Chiang Mai

Published on February 16th, 2014

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10,000 – Yep, Ten THOUSAND Saffron-Robed Monks

CuencaCathedral150x150We interrupt this (retrospective) Asian tale to bring you a brief update of my new home in… ECUADOR! Yes, yes, I’ve now left Asia in the dust, and survived the 40+ hr. marathon to the other side of the Planet, have now been tucked into my new “home” here in Cuenca, Ecuador (and yes, the wee pic on the right is the spectacular view out my kitchen window!) Trust that I’ve got much to share as I slowly (gasping for breath here at 8,000 ft.!) settle in. But first, quite a few tales remain to be told of my past adventures in Asia.

O.k. now back to your regularly scheduled (Asian) programming…

AlmsPot350x350I’ve been in Chiang Mai now for more than 3 months and I must say – in that time, I’ve done precious little sightseeing. Not really like me to not explore my surroundings (though a full month of my time here was actually spent elsewhere – a week in Vietnam, another week in Bangkok, and three in Myanmar).

The truth is, while there’s much to see around CM, I’m afraid that I arrived here already afflicted with a bit of “Asia burn-out”. In short, waterfalls, jungles, hill tribes, temples and elephants – pretty much “been there, done that” aplenty in the 2 years (and 10 Asian countries) since I bought that one way ticket from Seattle to Hanoi. And like it or not – if I never see another wat, it will be too soon.

Now I did manage to drag my sorry self to the Yi Peng Lantern Festival in November (actually, the main reason I settled here in CM at this time of year, and oh my yes – it was utterly SPECTACULAR!) And of course, braved the crowds at Tha Pae Gate to ring in the New Year.

I’ve also eaten myself silly at the myriad of delish Thai streetfood markets (verily dozens on every blessed corner!) But otherwise, I’ve been keeping a rather low profile here in Chiang Mai.

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The International Alms poster: Yup, impossible to decipher those insufferable Thai squiggles, but the pic told the story, and my I heart Chiang Mai Facebook group filled in the date/time.

But I made (as it turned out, a very wise) exception recently, when a Couchsurfing chum visiting from Singapore dropped in for a few days, and… I learned of the Procession of 10,000 Monks that would walk the streets of Chiang Mai while she was here.

Uh, just one leeetle detail: they’d start their alms walk at 6 am. Furthermore, given the expected crowds (not to mention somehow getting across the city at that ungodly errr, shall I say unbuddhaly hour) we’d have to get up at 4:30 am and try to get a songthaew (little red shared truck-taxis that ply the streets of Chiang Mai) to head across town by 5 am.

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Dawn above the clouds – Nargarkot, Nepal

I must admit, I’m rather proud of myself, that – at my dodderin’ years, I’ve still managed to pull myself out of bed in virtually the middle of the night fairly regularly, for those exceptional once-in-a-lifetime affairs like sunrise at Angkor Wat and dawn above the clouds at Nargokot, Nepal. Still…

Suffice, we were all up (and I dare say likewise, bundled up for it was quite chilly at that dreadful hour) and waiting in the gloom by the bewitching hour.  And – thanks only to the incredible kindness of the night-watchman at my apartment who took me on his motorbike up to the main street so I could flag down a songthaew and lead it back to pick up my chums – we actually made it to the appointed gathering of monks with plenty of time to spare.

Though photographing in the inky pre-dawn was decidedly tricky (not to mention the crowds and the gazillion – well o.k. a mere 10,000 – monks that drifted by in a blur), here’s the best of the bunch.  A handful of images to remember a most extraordinary experience with a good friend as the sun rose amid a sea of saffron in Chiang Mai.

(Click on any of the thumbnails to start the slide show…)


About the Author

Off-the-beaten-path travel is my passion,and I’ve always lived life “like-a-kid-in-a-candy-store” – eager to sample as many flavors as I can. Indeed, my life motto has long been: This ain’t a dress rehearsal, folks!



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