I enjoy organising our own travel, rather than using a travel agent as it allows me greater choices in what we do, when we do it and keeping the costs down. There are significant benefits to having a local guide though when you are sight-seeing as they can help save you lots of time, avoiding the crowds and seeing the interesting parts that aren’t on the usual tourist map. Having a local guide to yourself is even better still, as you aren’t generally on a fixed timeline, it is okay to take a bit more time here and a little less there…whatever suits you best.
Today, we were out with Doi, one of the older students from Joy’s House. He is very friendly and clearly passionate about Chiang Mai and happy to show us the lesser known, but more traditionally valued places. We started at the original temple of Chiang Mai, Wat Chiang Man. It is quite large and made of solid teak timber.
We also took a look through the museum which houses lots of old relics, fabric, books, photos and information. David was in his element. I thought it was interesting that the waving cat was in the same cabinet as books that were hundreds of years old.
We moved on to visit Wat Chedi Luang Worawihan, it is a newer temple that has been built in front of the ruins of the ‘big pagoda’. The pagoda (or chedi) currently stands about 100m tall, however apparently it was oroginally about 200m before it was partly destroyed by an earthquake.
Today, we learnt a bit more about the members of the royal family and how things work in Thailand, such as the fact that the King is very ill and has been for some time, yet the likelihood of the Kingdom passing onto his only Son is minimal, though there is currently no alternate law. The King has 4 children, the eldest girl married an American and isn’t part of the family anymore, the son is a bit of a playboy with many wives and divorces and is not at all popular with the people, the 2nd daughter is loved by everyone, her photo is everywhere and she is an active part of many programmes that are run to better the lives of marginalised Thai’s and promotes the Buddhist faith. At the moment, there are signs up advertising an event happening next week, where the Princess is ‘sponsoring’ (that may not be the right word as there was something lost in translation) 200 boys to become Novice monks. No-one talks about the 3rd daughter, so I don’t know what she does…
There were a few buildings in the Wat’s compound, so we had a little wander and came across this fellow…who made us look twice…
Before leaving, we had the opportunity to sit down and ‘have a chat’ with a monk. The offer a ‘Monk Chat’ programme at the temple, which gives visitors or locals the chance to ask the monks questiins about anything…and for the monks to practice their languages other than Thai and also ask questions about you. I intially was a little nervous and unsure what to ask, however that passed quickly and we ended up chatting to a young novice monk for about half an hour. His friend didn’t speak any English, so didn’t actively participate in the conversation, though through translation was able to contribute a little bit…but mostly played on his phone..