We have been in Chiang Mai for 2 days now and I am noticing that it is quite a bit more traditional up here compared to the south. It is very obvious that while Chiang Mai still gets its fair share of tourists, the influence isn't as strong here as it is in the south. And I have to say, it's pretty refreshing.
Don't get me wrong, I have no complaints about hanging out on the beach and enjoying the beautiful landscape the south had to offer, but there is a booming sense of culture in the north that is hard to ignore. Beautiful temples, street festivals and night markets with traditional food and music every which way you look. It's a pretty unreal experience to be a part of.
This city has a lot to do, from temples to motorbike tours, elephant hangouts, ziplines and more, all while maintaining a laid back vibe. It is truly a special place and I can see why backpackers spend a lot of time here. We have definitely been keeping busy, but today we took a little time to slow down and take in the culture around us.
After a long morning visa run, we visited Wat Pra Singh, a beautiful temple in the heart of the old city. After roaming around and admiring the architecture, we sat down and chatted with monk for over an hour. We were able to practice our very broken Thai, learning some new words, and he was able to practice his english while teaching us about Buddhism. He stressed the importance of refraining from hate and anger, and how Buddhism is formed around the concept of karma: do good and good will come to you. I found it interesting and beautiful that values I try to live by everyday are practiced as a religion by so many people here in Thailand.
Our chat with the monk helped me gain a new perspective on religion. I may not believe in a God, but I do believe in being a good person and global citizen and that practicing kindness and goodness is the best way to do that. The more I have thought about it, the more I realize and understand that those practices are the background to every religion.
Before we parted ways, he said something that will stick with me forever. He said "I may never visit your country, but that doesn't mean I don't understand where you come from".
We may live on opposite sides of the world, practice different religions and customs, but we are all people. We are all part of the same world and the same race, fighting the same fight. The more I travel, the more I realize how true this is. And it was beautiful to hear that someone from a completely different world than my own holds the same values in his heart as I do.
This is why I travel. For moments that teach me something new. For moments that remind me of the good in people. For moments that reiterate the fact that the world is big, and we are small but that love will always make its way around. For moments like this.
Not Your Average
"Whatever is good for your soul, do that"
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