Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Chiang Mai's Annual Intakin Festival

Wat Chedi Luang

Chiang Mai's Intakin festival which is held annually for seven days and seven nights around the 1st week in June at the impressive Wat Chedi Luang Temple a focal point in centre of the old city.

Celebrating the Buddhist image of Phra Chao Fon Saen Ha thus invoking the annual rains and fertile soils. Join during the day, but more interestingly during the evenings with hundred's of local citizens to each place a small bundle of flowers among thousand's  along with burning incense at the ancient 'Pillar of the City' shrine and at all points around the Chedi thus strengthening traditional religious and community ties.

Bathe Buddha images resting in deep niches high in the pagoda's north and south facing facades by an intriguing pulley system and make merit by lighting a candle to your own Buddha depending on which day of the week you were born indicated by the different postures of the Buddha. Ring all the temple bells as you navigate clockwise around the Chedi, but please be careful not to knock the bells together!

Pay your respects in suitable covered clothing and enter into the recently renovated main hall taking in all the golden light, shimmer and shadow of the many Buddha images sitting shoulder to shoulder looking knowingly down upon you !

Intakin is the festival to see fine examples of traditional Lanna costume worn particularly by women carrying generations old finely crafted silver ceremonial bowls and woven basketry carrying delicate and lovingly folded fresh flowers and leaves to pay homage.

'Ton Yang' trees at Wat Chedi Luang

Marvel at the "Ton Yang" trees that tower over the Temple and the old city standing as sentinels, the city's silent judges and a daily reminder to follow a more sustainable society model in balance with nature. City legend tells us that if these great trees were to fall..the city of Chiang Mai will follow.  

Never fear this is Chiang Mai's traditional antidote to the global takeover by 24/7 style consumerism with a never ending supply of tasty traditional snacks to sample and shop till you drop at the temple fair. Connecting with the Mettasuksa Boys School next door is a local version of thrill rides from another century..try the cage Ferris wheel for a slightly better view over all the bright neon's, sights, smells and sonic booms of a 'user friendly' traditional religious celebration  in Chiang Mai.

Caroline Marsh is co-founder of Chiang Mai based independent ethical tour operator http://www.trekkingcollective.com/ .."Expertise, Ethical travel and Authentic Experiences contribute to making a difference to local communities and the environment." passionate about new experiences, travel and environmental well being she writes for travel sites and coordinates local 'grassroots' community peoples actions for a better future for all.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Learn The Ways of the Thai Elephant

photo credit: Trekking Collective2011

My first unforgettable encounter with Thai elephants more than 20 years ago was hanging on precariously to an elephant howdah (elephant saddle!) during a monsoon downpour in the forests of the ancient Lanna Kingdom, northern Thailand only a few hours journey where I am based in Chiang Mai, the capital city. A time to really appreciate and respect the sure footedness of such a relatively huge pachyderm travelling on a steep and slippery single file narrow mountain path. Don't look down if you get virtigo!

Following my new found elephant friend and her keeper again the next day we made our way down to the river for her morning shower and I joined them to bathe and wash away seeds and insects before work begins - An Elephant Spa ! Contrary to popular belief pachyderms - 'thick skinned mammals' have very sensitive skin.

In the north of Thailand Mahouts (elephant keepers) the Indigenous Karen are the traditional keepers of elephants in the northern forests originally living along the deep forested Thai - Burma border their skills are legendary with commands and skills learnt over many generations with their partnership lasting over a  life-time as both man and elephant may live over 60 years.
Over the days I was taught commands in Karen dialect, So I began to know and care for this amazing creature, learning of foods and medicines that can be picked from the forest for an elephants well -being as I journey on elephant back following forested paths.

Late afternoon I returned to my Elephant friend to continue my lessons of traditions, forest-lore and ways of the Thai elephant with a forest walk returning the Elephants to their resting place for the night. It really was a once in a lifetime experience!

Take time to look deep into their all knowing kindly eyes for these our friends are one of the last remaining links to another maybe better world.

..."Let www.trekkingcollective.com you on an unique personal journey through northern  Thailand .."

Caroline Marsh is co-founder of Chiang Mai based independent ethical tour operator http://www.trekkingcollective.com .."Expertise, Ethical travel and Authentic Experiences contribute to making a difference to local communities and the environment." passionate about new experiences and travel; preaches and teaches community environmental well being; Caroline writes for travel sites, regional travel magazines and her own blog Authentic Chiang Mai promoting her adopted city of more than 20years!; coordinates local 'grassroots' community peoples actions through Holistic Environment Urban Schools Program (HEUSP)and a member of the umbrella network group Lanna Community Life Network (LCLN) formerly NCCN. Visit channel www.youtube.com/holisticearth1