Thailand Update #4

Our Thailand cluster continues diving into fascinating new experiences!  This report starts with a hike in to explore a cave system — into which a temple had been built — near Chiang Dao.

Lisa writes:

Walking to the caves involved hiking in about 2 miles on a narrow trail.  The forest was rich in the dangling lianas and buttressed trees we have been reading about for our Natural History of Southeast Asia class.  Huge, towering bamboo groves and limestone outcrops were common sights along the trail.   The soil is red and seems to be made of the slickest kind of clay.   We were able to use the hike to ‘ground out’ some of our studies, and point to some of the amazing features of the tropical forest.

When we arrived at the cave, we entered to see several Buddha statues and a large altar.  It was a little mystical!  We then proceeded deeper onto the caves with our two guides carrying Coleman kerosene lanterns.  The rock formations they pointed out were cool.  Several had been given names that made sense; others had names that took imagination I didn’t seem to possess.  The caves were not cool as one might expect, but in fact were quite hot and humid inside.  It wasn’t long before our sweat started to pour.  In that setting, the lanterns added an unneeded source of heat — when the guides came close, is was like a furnace.

We returned to Malee’s for a lunch of water and pineapple, after which we got picked up to go to the Wat (temple) in Fang.  A few students were worried about what might be asked of us in terms of meditation, though everyone was interested in talking with the monks to have questions answered.

Ariel writes from the monastery:

We arrived at Wat Sri Boen Ruang and were invited to attend a round of alms (their word is ‘pindabaat’) with the monks there.  This meant going with three monks and two novices as they made their early morning walk through the streets of Fang.  Giving alms is an opportunity for the Thai people to give the monks food and other gifts, which brings them great good merit and karma.  In return the monks give a chant to honor their good deeds and the food for the day. Many Thais, if not able to give, would honk their horns while driving, or bow as they made there way to work or school, as a sign of respect.  It seemed everyone smiled at the monks as we passed by.  One of the monks informed us that many of the locals were impressed when foreigners visit the temple and follow along on alms in their attempt to learn about Buddhism. 

Afterwards, we attended a ceremony in which the Abbot of the temple presented the five basic precepts of Buddhist practice.  These are to refrain from killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, false words, and drugs & alcohol.  We accepted these precepts.  Then, we went to another part of the temple where there was another ceremony for the locals and monks to give good karma to those living and past.  Phra Greg, one of the three English-speaking monks, then invited us to a meditation session where we learned about walking and sitting meditation. Following that, we heard a talk by Phra Fred, another monk, about Karma and the inner workings of the Buddha’s teachings. It was quite interesting.

Editors Note:  The links above offer several still images and one video of our group’s visit, posted to the Wat Sri Boen Ruang website by the monks.  Take a look and see how our students’ visit to the monastery was viewed from their perspective!

Explore posts in the same categories: Student Activities, Student Reports, Thailand

One Comment on “Thailand Update #4”

  1. Carolyn Says:

    Thanks for the updates everyone! It’s great to see some familiar faces from last year’s winterim. I miss you all! I hope you’re learning a ton and having a great time. Looking forward to reading more.

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