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December 10, 2003

Wat is going on??

Ant's been off cooking the last few days at the Baan Thai Thai Cooking School. As you can see here, he's been up to his armpits in fresh goodies and causing a stir.

So, that left me to my own device(s), shopping. To avoid the evils of retail "therapy," I've been hiking around to different wats (temple complexes) within the smallish city of Chiang Mai.

The most impressive of these wats has been Wat Chedi Luang. The complex had the ruins of the original wat which had been destroyed by an earthquake in 1545. This temple once housed the famous Emerald Buddha that now resides in Bangkok's Wat Phrae Kaeo. It was impressive ruined or not and what was left of the chedi was preserved by a Japanese and UNESCO sponsored project. In addition to restoring some of the brick and stucco work, the project restored these dudes.

Anyway, as I strolled around the complex, I noticed a sign that said "Monk Chat." This wat has a program where visitors and monks can sit down and chat about whatever they want. It helps the monks with their english skills and the visitors can learn about whatever they want. I thought it was a pretty gool idea but I couldn't think of anything interesting to ask them about, so I walked on by.

I also visited a teak wat, named Wat Phan Tao which was right next door. It was totally different, and much quieter. Wat Phra Singh and Wat Suan Dot were also on my itinerary. After seeing so many golden buddha images here and everywhere in THailand, I began to wonder what buddha really meant to Thais. Was he a god? Was he a teacher? If he's a teacher, why is everyone praying to him? Finally, I had a question for my monk chat.

Today, I strolled back to Wat Chedi Luang. I walked over to the monks sitting there, and unlike some of the older pissed off looking guys, these two were all smiles. One of the monks, a third year university student with massive brown eyes, was very excited to hear I was from New York. Apparently American accents are difficult for them because we speak so quickly so he was grateful for the brief practice. He told me he actually resides at another temple, but commutes to this one to practice his english. Sweet though he was, he needs the practice.

The other monk, a second year student, who resided in the Wat Chedi Luang complex, was much easier to understand. After the other guy saw his friend and took off on a motorbike, I posed my question about Buddha to him.

"Is Buddha a god or a teacher? I thought in his teachings he was adamant he was just a man, but all these temples have golden statues of him everywhere, and people are always praying to him," I said as slowly as I could.

"Buddha is a teacher, not a god," was about all I could understand on that direct topic. He got into explaining about how Buddhism derived some ideas from Hinduism, but has some major differences such as no caste system. All people are equal and it is their virtues that set them apart. Fair enough I thought.

After a few minutes of other chit-chat about where he's from (Chiang Rai, north of Chiang Mai), an explaination of offerings, etc, I took off before we had that weird uncomfortable silence. I came away happy that I had gotten an answer to half of my question. Maybe I will try again with another monk tomorrow.

For now though, I am off to get a traditional thai massage and contemplate my aching feet....

Posted by Claudia on December 10, 2003 04:15 AM
Category: Thailand

So how come you didn't do the cooking school thing? Are you already a master? ;)

The girl with the short red hair in those pictures looks so familiar. Its annoying the hell outta me cause I can't think where I have seen her...or her twin.

Posted by: Dewbie on December 11, 2003 02:48 PM


I'm not really into cooking and Ant is so I figured the money was better spent on him. :)

Posted by: Claudia on December 12, 2003 01:08 AM

"The girl with the short red hair in those pictures looks so familiar."

Her name's Jill; she's from North Dakota and is now a chef in Martha's Vineyard. Though strangely enough, someone that we were chatting with that day also thought Jill looked familiar - maybe she just has one of those generic faces?

Posted by: Ant on December 12, 2003 01:30 AM

"I'm not really into cooking...." says Claudia

The understatement of the century! You would eat wood before you would cook for yourself. Or you would scam some of my food!

haha..the good ole days...

Posted by: Stephanie on December 12, 2003 09:24 AM

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