Chiang Mai is a flourishing city in the north of Thailand, up in the mountains. It is touristic, yet still has a rustic, traditional feel. The hilly mountain landscape is dotted with shining golden temples, and there are many more in the center of the city, and wherever you are, there is sure to be a monk or two nearby. Dressed in there bright orange robes, and shaved heads, My brothers and I were fascinated by monks, their traditions and way of life, so naturally when I found out that some of the nearby temples held monk chats, I was eager to go. To say we spent an entire day touring temples searching for these supposed 'chats', would barely be an overstatement. We went to at least five different, beautiful temples, in the heart of Chiang Mai. These temples were like glorious crystals embedded in rock, tucked away behind a myriad of buildings. They would have been hard to find on any day. Funnily enough, the day we decided to go to the monk chat was not 'any day'. We decided to go on a Sunday, and every week on Sunday, there is a big art market. Hundreds of vendors come to sell paintings, sculptures, handmade clothing and more. Of course that means that thousands of tourists streamed through downtown to marvel the plethora of souvenirs, and then empty there pockets in a meager attempt to commemorate there trip to Thailand once they return home. So we had to weave, (and by weave I mean push and use our elbows a but too much), through the masses of people to get from one destination to the next. It was nearly impossible to spot the temples even when they were five feet away from us, tourists, vendors, and monks blocked our view. But once we forced our way through the crowd, it was like we had entered a different world... Unlike the hubub outside the gates, the temple was quiet and blissful. Monks ambled across the sunlit pathways from temple building to building. Birds could be heard chirping from the trees, and a meditative aura surrounded us. I felt I might even lift of the ground and float into the every growing sunset. But as we went from temple to temple, and evening grew nearer, we still hadn't found a monk chat... It was at the last temple on our list that we saw, in the flickering light of a street lamp, a small table with three foreigners and the unmistakable orange cloak of a monk. We approached slowly, and sat down on the bench next to the table. British lady, who I immediately suspected was a journalist, rattled of questions with great speed to the young monk next to her. I could see the monk struggling to understand what she was saying. To my surprise, the monk wasn't the one that answered her questions. It was a big, burly, Scottish man, bald and with many tattoos, and a petite British lady with a fanny pack, that answered. That is when our chat with an 'aspiring' monk began. Our questions ranged from: 'Why is your robe orange?' to 'Can monks float?" and each one was answered by the aging Scottish man. After he finished answering a question, he would tell a 'short' story about his spiritual journey. After what seemed like hours, we finally bid adieu to the monk and the aspiring monks. Our heads filled with thoughts of anything related to a monks lifestyle, and many more questions we never got to ask. I can tell you from experience that contemplating the do's and don'ts of a monks lifestyle can be VERY time consuming... I learned so much at the monk chat, and if anyone wants to know what I learned, feel free to email me some questions!
Sorry I haven't blogged much lately, I am getting back into the rhythm though, so I hope to post a few more blogs soon!
Liv the Explorer