Tag - temple

Isaan By Motorbike – Day 1

Isaan By Motorbike Day 1DAY 1 Monday

OK this is it, almost ready to go. My bag was packed and my very loose plans were made. I had a place to stay for the night; a friend of my girlfriend put me up for the first night. This was a long ride, maybe 400 kilometres on the first day. I wanted to go this far so I could make good headway into the journey and have more time later on to look around and rest.

I got the confirmation for my accident insurance, just in time!.

Right, had a shower and breakfast, one last check of the bag then time to go. My days ride was from Bangkok to Borabue, close to Roi Et in Isaan.

Bangkok > Nonthanburi > Pathum Thani > Saraburi > Nakhon Ratchasima > Ban Phai > Borabue

Isaan By Motorbike Day 1After a confusing time trying to get out of Pathum Thani I headed out towards Saraburi, to the North East of Bangkok. The roads were awesome, nice and smooth with a steady traffic flow making it all easier to get along. I stopped after around an hour and a half, close to the Julasid Reservoir for some lunch.

A typical roadside restaurant. No frills, far too many seats, the thought of all of these seats being filled more than a couple of times a year is a constant puzzle to me. Is it just optimism that makes people build such large restaurants? The price tag went with the size of the building. 77 baht for a plate of mediocre fried rice. Serves me right I suppose for judging the price of the book by its cover.

One thing I had not really thought about was the hardness of the seat on my bike. It’s not a touring bike and was not fitted with any extra creature comforts, such as a well padded seat. Getting back on the bike after the first break was almost enough to putt me off carrying on. After all, this was only the first leg of the first day and my ass was already feeling like the morning after far too much spicy food.

Isaan By Motorbike Day 1After passing Nakhon Ratchasima (local title Ko Rat) I saw a beautiful temple a little way off the main road. It was still under construction. It is a huge project that is nearing its completion. Inside the main temple there is a huge black image of an old Thai Buddhist teacher and philosopher, Luang Pooh Toh.

After leaving the temple I notice a change in the landscape. The number of buildings and roadside business is dropping. The road really opened up into what I had been looking forward too. Not stopping for kilometre after kilometre. Nothing like riding around Bangkok and the surrounding semi developed areas. Bangkok gives me more traffic lights than I had ever thought possible in a simple journey to work.

These roads started to wind their way through the opening countryside. Bright blue skies with hardly a cloud to be seen. Burning sun was scorching me along with the tarmac and the livestock that was being tended to along the roadsides. The first time I had to stop after a terrific run was for a family of cows that had decided to cross the road. I turned on some speed after this as the light was starting to fail and I had to find my bed for the night in Borabue. These new roads long and straight, perfect.

Isaan By Motorbike Day 1I got my sore ass into Borabue. I realised at this point that I had no idea where the house was that I was staying in. I called my friend to guide me to her place, she was kind enough to pick me up and show me the way other place. I was only about half a kilometre away so just a few minutes from rest.

The place I stayed was a wedding outfitter. A huge place. I was welcomed in and given food. Thai people have such a warm way of welcoming guests into their homes. The friend I was to stay with had to spend the night in the hospital to take care for of her father, leaving me in the capable hands of her brothers and their friends.

spider_tour_5I declined the offers of going out with them as I was still on antibiotics and not feeling so energised after the long haul of the day. I ate and took my leave to sleep. I was awoken around 1 am by the younger brother. He was excited and keen for me to drink with his friends. I was not in the mood for drinking but felt rude to decline. I went downstairs to join the friends for a drink.

spider_tour_6Dem, Aem, Nong A, Pi A then the older brother and his friends came to join. I was confused by so many non English speakers all trying to talk to me at the same time. I can usually hold my own and understand some of the conversation that’s going on but this for me was a little too much. I sat, smiled and sipped at the never empty glass in front of me. Sang Som, one of the oldest drinking traditions in Thailand. You pay for it in the morning though!

After a while one of the kateouys there started to massage my shoulders. Not too bad, a free massage is a free massage. A little too much power maybe, lol. There seemed to be some mirth developing, I felt it was at my expense. Yes it was.

Finally I got my sleep.

Spider

Note: Story author is Steven Noake.

Seeing Kanchanaburi through the Eye of the Tiger

Tiger Temple Kanchanaburi
Tiger Temple Kanchanaburi
Tiger Temple Kanchanaburi

Animal-lovers, take note. If you’re looking to see exotic wildlife on your Thailand trip, there are no shortage of opportunities on the tourist circuit. But if zoos seem to simulated and the odds of a jungle-trek encounter seem uncertain (and dangerous!), a new middle ground exists. In the growing trend of tourist-friendly wildlife sanctuaries, visitors can witness Thailand’s most exotic creatures in a safe, unexploitative manner. Even the tiger, the most dangerous and regal of Thailand’s wildlife, can be observed and admired in this setting. Kanchanaburi’s Wat Wat Pa Luangta Bua Yannasampanno, widely known as the “tiger temple,” allow tourists to act out their childhood Jungle Book fantasies by getting up-close and huggy with a tame pack of Indo-Chinese tigers.

This temple was converted into a tiger sanctuary in 1999, as a home for tigers who have been rescued from poachers in the jungles west of Kanchanaburi. Around the Thai-Burmese borders, these beautiful animals are coveted by hunters, which can leave orphaned cubs fending for themselves in the jungle. Managed by a team of monks and volunteers (both Thai and western), the Tiger temple provides a protected habitat for these coveted animals. The Abbot Pra Acharn Phusit Khantitharo, who founded the sanctuary, is in constant interaction with the tigers.

The grounds themselves are a dusty 30-minute drive from downtown Kanchanaburi. With the admission fee of 300 baht (and a waiver to be signed at the gate; a standard procedure when tiger-touching is involved) visitors are led through the wide, sparse grounds. While visitors may be stumped in a search for a real temple (the word seems to be synonymous with “sanctuary” in this case), there’s no shortage of awe-inducing tigers.

The tigers are taken to a quarry each day to enjoy the sun, stretch their legs, and bathe in the small pool. It is here that tourists can watch the tigers interact with each other. Separated only by a thin rope, volunteer will guide visitors close to the tigers and invite them to pet the animals and pose for photos. The presence of the volunteers is valuable, as tourists can get nervous in such proximity to the tigers. The temple staff with explain that the tigers are raised from infancy by the monks, and so they adapt to the presence of humans and the daily routine of being approached by temple visitors. It is true that in this unique environment, the tigers seem genuinely unfazed by human company. These nocturnal animals are restful in the quarry, often sleepy or sleeping, while the head monk sits with them. The tigers will often be slow to acknowledge the people around them, even as they’re being approached and touched.

Tourists are forever in dispute about the tigers’ tame demeanor, which seems so contrary to their natural instincts. The temple staff will assure visitors over and over that the tigers are pacified by the calming influence of the Buddhist monks, instilled in them since they were cubs. Still, animal-conscious visitors will argue that the tigers must be sedated by more than just meditative power, and are in fact fed drugs which render them sluggish and passive.

Despite these speculations, it is clear from the temple environment that the animals are well-fed and healthy. Visitors to the temple receive a souvenir booklet which profiles each of the 17 tigers and cubs in the tiger temple family, explaining the animal’s birthday, the origins of its name, and a lovingly-written description of its personality. The temple staff maintain the ultimate goal of expanding the temple grounds and facilities into a 12-acre area where tigers can live in a safe version of their own habitat, free from cages. Details of the “New Home for Tigers” project can be found on the temple’s website, http://www.tigertemple.org/Eng/index.php, a site which also cites quotations from the Abbot on his compassion and respect for animals.

In addition to tigers, this temple hosts a family of boars, goats, birds and other creatures. The monks exercise a policy to feed all hungry beings who approach them, animal or human. Volunteering opportunities are available for English-speakers with a background in biology or animal care and a respect for the Buddhist ethics exercised at the temple. Please contact the temple for more information.

Anne Merritt is Canadian and has an English Literature degree. She has worked as a journalist for a university newspaper. She is currently living in Ayutthaya as an ESL teacher and is sharing her experience of Thailand with KhaoSanRoad.com.

Wat Doi Suthep

Wat Doi Suthep
Wat Doi Suthep
Wat Doi Suthep
Wat Doi Suthep

“I have to tell you, I don’t think I’m gonna make it,” my friend pants, red faced and breathless as we climb the steep flight of stone steps. “Come on, we’re nearly there, you can’t quit on me now!” I pant back. Who would have thought that 309 steps would prove to be such a challenge? We should have taken the tram to the top, but it’s too late now.

Finally, we reach the top and nearly collapse in relief. The temple grounds of Wat Prathap Doi Suthep, situated at the top of the mighty Doi Suthep Mountain, are large and interesting, full of towering chedis, enormous bells and intricate stone carvings.
But it is the view that really makes this journey worthwhile. After circling the central chedi, I make my way to the white balustrade at the edge of the temple grounds and find myself breathless once more.

The view over Chiang Mai is simply spectacular. Wat Prathap Doi Suthep is located about 20 miles from Chiang Mai, Thailand’s northern capital, at an elevation of 1,685 meters above sea level. From my lofty perch I can see right across the mighty city to the jungle that surrounds it and a winding, sparkling river in the far distance.

The Buddhist temple of Wat Prathap Doi Suthep was founded in 1383 under unusual circumstances. A famous Thai legend tells that in the 14th century a monk from Sukhothai had a dream telling him to go to Pang Cha and look for a relic. Upon following the directions of the dream the monk found what is believed to be the Lord Buddha’s shoulder bone.

The relic displayed magic powers such as glowing, vanishing and self-replication, so the monk took it to King Dharmmaraja, ruler of Sukhothai. But the king was uninterested in the relic, which did not reveal its magic powers to him.

However, King Ku Naone of the Lanna Kingdom requested the relic, which was then placed on the back of a white elephant and released into the jungle so that the elephant might find a suitable location to build a temple to contain the relic.

The noble elephant climbed up Doi Suthep, trumpeted three times and died on the spot. This was seen as a sigh that the temple should be built on the top of Doi Suthep.

Wat Prathap Doi Suthep is highly revered and a major pilgrimage destination during Buddhist holidays, especially Makha Buja and Visak. Around Wat Prathap Doi Suthep are 47 murals that illustrate the past loves of the Buddha and of the Jataka Buddha before he became enlightened.

Another focal point of the temple is the large chedi, which is bell-shaped and formed in the Lanna style. There is also a model of the Emerald Buddha and a statue of the multiple-armed elephant-headed Hindu god Ganesh.

After exploring all that the temple has to offer, I climb back down the steps and buy a cup of hot tea at the market at the base of the temple. The view over Chiang Mai is still spectacular from here, and it is a peaceful place to reflect in before returning to the madness and mayhem of the city.

Wat Prathap Doi Suthep is situated around 22 miles from the city of Chiang Mai. There is a winding road to the top of the mountain, but it is extremely steep. As I amble back down the mountain I pass a group of red-faced cyclists, who are clearly regretting their choice of transportation.

Getting There

The easiest way to reach Wat Doi Suthep is to go by songthew, which is a small open-backed truck with two rows of wooden benches running down the sides. You can catch a songthew from the market area at the corner of the Manneenopparat and Chotana Roads. Expect to pay around 150 baht for a return journey.

About the author:

Kirsty Turner (Kay) is a freelance writer currently living in Bangkok. She has kindly agreed to write for KhaoSanRoad.com and share her love of all things Thai and, especially, all things Khao San Road!

Religion in Thailand


Religion in Thailand
Religion in Thailand
Religion in Thailand
Religion in Thailand

Most Thai people (around 95%) are Buddhist, whilst 4.6% are Muslim, and Christianity comprises 0.7%. Most of Thailand’s Muslims live in the south of Thailand. There are also a significant number of Hindus and Sikhs. Thailand also has a history of animism – which generally means the belief in souls and spirits – and this is still practiced by some of the people of the hill tribes in the north of Thailand.

Although Buddhism is by far the main belief, Thailand prides itself on religious freedom and welcomes the emergence of newer religions and beliefs.

The strain of Buddhism worshipped in Thailand is Thai Theravada Buddhism, which is supported and overseen by the government. Most men are expected to become a monk at some point in their life, and this is often undertaken during the three monk Khao Phansa period, which begins in July.

Monks can be easily recognised by their saffron coloured robed and shaved heads. Monks cannot carry money and so can be seen early in the morning collecting their daily food. Monks also receive a number of government benefits, such as free use of public transport.

Religion forms a cornerstone of most Thai people’s lives, entwined with daily activities and special events. Most people will worship at the temple (known as a wat) during festivals and monks and spirits are consulted when important decisions need to be made such as weddings and starting a business.