Three yogis take on Thailand
The Washington Post |
Our readers share tales of their rambles around the world.
Who: Amy MacIntyre (author), Elizabeth Hocking and Carol Meteyer, all from the District.
Where, when, why: After the three of us met through yoga classes and realized we had a shared interest in international travel, Carol mentioned she was going to a wedding in Thailand in January and invited Liz and me to tag along. Though we hardly knew each other, the invitation was too good to pass up. Carol’s friends graciously invited Liz and me as well, so the trip included their traditional Thai wedding ceremony. We were amazingly compatible in planning and executing the trip to Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Sattahip and Krabi.
Highlights and high points: The day we spent at the Elephant Nature Park and the Thai wedding are standout memories. The park, near Chiang Mai, is an elephant rescue operation. Among its 60 residents are elephants blinded by their owners, traumatized by abuse and injured through accidents, such as stepping on land mines. But the park also has well-adjusted and friendly elephants, which ate huge chunks of watermelon and pumpkin from our hands and walked beside us through a forest, paying close attention to the sugar cane and squash we fed them. They patiently allowed us to throw water on them as they bathed in a river — and did not reciprocate by spraying us with water. The Buddhist wedding in the bride’s beautifully decorated family home was a rich combination of the solemnity of nine monks chanting and blessing the bride and groom, the gentle traditional honoring of the elders of both families and the raucous procession led by colorfully costumed drummers as the groom’s party presented dowry gifts to the bride’s family.
Cultural connection or disconnect: In the midst of the noise and crowds, we found our versions of the quiet reverence that we saw in so many people visiting temples: offering a lit candle, incense and a long-stemmed rose at a statue of the Hermit Doctor at Wat Pho for a mother in pain; walking three times around an altar at the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep atop a mountain and chanting; ringing huge temple bells three times and waiting each time for the deep reverberations to be silent before the next toll; and writing family sentiments on a yellow silk banner that would later be wrapped around a temple.
Biggest laugh or cry: Carol had warned us that she “takes pictures of poop” — for professional reasons. (Her specialty is wildlife health.) We laughed at the Elephant Nature Park when Carol found and snapped a perfect example of a self-sustaining system: pumpkin seeds sprouting out of elephant dung. Not at all amusing, however, were the people harassing the nominally wild monkeys at Krabi.
How unexpected: During a tour of temples in Bangkok, our guide advised us to look away from monks as a sign of respect. So we were surprised later in the trip when two young monks asked to talk with us. Our hotel in Chiang Mai was so close to a monastery that in the morning calm we could hear the monks chanting. Walking through a meditation garden next to the monastery, we read reflections written in Thai and English. One of our favorites was, “When money speaks, truth is silent,” which brought the U.S. presidential campaign screamingly to mind. Two teenagers in orange monk robes asked whether they could speak with us to practice their English. It was a short but delightful conversation, with the younger of the two indicating his fondness for action movies and rock music.
Fondest memento or memory: Our Thai silk scarves’ bright colors are reminders of the country’s vibrant flowers, temples and stupa adornments, and their softness a reminder of the gentle generosity shown to us by the Thai people.
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Source: The Washington Post