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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
The Night Train
After resting a bit, we headed to the train station and hop on the night train to Chiang Mai.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
On Sunday we headed over back to SVG to make and learn about herbal compresses
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?!
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.
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?!!!