Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A Chiang Mai New Year

After relaxing and visiting with relatives in Bangkok, I flew to Chiang Mai to meet Jef and Andre to ring in the New Year.  Chiang Mai is a mid-sized, university city located in Northern Thailand.  It's at a higher elevation than Bangkok and is nestled at the base of a mountain.  The air is cooler and the pace of the city is mellow.  Chiang Mai attracts many visitors who are on a spiritual path.  Buddhist temples are littered throughout the city and a very famous temple, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, is located outside of the city in the mountain along with the famous Phuping Palace (pronounced poo ping palace!). Taking advantage of the slower pace, I enrolled in a full-day Thai cooking class.  What a treat! My goal, to bring these tasty tips back to the Philippines...
Jef and I sampling the panang curry we just made.  WOW!  so good.  Panang curry is mashed with peanuts, which gives it a smoother, lighter/fluffier, slightly sweet and creamier texture.

The ingredients for Tom Yum soup all chopped up.  I was surprised on how little ingredients we used to make our serving sizes.  Realizing now, that when I cook, I chop too many vegetables... a little goes a long way.  Love the round cutting board made from a sliced tree trunk.

The following day, I rented a motorbike and ventured out of the Chiang Mai.  I stopped at a resort/lunch spot where hundreds of grassy open-air huts are propped along the river for the intent to relax the day away.  Many family and friend groups were doing just the same on New Years Eve day... Next to me, a group was playing a soft guitar melody that I could simply lay back while taking in the gentle breezes off the river.

Visiting the famous Wat PhraThat Doi Suthep Buddhist temple.  This was a very popular place on New Year's Eve.

 A steep ascent to the temple.

Monks singing into the New Year.

Enjoying the striking contrasting golden hue against a Prussian blue sky!

After my time at Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, I headed back to the city center to celebrate New Year's by lighting off luminaries in the streets of Chiang Mai.  This was such a magical scene.  There were so many luminaries in the sky that they started forming new, twinkling constellations that could be viewed all over the city.    

 The full moon shining over us all accompanied by the constellating luminaries below.

Happy New Year!! Fireworks and the moon welcome 2013.  My experiences in Thailand have elevated my taste buds.  Thai food eaten anywhere else, does not compare to what they serve in Thailand.  I felt a distinct difference between Buddhist and Christian-rooted culture.  Thailand in general feels more peaceful, refined, delicate, and feminine.  Soft, yet colorful ornamentation depicting lotus flowers and other floral, organic patterns are restful and inspiring images for me.  And I never would have imagined seeing all the gilded spires to the sky!  Those forms have a lasting impression for me, changing my perspective on Buddhist practice, temples serving as conduits transforming universal energy for the purpose of reaching enlightenment.  A beautiful theory anyway...

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