Since we last wrote we attended Monk Chat and payed alms to the Monks, Participated in the annual Loy Kruthong festival, went to the Chiang Mai Cultural Center and went up a mountain to the Doi Sethep temple on motorbike.
Monk Chat was a very interesting experience where the temple staff invite foreigners to come and meet with Monks and talk about anything that we want and can communicate to them with their limited english and our limited Thai
! They also ask us questions and learn about western culture. We found out all kinds of interesting things about their lifestyles and commitment to Thai Buddhism. We met with 3 young Monks in their early 20's and they were so gracious and happy to practice their english and were open and honest with us. We found out they can disrobe at anytime and that one planned on moving to Canada to be with a Vancouver girl in the next few years! Another intended to stay a Monk for life and found it very fulfilling. They don't ever eat after lunch time and the food they eat is totally donated. There is alot of families here who try to sway their male sons to become monks as it is a good life, with food, shelter and a full education including University provided and they can disrobe whenever they desire....The monks are not allowed to touch females in any way(not even hug their Moms) and so to hand them something has to be done using an inanimate object in between or using a "non-monk" male to pass stuff. It is interesting here in Thailand because it is very common to see two men or boys touching eachother in an non-homosexual way and 2 women walking, holding hands but it is not very acceptable for a male-female couple to show affection in public...The monks collect food donations in many ways and the most prevelant is through Alms. They all head out of their temples about 5am each day in their bare feet and orange robes and carry a basket and people put all kinds of food in their baskets. Arn and I got up this morning to participate and witness this
. They just walk anywhere and everywhere sometimes in groups and sometimes alone and you just stop and give them the food and they keep going. Interesting. They sometimes pray for people along the way...
Tonite we participated in the Loy Kruthong festival which is a festival that is said to cleanse them of their sins and free them of their burdens by 'floating' them away. People make a Krothong which is a boat made from a banana tree base and banana tree leaves and inside there are candles, flowers, incense and a coin. Everyone lights the candles and incense and says a prayer and sends them down the river....If it sinks you are in DEEP DOO-DOO karmically and if it floats, all is well and you can feel cleansed... We made our own Krothong and floated it. It was neat to see the whole river lit with candles and all of the krothongs floating by... Fireworks are everywhere so there was also tons of these at the river. We also witnessed free Thai boxing as part of the festival. They do wear gloves but bare feet and legs are used as needed....Looked really brutal to me but the Thai's and Farangs were really excited about it...
This morning we got brave and rented a small motorbike to take out of the city and up a mountain to see a temple called Doi Suthep
. Traffic is insane here, there are little to no road rules(but they are incredible drivers to survive), and that combined with left-hand side of the road driving was quite a stressful experience for Arn. He did GREAT though, with the exception of an accidental wheelie on a hill that threw me off the back of the bike (but I managed to stay standing), sent his pack flying off the bike and him chasing the bike all over the road trying to stop it and grab it without it dumping and without grabbing the gas!...A bit stressful there for a second but all was well and we made a good recovery and had some laughs(as did the Thai people all around us)! The best part of the day was definitely the motorbike ride for me, as a passenger anyway, as we are getting 'templed' out!
We experienced the way-too-touristy-and-way-too-expensive, Cultural Center this week as well. We all sat on the floor with the triangle shaped Thai cushions and enjoyed a great meal. That was followed by traditional hilltribe dances that were very funny. We were expecting elaborate dances like the ones we have experienced already and instead these little hilltribe women just kind of chuckled to eachother while walking around in a circle holding hands...then the song would end and they would leave...very cute.
Ok I think I have blabbed on long enough, hope I have not bored you all to tears! We are not sure of computer accessability in Laos or Cambodia, but Vietnam should be fine. So keep writing us and we will respond when we can. Miss you all, much love to you, J&A.
Hello Everyone! Jayne here... Thought we would write before we head off to Laos tomorrow...Thanks for all the emails and responses, they are the the highlight of our day, connecting with people from home...if there is anyone who is being pestered/bored etc by our auto emails about our travelogue being updated, please let us know and we will take you off the list...