Chiang Mai, Thailand


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January 17th 2016
Published: February 29th 2016
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Alms for monksAlms for monksAlms for monks

We arrived early in the morning at the base of Wat Phra That Doi Suthep to offer alms to the monks.
Day 5 Sunday - January 17 We got up real early to get a quick breakfast before Nok & Poi picked us up around 6:00 for our arrival at the foot of Wat Phra Doi Suthep, where we took part in a ceremony by giving Alms (some food, rice and drinks, etc.) to the local monks from Wat Sri Soda, a temple. We lined up alongside the road with many other people and placed the offerings in big metal bowls the saffron robed monks carry as they walk by in their bare feet. There are usually hundreds of them. There are no words exchanged. Many of them are very young, and called “novices”. Nok was very helpful by providing us with the offerings we gave. There are also many volunteers that have tables with food available and vendors that sell clusters of marigolds, lotus blossoms and other items that are placed around a golden shrine of the monk who helped create the road that leads up to the Wat Phra Doi That SuthepTemple in 1935.

Contrary to what many think, monks (and the Buddha) did not beg for food. Instead, they collected alms. The difference is that collecting alms allows
Annette makes offeringsAnnette makes offeringsAnnette makes offerings

They walk by with their bowls awaiting alms from donors.
for those giving to make merit (meaning, to acquire good karma). Devout Buddhists in Asia will prepare and give food to the monks in the morning on their alms route. It was a rewarding and moving experience.

After this, we returned to the van for our uphill drive to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. The temple is often referred to as "Doi Suthep" although this is actually the name of the mountain where it's located in Doi Pui National Park. It is a sacred site to many Thai people, and the holiest shrine in Northern Thailand. The temple is 15 kilometers (9.3 mi) from the city of Chiang Mai.

The temple is said to have been founded in 1383 when the first stupa was built. Construction would have been an arduous task, with workers having to carry supplies through thick jungle and up the steep hill. Once we arrived at the base, we had a choice of a 309 step climb to the top, or taking the elevator. We decided on the elevator going up and taking the stairs back down. It was an amazing temple compound! Enclosed by a frescoed cloister, the upper terrace is home to
Doug makes offeringsDoug makes offeringsDoug makes offerings

Nok provided the alms for us to donate.
a tightly-packed complex of small shrines, bells, golden umbrellas and Buddha statues. Shoes & socks must be removed and shoulders must be covered before entering this sacred area.In the center of the upper terrace is the great Chedi, a 16th-century expansion of the 14th-century original. There was a worship ceremony of people walking in a line around the Chedi when we arrived.

Doi Suthep mountain rises about 1000m (3,542 ft.) above sea level. There are fine views overlooking the city of Chiang Mai to be had from the temple's lower terrace, especially when it’s clear…not so much today. This terrace is surrounded by large bells that are rung by monks and pilgrims to bring good luck. On the northwest corner of the terrace is a statue of the legendary elephant who chose the site of the temple. We met with a monk and received blessing and another string bracelet.

Before making our way back to Chiang Mai we walked through another local market. Nok was persuasive in her request for me to try some of the local sausage, which she bought some of…it was good and spicy. We are trying to be very careful to not experiment with
Young monksYoung monksYoung monks

Many of these monks are very young. They may not speak nor touch donors.
‘street food’. She guaranteed it would be ok. We found Poi and were on our way back to the hotel. We had asked Nok if there was a Starbucks in Chiang Mai because Doug wanted to see if he could get a mug to add to his collection…yes. Annette had also asked about stopping at a pharmacy. So, we found the Starbucks and they had a great Chiang Mai mug and we found a good pharmacy and Annette bought a Voltaren Gel available over-the-counter that is under prescription only in the US. Annette also bought some Tamarind capsules and miracle oil that Nok recommended for wrinkles.

They dropped us off at the hotel and we decided to have a rest and order in-room lunch from the pool bar again. Nok and Poi were coming back this evening to take us to the Chiang Mai Night Market and the Sunday Walking Market.

They picked us up later and we drove into the city center. Poi dropped the 3 of us off at the walking market. We walked around and came upon a watch vendor. We asked what else he had and he took us a behind a drape into
More monksMore monksMore monks

They walk from a nearby temple to this place daily each morning to receive food.
a private area where he started opening large drawers with many watches of all kinds and styles. We each found 2 watches that we really liked and negotiated for a while with Nok’s help and finally made a deal. We continued on and found a few other things like a great Clint Eastwood T-shirt. After spending some time there Nok called Poi and he picked us for the short ride to the Sunday walking market. Oh my…it was REALLY crowded. There were some great sights like folks entertaining in the middle of the street. We didn’t spend a lot of time there because of the packed crowd. We had Poi pick us up and we made our way back to the hotel. We’ve had 3 wonderful days on this special tour and have seen many fabulous sights. We agreed that they would be picking us in the morning for our ride to the airport to catch our flight to Yangon.

We decided that we had such a good time last night at Lanna the Thai restaurant, we walked in and caught the end of the traditional dance performance and had the amazing green mango salad we loved last night.
Paying respectPaying respectPaying respect

Doug and Annette kneel and pay respect to these monks.
We also had an early birthday celebration for Annette. They were very kind to surprise her with a treat. Again, we got the golf cart back to our room and finished packing for the next part of our journey.


Additional photos below
Photos: 65, Displayed: 26


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Alms providerAlms provider
Alms provider

Several volunteers and donors set up tables with alms available for the monks.
Buddhists pay respectBuddhists pay respect
Buddhists pay respect

These folks are probably local Buddhists.
Food tableFood table
Food table

Local folks set up a table and bring their alms.
Annette with NokAnnette with Nok
Annette with Nok

They both provide alms to more monks.
Bare feetBare feet
Bare feet

They walk in their robes and bare feet. Many of these younger monks are called "novices", studying and paying their dues to become full monks.
Many of themMany of them
Many of them

We saw hundreds of them this morning. They take the food (alms) back to their temple and share with others who were unable to attend.
Cooked riceCooked rice
Cooked rice

Annette provides small bags of cooked rice.
Waiting for their turnWaiting for their turn
Waiting for their turn

Several ladies say a blessing to this young group as they await them turn to receive alms.
VendorsVendors
Vendors

These vendors sell offerings such as marigolds, lotus blossoms, incense and more for the shrine across the street.
ShrineShrine
Shrine

Across the street from where we offered alms, is a shrine dedicated to the monk that was instrumental in developing the road up the steep climb to the temple.
People paying respectPeople paying respect
People paying respect

Many people come to this shrine to pray and make offerings of marigolds, lotus blossoms and incense.
Placing incensePlacing incense
Placing incense

Doug & Annette place incense in the urn adjacent to the statue.
A quiet prayerA quiet prayer
A quiet prayer

Doug & Annette take a silent moment to give thanks for all we have and wish for good karma.
Colorful!Colorful!
Colorful!

This is a very nicely designed offering.


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