Ch Ch Ch Changes
Yes, it’s true, things change all the time. As much as we like it or don’t like it, things change, places change, and people change.
I am back in an ancient city that has been modernized. Tourism is not new to Thailand, so as where many developing nations change dramatically from year to year, although Thailand changes, there are some things that stay more or less the same.
Wats (temples) are one of those things that stay more or less the same. Chiang Mai is a city full of ancient temples. It is somehow soothing to visit the wats and have them look just the same as they did years ago, regardless of how dramatically the city has changed around them.
I remember my first day in Chiang Mai back in 2000, stumbling across Wat Chiang Man, and thinking, “Wow, this is Thailand and this wat is a spiritual place.” I didn’t have my camera with me then and I forgot the name, forgot about that temple, and forgot all about that experience…until yesterday. Memories came flooding in like waves at high tide. There is something sacred about an ancient building with elephants and buddhas. I walked into the grounds of Wat Chiang Man and, like in so many temple grounds, suddenly I felt as if I’d been transported out of the city and into a holy place. It gets very quiet and serene.
Wat Chiang Man
At this temple if you come inappropriately dressed to enter, you can rent a sarong. That is something I appreciate so much about Thai culture: if you are about to make a fool of yourself by committing a cultural taboo, you will gently be shown the right way. This contrasts to Japan where I knew I must be making plenty of cultural mistakes, but no one would ever tell me as for me to ‘save face’. It seems to me the Thai way saves a lot more face in the long run.
In Chiang Mai the slogan is “The most splendid city of culture” The slogan fits. It also reminds me that I should use the word splendid more often because, well, it’s a splendid word.
Wat Chedi Luang
Wat Chedi Luang holds a special place in my heart. In these ancient temple grounds, I celebrated my 30th birthday.
For my 30th birthday my friend Andrew bought me a large (about 1 meter by half meter) paper lantern used for the loi krathong festival. I remember him standing near the wat, lighting the lantern at 2 am and then watching it float to the sky. We watched rise so high that it eventually was indistinguishable from the stars.
I stood in the exact place today, closed my eyes, gave some love to the memory, and then, like the lantern, let it go.
I am here again now, and so very grateful that I am.
It’s nice to know that despite all the changes, and no matter how old we get, that certain places still retain their magic. Chiang Mai is one of them.