Bangkok, Thailand: Exploring the North

Sawadee khab to our friends at the other partner universities and to the Macros in Germany!

First of all, I want to apologize for being late with this post. The standard Thai time delay should be fifteen minutes, not one week, but I’ve got a good excuse for that: While we are experiencing extraordinary things to write about nearly everyday, I wanted to write especially about our latest trip as we traveled together with the whole course and the university staff.

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Unfortunately, many of the Thai festivities like the Thai New Year Fest Songkran are taking place in spring, when we’re already back in Germany. That is why we have celebrated another beautiful festival as much as possible: Loi Krathong, what can be translated as „to float a basket“, where small boats with candlelights are given to the rivers and the water goddess to wash away the sins and to make wishes. The ceremonies take place around the full moon evenings of the 12th month of the Thai lunar calendar (Tip for next year’s students: around the 25th November 2015) and we went up north to discover the origins of this tradition.

After a six hour ride in our very comfortable bus, we arrived at our hotel in Kamphaeng Phet, a small town in one-to-two-hour distance to our real destinations Tak and Sukhothai. The fact that there weren’t enough rooms in nearby hotels already gave us a hint on how many people, both Thais and tourists, headed to the same destination.
On the first evening in Tak, which is located near the Burmese border, we were able to shop a little on the street market (e.g. buying the very best bluetooth speakers of all time -.-) before the celebration started. After the local monks chanted for half an hour, they finally started to float the baskets one after another with the goal to create a long chain of lights. There should have been a competition of which village can build the longest chain, but we left before that due to the uncomfortable weather (= „buddhapeepee“).

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On the second day, we visited the Si Satchanalai Historical Park near Sukhothai, where the first Siam Kingdom ruled around 700 years ago. Especially for those who already visited the ancient capital Ayutthaya, the temples looked very familiar because the Thais had rebuilt the temples in the new capitals in the same way they have been before. Nevertheless, it was interesting to see and climb up the different chedi and to have a moment of silence, what is a very special occasion when you are used to the steady BKK noise level.

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At the same evening, we finally arrived at the main event of our trip. The Loi Krathong celebration in Sukhothai, where it was originally founded, was built around the ruins of the ancient city. We had tickets for the big theater, firework and light show at the Wat Mahathat temple and saw a nice performance with elephants and actors defying the heavy rain. We again weren’t lucky with the weather (reminded me at „Hamburger Schietwetter“), but still enjoyed the show very much (see the first picture).

While most of the group headed back home after a visit to the Kamphaeng Phet National Park, nine of us traveled further to Chiang Mai in the very north of Thailand for relaxing a little bit more before the project phase (suddenly) appears. We are in agreement that Chiang Mai is definitely one of the most beautiful cities and regions Thailand has to offer. You should make sure that you include this region into your travel plans to see some nice rainforests, where you can do thrilling things like ziplining and abseiling (no, that’s not what you think!), experience the traditional Yi Peng festival where you light up lanterns and watch them fly up high into the sky or drive along the river Ping with a motorcycle. I heard that there are also some really astonishing temples, but we had seen enough for now. Maybe next time, as we definitely consider going there again.

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I want express our thanks to Bum, Amm and James for organizing this great trip and for helping us with the alternative route to Chiang Mai!

That’s it for today, now we’re getting our projects done to have time afterwards to see as much of this beautiful continent as possible.

Marcel Peter