My Mountain Top Meditation

45 minutes outside of the historical city of Chiang Mai lies another place stepped in even more history and shrouded in ancient Buddhist lore. Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is a very holy place for locals while also being extremely popular with tourists. It’s a must see when visiting Chiang Mai. Just make sure to go to the street across from the North Gate so that you only have to pay 50 baht/person to get a taxi with 9 of your new closest friends.

The first chedi on this site was built way back in 1383. Supposedly a monk found a shoulder bone that was believed to be from The Buddha. This bone had magical powers: it could glow, vanish, move itself, and replicate itself. When the king found out he wanted to put it inside a special temple but on the way to the king this bone used its magic powers to replicate; it was the same shape but smaller. The king took the original relic, put it on top of a royal white elephant, and let it loose into the jungle. The elephant climbed Doi Suthep mountain, circled the top, trumpeted three times, and then laid down and died. The King took this as a sign and ordered a temple to be constructed upon the same site. In the 600+ years since this compound has continued to be built out and now includes an internationally known Vipassana mediation center. Vipassana means they teach insight meditation versus Zen meditation. The subtly in the difference is lost on me though since I’m still a neophyte.

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Playing with Tigers

The Tiger Kingdom is an amazing place! You get to go into the cages and play with Tigers. And by “play” I mean walk up quietly behind them and pet their tails, hind legs, and stomachs. This is something that, because of the obviously liability concerns, would never happen in the U.S. One common critique is that these Tigers must be drugged; but the staff and signs at the facility all say otherwise. They seemed as active as I would expect Tigers to be (clearly I’m an expert since I’ve been around a tiger one time now) and they’re obviously over fed so that hunger is not one of their primary concerns. Visiting is obviously straddling the figurative ethical line, but I’m not going to discuss that here; I’d rather tell you about my experience which was a ton of fun. And an about equal amount of terrifying!

TigerKingdom-1

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Thai Cooking Class

It’s no secret that one of the reasons I wanted to come to Thailand was because I love Thai food. My colleague Maria and I go to this wonderful Thai restaurant in Grand Rapids called Thai Express about once a week. We’re such regulars that unless we specifically ask for them we’re never given menus. In Thailand the food is so good and so cheap that it’s hard to imagine wanting to spend the time creating it oneself. Noodles run $1 or $2 USD. For a good curry add another $1 or so. But I know I won’t always be fortunate enough to have this luxury, so we decided to take a full day Thai Cooking Class with Asia Scenic, so that I can replicate all this deliciousness at home!

They picked us up at our hotel in the morning, and we headed to their kitchen downtown Chiang Mai. We all introduced ourselves and found that our group consisted of Brian and myself, a couple from California Tim and Sarah as well as another couple from Brazil Danielle and Carlos. Our instructor Meow (pronounced just like a cat’s Meow) passed out menus, and we all could craft our very own 6-course feast made up of a stir-fry, soup, salad, curry, dessert, and a spring roll. I chose the pad see ew, coconut milk soup, papaya salad, panang curry, and sticky rice with mango.

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