A very full day in Chiang Mai

As soon as exams ended and the dorms closed up, 15 students and three faculty chaperones packed their bags for a trip to Thailand and Cambodia. Cailin and Tayhlor share this report of today's busy day.

Today, we started off the day with a stomach-churning drive up to the top of a mountain. When we got to the top of the mountain we enjoyed the beautiful view and were taught about the issues Thailand's forests face, like deforestation from logging and urbanization and invasive species, and the restoration efforts. While all of England only has 70 tree species, the national park we went to had over 700 and counting alone. Following our talk we headed out for a nature walk in the forest where we saw cinnamon and banana trees and learned about the different wildlife in the area and how the ecosystem worked. This walk took a toll on most people - there were a variety of downhill jumps and huge fallen trees we had to work together to climb over.


At Chiang Mai University we met with two professors who taught us about tourism in Thailand and its effects. Bangkok and Thailand have now become the most visited place in the world because of the beauty, culture, food, and multiple other things, and while tourists help the economy, they are also harmful in many ways. They harm the environments they visit such as coral reefs, make shows out of Thai culture, and make the economy too dependent on tourism alone. Therefore, Thai people work tirelessly every day to maintain the flow of tourists, or else their economy will collapse.

After our enlightening discussion, we made the trek back up the mountain to a temple, Doi Suthep. This temple is considered one of the most holy temples because, being more than 1000 meters above sea level, it is the closest to heaven. The 300-plus stair climb was worth it, the view was astounding. We could see all of Chiang Mai and the mountains and forest around it, and the art and architecture of the buildings were astounding as well. While there we found out what day of the week we were born in a calendar book so we could find out which representation of Buddha we are particularly associated with and should venerate. 

Our last stop was a waterfall a little further down the mountain. It was really cool. We then returned to the hotel were we had dinner with Katie's family and learned about her aunt’s time in Thailand working for NGOs and in the film and entertainment industry. 

Even though the past couple of days were full of a huge amount of information and details about Thai lifestyle, one of the most interesting things we learned about was the Buddhist way of living. It is a lifestyle of peace and training one’s self to resist the selfish and lustful ways of human nature, and all lessons are taught by the Buddha, who is not a God, but a master. The monks are a huge part of Buddhist culture, as they accept what is given to them, and do not ask for anything more. They pray for wellness, and they resist lust or temptation. Learning about the Buddhist way of life was an amazing experience, and prompts one to reflect on the lives we live.