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Grade 11 edu tour - Chiang Mai

ON the 25th of January this year, our band of 18 students left Mumbai for Suvarnabhumi international airport in Thailand. Grade 11 students are always taken for an international trip on their edu-tour, and this year the AS students were going to Thailand while the IB students went to Laos.Both bands would be returning on the 30th, but until then there were several events that had been planned.

Once we landed in Bangkok,we took a flight to Chiang Mai, where we would be staying for the next two days.We ate a warm lunch at a hotel, and then checked into the Ibis Hotel.That night we were taken to the Night Bazaar. The Night Bazaar is somewhat like Colaba Causeway, but on a much larger scale. There are stalls for as far as the eye can see, and throngs of people can be seen bargaining for several authentic Thai wares.Some of the items sold include bracelets, necklaces, pendants, and Thai Lamps. 

The following day we went Zip-Lining-'the flight of the GIbbon'.

We visited a temple soon after.The main temple had multiple smaller temples within the premises, each dedicated to a different Thai Monk. There were pathways that interconnected the different smaller temples. One such temple contained a life-size figure of a Buddhist ascetic deep in meditation and was encased in a glass box, and suspended from the ceiling. The half-closed eyes of the monk seemed to follow us everywhere in the room, blessing us with its gaze.

Later we were taken for a Thai Massage.All of us were exhausted after having ziplined, so the massage was extremely rejuvenating.We were given individual massages for just over an hour.Occasionally, one would hear yelps of pain from those of us who are more inflexible ( and not prone to such massages). The masseuses chattered to each other in Thai, and would occasionally burst into raucous laughter, perhaps amused at us students.

The next day we went to Chiang Dao, a relatively rural district on a mountain.It is renowned for the magnificent Doi Luang Chiang Dao Mountain that towers over the valley.At 2175 metres high, the mountain is one of the tallest mountains in the region,with a magnificent view of the surrounding Thai countryside.

We visited an interactive Art Museum-Art in Paradise-and took several pictures here.The entire museum had 3 dimensional paintings on the walls and the ceilings. If one was positioned appropriately, one could take pictures that appeared three dimensional. Now, if you see pictures of the AS students on a magic carpet, or on a tightrope between two cliffs, you will know the (lack of) magic that went behind the shot.

 Thankfully, we went cycling on Thursday. This was extremely satisfying for those of us who were feeling rather stiff after not having had any real physical exercise of some five days. We cycled for ten kilometres, following which our tour guides surprised us with yet another Thai massage. We had also visited some old caves. Rumour has it that a great Thai ascetic had lived in these caves, so the cave was considered sacrosanct. Where the limestone had metamorphosed into stalagmites and stalactites, one could find idols, garlands and other offerings. Some of these limestone marvels had been interpreted as different objects of worship too, according to what they represented.

We visited some hot springs on the day that we cycled. One could smell the sulphur arising from the bubbling springs, but most of us dipped our feet in anyway.

We returned to Chiang Mai to visit Northern Thailand's holiest site, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. Three  hundred steps led to the ancient shrine. We wrote the names of those whom we wished to be blessed on a large golden banner, which was to be wrappped around one of the shrines and blessed by a monk.

Finally, we bid farewell to our tour guides, and departed with a certain sense of regret, mingled with an intense craving for 'ghar ka khana'.

Kamya Shankarnarayanal


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