Buddha’s, and Temples, and Elephants… oh my.
Saying goodbye to the Cathedrals, one euro bottles of wine, ginormous pizzas, naked statues and gelato of Italy. And hello to the blazing heat, tropical rain forest, Buddha statues, squatty potties, and gloriously cheap and delicious street food of cheap football tops.
Thailand has over exceeded any expectations I have had for South East Asia. Chiang Mai remains a modern city where modern day amenities are intertwined with old temples and traditional food and houses. Everyday Monks walk the street for alms, and people put out food offering to the trees around their houses
to keep the nature spirits (and by default many ants) happy.
Glimpse the Himalayas
Bathe an Elephant and feed a baby
My absolute favorite part of Thailand so far has been my ability to stay with some of the Hilltribes in the northern Cheap England football shirts mountains. These hill tribes are a minority group in Thailand, and are typically refugees from China, Laos, Vietnam and Burma. During the Cold War, the United States asked for the assistance of these tribes while trying to keep Vietnam from falling to the communists. When The United States lost the war, the home countries began to attack the tribes and they were forced to flee to Northern Thailand. The hill tribes used to specialize in growing Opium. The north of Thailand became one of the largest producers of Opium and were a key player in the international drug trade.
The King of Thailand, (who is well respected and saying anything negative about him could land you in jail for life or worse) put an end to the opium production in Thailand and instead forced the hill tribes to begin flowing rice, fruits, and vegetables to sell at markets throughout the country. Even though still quite poor, the tourist industry and new agricultural skills have allowed the tribes to be more profitable then they have been in the past.
So far, I have been lucky enough to stay at a Hmong, Karen and Ahka Village. I have learned the Cheap AC Milan football shirts valuable skills of planting rice and clearing fields. Found out which plants are edible and which NOT to touch (as I accidentally touched one that made my hand a dark green for two weeks) As well as found out the ways of the local shaman and how the village has begun to incorporate western medicine along with Shamanic rituals for healing.
I have so much love for my host moms when I stayed in the Hmong and Ahka Village. Each of them were so friendly towards me even though we could not understand each other, and cooked incredible vegetarian food.
Everyone I met at the villages were happy to host us and share their culture. We were able to share are culture too (by singing John Denver of course). Soccer and traditional dances with the kids was a blast as well
Another incredible life changing experience that I am so glad to have experienced was a meditation retreat here in Thailand. It was by far the most mentally exhausting weekend in my life as we would wake up at sunrise and practice mindfulness until the sun was well below the horizon. Even though controlling your mind to have no thoughts was extraordinarily difficult, I am beyond glad to have had that experience and to have worked directly with a monk. (Shout out to Master T)
Even though the teaching was not exactly for me, I appreciate that the Monk was attempting to release us all from suffering. I agree that there is suffering in all life, and it is the attachments to impermanent, objects, people, and feelings that cause this suffering. However, I disagree with the lifestyle that completely eliminates suffering. Suffering, I believe is what makes us human. Love and attachment is apart of our nature, and sure it will always lead to suffering, but I would rather experience extreme happiness and take the misery that accompanies it rather than not feeling the happiness in the first place. I know that
when I go home, I will be incredibly sad that this experience abroad is over and will suffer because of that. However, I would never regret my choice abroad. I am by no means a hedonist, and think chasing pleasure is just as dangerous as the lifestyle of avoiding it. I am glad I am conscious the suffering in the world and the impermanence of all existence, but I will not let that stop me from a life full love and passion.
Buddhist thought an philosophy can be seen everywhere throughout Thailand, as temples and statues, and the behavior of individuals directly embody the Buddha.
Thailand is a diverse country and many types of lifestyles can be catered to here. From the hippy mountain vibe in the north, to the Chinese kites white sand beaches of the south, Thailand is a happy place for everyone.
As I enter into my last month as a student in Chiang Mai University, I will continue to make the most of my time here. I have made best friends and relations with people that I know will last a life time. If you have ever had the itch to travel, come to Thailand, you will not regret it.