Friday, March 2, 2012

The Land of Modern Merry Monks: Thailand

After our few nights in Hong Kong my mom and I made our way to Bangkok, Thailand to begin our winter vacation! We spent three nights in Bangkok and enjoyed our very first away from home Christmas there. It was a low key affair exemplified by our use of a chair as our Christmas tree. But my mom surprised me by bringing my very special (had it my whole life) Christmas stocking all the way from home to Thailand. And to top it off it was stuffed full of goodies! We explored the city the next day and ventured to the train station. We spent a few hours in an internet cafĂ© skyping home to my Brothers- they were enjoying Christmas by themselves at my mom’s house. They seemed to be having a good time eating lasagna and only fought over what to watch on TV. Needless to say I missed my brothers and dad on Christmas very much but I was very thankful to have my mom there with me. It was a new adventure and perhaps a new tradition. (Christmas in a new country every year, what do you say mom?!) We went to temples and drank cocktails- overall a fantastic Christmas and stay in Bangkok. Our next move was an overnight train from Bangkok to Chiangmai.

Bangkok, Thailand

Our overnight train was a smooth ride that included an art project (we drew pictures of each other), Zoolander, and a disgusting meal consisting solely of mushrooms (my mom was a cham for eating most of it). We got picked up from the train station and taken to our very sweet guest house which was within the city walls making it super easy to walk everywhere. Now let me say, Chiangmai is awesome- maybe one of my most favorite places that I have been to on this trip. The food is delicious and affordable, the people are sweet and helpful, and there are tons of crafts and goods to buy, and temples upon temples to explore. Although it was a vacation for the both of us we did not do much resting. It seems that we spent most of our days walking to different temples, taking pictures, and stopping to eat. This sounds relaxing and it was but we walked ALL over that city. 

Our self portraits of each other.... I look like a transvestite
One of our favorite stops was at a little temple at the end of a dead-end road. There we met some modern and merry monks. My mom being the friendly gal that she is gave one of the monks a warm smile and said ‘happy new year.’ The monk looked at us and finally said ‘Happy New year, where are you from?’ ‘We are from America,’ we said. The monk continued to sweep the leaves away and we continued to look around. We went inside and sat for a while as we were leaving another monk approached us and started asking us questions. Our conversation soon became a 20 minute talk- it turns out this monk was from Bangladesh and was my age only a few weeks older. He had the sweetest smile : ) After a while this older man joined our conversation and told us that he was good friends with the head Monk and was a teacher at a school nearby. For some reason he seemed to be very taken with me and offered me a job to come teach English at his school. I gave him my information and told him that this was for professional use NOT personal. The Modern Merry monk thought this was very funny. As e-mails were being exchanged my mom and I asked the monk if he had a facebook. He said, ‘Of course!’ I was very surprised by this fact but it turns out A LOT of monks are on facebook. I guess we had been standing there for a long enough period for the head monk to notice so he ordered the younger monks to bring us a drink-it was a little box of soy milk. As we were leaving the head monk gave my mom a little talk about giving up perfection and finding a meditation center. My mom and I think it was a cosmic encounter and still chat with our friendly modern monks on facebook.

We headed back to our guest house to prepare for our New Years Eve celebration. We went home a different way and found a few new cool temples with New Years offerings and one with a loud speaker describing the dharma at top volume. It was all magical and lovely until I got us lost. Oops, I was totally confident that I knew where we were going but alas- I did not. We did eventual make it home and had ourselves a tasty Thai dinner. At this point in our vacation I had become addicted to banana and coconut shakes!!!! SOOOOOO GOOD!!! So to celebrate the New Year I partook in the nectar that is a banana-coconut shake. A few days pervious I found out that one of the girls from my trip, Annin and her family were going to be in Chiangmai for New Years. Annin’s family is from Eugene so we were all excited at the prospect of spending it together- getting together the whole Eugene clan. Sadly, Annin and I had never fully connected and did not make any formal plans. So after our New Years Eve dinner, my mom and I headed back towards our guest house. We were rounding the corner when low and behold there was Annin and her whole family sitting at the bar just two doors down from our guest house! It turns out they had been staying right across the street from us the whole time! We drank cheap drinks, wore silly New Years hat, let off very illegal looking fireworks, and rang in the New Years- Eugene style!

The Eugene Crew

New Year offerings
Another highlight that my mom and I had while in Chiangmai was our all-day Thai cooking Class. I have to give her props because it was all her idea- so good choice mom! It was run through by a sweet couple-a Belgium woman and a Thai man. It was a great set-up, a visit to a local market, a drive through the country, then the rest of the day cooking at their organic farm. Since it was around new years they were very booked up so initially only one us was going to get to cook. As luck would have it someone dropped out and both my mom and I were able to cook delicious Thai food. We were in a special group were there was only seven of us instead of a normal sized class of fifteen. Two of the girls in our class were from the JET program, two ladies were on vacation from China, and our last member was a woman who taught IB art in Malaysia. She invited me to stay with her and family any time I was in Malaysia- a good connection I think so! While on the farm we all wore red aprons and had to wear big straw hats while in the garden. It was pretty funny seeing so many different people all in this same silly uniform. Our cooking teacher/ the owner led us around the garden showing us the different ingredient that grew on their farm- thai basil and lemon grass, just to name a few. We spent the whole day learning to cook; soups, curries, sweet and sour tofu, pad thai, and mango sticky rice. We now each have a cook book full of tasty Thai recipes and I anticipate cooking each recipe this summer!

Next top Chef

I loved Thailand and without a doubt I am coming back. But my mom and I’s vacation was not over, not even close because we were off to Laos!

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