On a Chiang Mai High

Good morning from Cambodia!

After an incredible week at the Elephant Nature park, O.G.’s Southeast Asia ECO crew was lucky to have a few blissful days in Chiang Mai, one of Thailands loveliest cities.

Chiang Mai is in the Northern province of Chiang Rai, and is one of Thailands most important historical cites, boasting incredible temples and a moat around the inner city, while maintaining Thailand’s cultural modesty. Upon arriving, we were lucky to be staying directly across from the weekend night market, which we were sure to capitalize on!

Our first full day in the city was focused on Buddhism. We visited Thailand’s second most famous temple, Doi Suthep. It sits at the top of a mountain, overlooking the city. Having been built by the royal family, it is predominantly gold coloured and stunningly ornate. We were fortunate to be visiting on a Buddhist holiday and were treated to traditional dance and music performed by local children.

After Doi Suthep, we were off to Wat Umong, known as the forest temple. With O.G. we always trying to show both sides of the story, and this temple could not be in starker contrast to Doi Suithep! It’s ancient tunnels and a moss-covered concrete stupa are surrounded by jungle, and its visitors are asked to refrain from talking while visiting the temple.

The afternoon of our first day was spent having a Monk Chat at the city’s central temple, Chedi Luang. Participants broke up into small groups paired with a monk, and were encouraged to ask anything and everything about Buddhism, monks, and Thai Culture.

After a long day we went to a local restaurant serving Burmese food and had a vegetarian feast! The whole crew agreed to try being vegetarian for the week following Elephant Nature Park, in an effort to make a small environmental impact, stimulate food debates and appreciate how the majority of the world lives.

The second day in Chiang Mai was the group’s first free day! The majority went to a day long Thai cooking class. They made (and ate) 7 courses of traditional Thai food! The rest of the gang walked around the city for the day.

Day three brought us to an organic farm outside of the city called the Panya Project. Fiona and Cora, participants from the Discovery trip are doing a 2 week course there and invited us to come visit. We were given an amazing and informative tour by Nick, an American who is now living on the farm. He showed us how all of the elements of the farm serve each other, and taught us about permaculture. We learned a lot about the benefits of composting, and how to cleverly design organic gardens. We had a fantastic lunch, cooked by the volunteers on the farm. After lunch we had a great chat with the people living at and volunteering on the farm. We learned about the history of Panya and why each person is there.

Before heading back to the city, we were invited to harvest our own morning glory from the pond (a dark leafy green, much like spinach or kale) which we took home and cooked to go along with our dinner party.

Because it was our last night in Chiang Mai, we decided to move guest houses in favour of a location with a kitchen we could use. We had a fantastic Italian dinner party, complete with our morning glory harvest.

Our last day in Chiang Mai was spent at the Arts and Cultural Museum, where we learned about the local history and had an engaging talk about “vegetarian week”, and why we choose to eat what we eat. After the museum we split for one last hour of free time before boarding the bus for what would end up being an EPIC  ride to Cambodia.

Next update: Adventures in Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s never-a-dull-moment Capital city.

Much love from your Southeast Asia Crew!

Alex, Amanda, Mike, Hilary, Adrienne, Carly, Dayna, Constance, Alyssa, Chris, Will, Lea, Monica & Irene