Thursday, November 13, 2008

Thailand: More than I Ever Could Have Imagined

By Melissa Candela, CCF Sponsor and Athena Boulgarides, Western Region Development Officer (North) for Christian Children's Fund.

Today, CCF sponsor Melissa Candela wanted to contribute to our blog; here’s what she had to say:

I’ve wanted to come to Thailand since my ninth grade social studies teacher told the class about her trip here. She and her husband had traveled around the country for about a month in the summer of 1978 and that fall when we studied Asia in class she brought it alive.

I can only imagine what it must have been like getting here in the 1970s — it’s pretty grueling now (especially coming from New York where we live). Before the country was “discovered” by American tourists I’m sure the experience was even more foreign than it is to us. I’m sure far fewer Thais spoke English for one thing.

So my impressions? I’m just overwhelmed by Thailand, even more that I expected to be. And I haven’t even met Pornchanole, my sponsored child, yet. Talk about overwhelming! I’ve been writing to her for eight years, she is 16 now. What an experience it’s going to be to spend time with her.

Meanwhile we’ve had so many great moments here and it’s only Day 4. So far my favorite moment was when we first entered the inner area of the Grand Palace. The grandeur and grace of the architecture just literally took my breath away and I was wiping away the tears for the first twenty minutes we were there.

Again … I haven’t even met my sponsored child yet. I’m going to be a mess! It was also very moving to enter the Temple of the Emerald Buddha barefooted and to kneel on the cold tile floor. It’s a very elemental sense for me and it brought a feeling of gratefulness and humility. I want to know a lot more about Buddhism.

The temples, the markets, the people and the food … Thailand is more than I could ever have imagined and I’ve been imagining it for a very long time.

Yesterday and today we took in many more great sites of Thailand including the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and the adjoining Grand Palace, which is considered one of the greatest developments in Bangkok. It is home to more than 100 buildings and mosaics that date back to 1782.

We flew to Chieng Mai today to stay at the beautiful hotel called Kantary Hills. When we arrived at the hotel we were greeted by our hostess, Fah, with gorgeous jasmine necklaces!

After lunch, we were off to visit Doi Suthep, a fascinating temple that sits on top of a mountain that rises 1,676 meters above the city of Chieng Mai. On that spot (legend the legend goes) the Temple was built in 1383.

Doi Suthep is actually named for a legendary hermit, named Sudeva, who lived on the slopes. Before this, about 1,000 years ago, it was still known as Doi Aoy Chang (Sugarcane Elephant Mountain).

After a long trip down the mountain, we visited the Orchid Jade Factory where we were treated to a short video and a tour of their workroom. We learned how to determine the quality of jade and viewed the many different colors jade comes in including black, lavender and my favorite, imperial green.

The showroom was filled with gorgeous jade carvings, some smaller than a fingernail and an exquisite carved Buddha almost at large as the exercise ball in my living room. After a delectable buffet dinner at the Thai house we returned to Kantary Hills for the night! What a glorious day.

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