you?!!!

 

 

 

 

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