P & P

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Travels in Thailand Part 1

old monk

As many of you may know, I’ve been traveling through Thailand for the past two weeks with my new hubby on our honeymoon. I wanted to share some photos from our trip with everyone, but there are simply too many amazing moments to share in one post. Although Chiang Mai was not our first stop on the trip, it was our favorite, so I figured I’d start there. One of the highlights was visiting a 600-year old temple of Wat Pra Thai Doi Suthep, near the summit of Doi Suthep mountain. You can either drive up the mountain’s winding road or walk up the staircase of 306 steps to reach this beautiful temple.

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Before making the trek to the temple on the top of the mountain you must arrive before sunrise to give offerings to young buddhist monks in return for a blessing. Boys as young as seven years old leave their families and homes to begin their lifelong journey as a monk. There are stalls set up along the road with Thai women selling flower garlands, lotus flowers (a holy flower), food and other offerings for the monks.

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It is customary for all Buddhists in this area to visit the temple at least once a week and give offerings to the monks in return for blessings. We we’re lucky enough to have a young Thai woman with us to walk us through the custom, so we too could be blessed by a monk after we gave them offerings of food and drinks. Once the sun begins to rise, all of the young monks make the daily journey back up the 306 stairs to the temple.

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Once we made it up to the temple ourselves we were able to watch the sunrise up over the jungle. Most Thais believe you can accomplish more in the morning and wake up early everyday. I’ve never personally seen so many sunrises in my life than on this trip and there is something truly special about them. One other unique and interesting thing about this particular temple is that Buddhists visit the temple at least once in their lifetime to do what they call a walking meditation around the center of the temple. They must complete three trips around before they light a candle during prayer and offer perhaps lotus flowers to the temple and it’s monks.

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While at the temple we went into one of the rooms with an old monk giving blessings. You kneel down with your hands in the prayer position in front of him. He gives you a blessing while flicking water onto your head and face. When he’s finished giving you his blessing you move to your left where his assistant ties a white bracelet around your wrist. Buddhist believe you must wear this bracelet for at least three days for good luck and when it comes time to take it off you must not cut it off or it will be mean bad luck. Mine is still tied to my left wrist.

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There are just some places in the world that are truly special and magical. They give you a certain feeling of optimism and perspective when you spend time there. This was one of those places for me. One of the last things we did before we descended the temple’s stairs was make a wish with the wishing sticks. I’m sure there is a more proper term for them, but I can’t even pretend to remember. You kneel in front of a shrine and put the tube of sticks to your head while saying a wish or prayer. You gently shake the tube until one stick falls onto the ground. Each stick is labeled with a number which will then lead you to your fortune. The best part was that Buddhist people believe that god wants the best for each of us, so if you don’t like the fortune that you receive you simply put it back. When my stick fell to the ground it was Prediction #26. The 26th number tells you, “You are going to be lucky. Everything will be getting better and better”. I kept mine.