Oh my, I’m getting this blog post written on the same day that everything occurred! It’s not due to major efficiency, rather, it is because tomorrow morning at 6.30 am we will be heading up to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. So if I don’t get this done now, who knows when I will have the opportunity!
We had a very leisurely breakfast at our guesthouse this morning. It is going to be difficult to adapt back to the time zone at home when we return – but hey, that is still two weeks away! We decided to spend the day in the Old City of Chiang Mai, starting with a visit to the most visited temple, Wat Phra Singh.
There are many parts to each temple here in Thailand. They really are a large complex of buildings with different purposes, although much of the time one building can serve a number of purposes too. Paraphrasing my Lonely Planet guidebook, the formal aspects of Thai Buddhism such as funeral rites, meditation courses, merit-making and dharma talks are carried out at the temples. But in addition, temples often mix religious guidance with luck-enhancing rituals. People go to the temple in times of need to ask for assistance from the Buddha image or guidance from the monks. The temple also serves a social function and often an educational one.
We happened to arrive at Wat Phra Singh just before the monks were sitting down to a meal inside the temple. The meal was cooked on the temple verandah, and brought in for the monks who were studying at the adjoining school. According to Lonely Planet once again, men are all expected to become monks for at least a short period in their lives, usually between finishing school and starting work. They usually stay for three months, and this earns a great deal of merit for their families.
It was very strange to me to be watching others eat: taking photos felt very intrusive. However, I was told by a temple staffer who noticed that I wasn’t taking any photos that I was very welcome to. They must be used to it and the monks certainly didn’t seem perturbed. Other older monks were sitting on chairs around the edges of the temple and appeared to be giving advice or in deep discussion with temple goers. These people often had offerings of food, flowers, incense and gold leaf. The gold leaf was applied to images around the temple.
I just love that some of monk statues are wearing glasses! There were a number of smaller buildings within the complex that held their own Buddha images. These varied considerably in size and style. The walls in one of the smaller buildings were covered in paintings. The elaborateness (is that a word?) of the architecture gets a little overwhelming at times. There is just so much detail. It’s hard to take it all in.
The gardens around the temple have signs on each of the trees. This was one of my favourites. There are all sorts of inspirational slogans.
After all our wanderings at the temple we needed food and drink. We got chatting to a family who were sitting next to us at a cafe, discussing our holiday plans. They mentioned that they had an ex-pat friend who lived near by who they were looking forward to catching up with. We mentioned that we were going to meet with an ex-pat friend who was going to take us to the markets. And the light dawned – yes, Gaye, of all the tourists in all the cafes in Chiang Mai, the two families that you know met one another! After conversation and enjoying the air-con we were back out in the heat on the streets.
And yes, then we headed back to the Lila Massage Centre for foot massages for the whole family. Part of me thinks that my children are getting far too accustomed to such a decadent lifestyle! They certainly seem to have adapted to it very quickly. Stella fell asleep a second time.
And that was pretty much it for the day! We walked slowly back to the guesthouse, buying snacks from street vendors along the way. More watermelon juice, chrysanthemum juice for Dan, fried chicken, mystery pastries, dried banana, fresh coconut icecream, and another Chang beer.
But check out the Singer sewing machine shop! The sewists among you may have realised that I ended my last blog post with a photo of the Singer sign – I was sure that it looked like the familiar sewing machine branding, but the shop was closed at that time. Today it was open, selling all these modern machines powered by treadles. And can someone enlighten me about these Singer things that look like petrol bowsers? What ARE they?
EDITED THANKS TO VIREYA:
They are vending machine petrol bowsers, or minipumps. There’s a forum post which mentions them here:
Looks like people buy the bowser, and attach a drum of fuel to it, as a small business.
According to this item, at some of them you can also top up your pre-pay phone:
We stayed at the guesthouse for “dinner” this evening, which consisted of all the treats we’d bought on the way home. The girls swung on the hammock and checked out the turtles in the pond, when they weren’t niggling one another or whinging. Time for an early night for both of them, I think and I hope!