Saturday, November 15, 2008

Anticipation Builds to Meet the Children

By Athena Boulgarides, Western Region Development Officer (North) for Christian Children's Fund

Tomorrow is the big day! We are all excited to finally meet the children, see the school and celebrate Christian Children’s Fund work. Before that, we’ve taken in some more amazing sights from Thailand.

Yesterday, we visited Doi Inthanon, also known as the highest spot in Thailand. We also stopped at Luang National Park.

On the drive up I had the chance to speak with our guide Sid about the monks. According to Sid there are an estimated 1 million Buddhist monks living in Thailand. Each morning you can see them in the streets praying for the people. You are allowed to give them food which is considered giving alms – a gesture that earns merit for practicing Buddhists.

I learned a lot this morning from Sid and I was grateful for his patience with my many questions.
As we reached the top of the mountain my ears began to pop. The summit is 2,565 meters or 8,415 feet and you can feel it. The lush green landscape is home to 363 bird species and the national park that protects it is 482 square kilometers.

When we reached the top we all took pictures under the sign that says, “Highest Spot in Thailand.” We followed a short path to a little drink stand and gift shop that sold hand made souvenirs. The coffee in Thailand was fantastic, and if you are a coffee drinker, I highly recommend it.

We also traveled to the Napamyatanidol Chedis – built to honor the 60th birthday of the king and queen in 1982 and 1992 respectively - near the summit of Doi Inthanon.

What an absolutely remarkable sight! The carved walls that adorned the outside of the temple and the mosaic paintings inside the temples were an inspiration. I even met a very sweet monk who allowed me to take his picture inside the temple.

I think I have my Wai down pretty good now – don’t know if it will ever feel absolutely right – but the ritual is soulful and deeply satisfying.

Today it’s off to the Underground Empire. Can you say buried treasure?

Half-hidden behind a tranquil neighborhood of traditional wooden houses, Buddhist temples and longan orchards are the sprawling remains of Wiang Kum Kam, an ancient capital city that briefly ruled over Lanna, the former northern Thai Kingdom more than 700 years ago.

In 1984, archeology enthusiasts flocked to see Wiang Kum Kam’s uncovered gems of this historic site. At the heart of Wat Chang Kham is the main Chedi – Wat Chedi Liam.

When we arrived on the property we quickly learned that the main mode of transportation around this area was an adorable horse and buggy.

We stopped for lunch at the Salad House – healthy Thai food that was absolutely fantastic! Andrew promised Luc that if he finished his salad he could do the splits and sing “Ooo eee ooo aaa-aaa” for the staff at the restaurant and all of the Study Tour participants. He finished his salad and he performed. Our new Thai friends thought he was just adorable. Some things – like comedy – just translate well in any culture.

But enough with the sight-seeing. We’re all ready for tomorrow!

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