Tuesday, 10 December 2013

I Found My Magical Moments In Chiang Mai

Magical Moments

About 1 ½ months after my glorious week in Bali surrendering to my first experience of being “in the zone” with Yoga, I had decided to pack my bags for another week of the same, this time in Chiang Mai, Thailand.  I have to admit that, the year-end rush to complete projects at work, some of the lingering work-stress and the multitude of emails that  could not be ignored,  had collectively dampened my attempts to surrender to the same “in the zone” experience with Yoga there.  

To make matters worse, although we stayed at an exquisite villa surrounded by lush greenery and an inviting pool, the pool was un-swimmable because we were welcomed by 15 degree days in our thin T-shirts and shorts, thinking that we had booked a trip to an Asian city that promised the warmth of the blazing sun and other usual trappings of the tropics.

When I looked back at my week in Chiang Mai, I had decided to look for the magical moments then so that I could remember this city for what it truly was - Magic. And I found some.

Deepening My Consciousness With Yoga

As always, my primary objective of a trip like this was to practice the asanas in a different environment and with a different instructor, in the hope of enriching my experience with yoga.  Time spent with Gernot Huber from Yoga Mind Yoga Body was possibly the best decision I made about the trip because he had helped me deepen my consciousness with yoga.  The most important thing I learnt from him was the importance of building  self awareness.  By surrendering myself to self awareness, I could let go of that ego that inhibits my growth.  It could help me to not cling onto disappointments that could get in the way of attaining my true goals. Andre Lima put  it quite succinctly when he tweeted “You let go, not for something to go away, but for ‘what is’ to stay.” 

The Boat Trip Up The Mae Ping River

With Gernot’s words still ringing in my ear,  we had decided to take a leisurely boat ride up the Mae Ping river.  In a word, that experience was, idyllic, because I took on the trip without my blackberry and just surrendered myself to the beauty of life by the river.  The Thais who lived by the river were so laid back as most were just fishing by the river bank.  When we spotted some with 8 fishing rods in action at the same time, waiting for the day’s catch, we knew that they were not fishing for leisure.  They were possibly fishing for food.  Yet, they looked so calm and gave us a friendly wave from time to time.  David and I felt so relaxed throughout the boat ride which was made complete with a visit to a vegetable farm along the river.  The vegetable farmer had a tiny petting zoo comprising of 2 wild boars that looked perpetually drugged, and a family of rabbits that looked like they fed on vegetation that grew next to a nuclear power plant.  They were humongous in size! They looked larger than my dogs!  

Releasing Birds At Wat Chedi Luang

Chiang Mai was quite a small city but it held a rich history.  This was reflected in some of the temple architecture as well as the ancient brick wall that demarcated the boundary of the old city from the new.  One of the oldest and I thought, the coolest architecture was that of the Pagoda at Wat Chedi Luang.  It was built in the 15thcentury by the Thai King who died while in the midst of constructing that pagoda. His Queen then promptly finished constructing it by building the tip of the Pagoda.  What a love story!  What can a man do without his woman, eh? Unfortunately, the Pagoda was partially destroyed by an earthquake but this once magnificent structure still looked hauntingly beautiful.  

A little old lady approached us as we were taking photographs of the Pagoda.  “100 baht! 100 baht! For good luck!” she squawked, as she shoved into our hands, a little birdcage with 4 finches fluttering about frantically within it.  It would certainly be good luck for the finches if we let them go free.  So after paying the old lady, we  released these birds as we uttered a prayer for peace and good health.  I was not sure if it was for the birds’ peace  and good health or mine, but it was nonetheless  a magical experience.

Spiritual Energy At Dol SuThep

David and I made a long drive up to Dol SuThep where we visited the Wat Prathat temple that sat on top of the mountain.  The temple was built way back in 1383.  What we did not expect was a crowd of tourists jostling to capture the stunning views with their cameras.  Thankfully, we did not walk up the 309 steps to the temple only to be confronted by annoyingly loud tourists.  We took the easy route - by tram.   I told David that serenity should come from within, and if he could  just spare a moment to be still for awhile, he would surely feel the serenity.  We closed our eyes as we touched one of the many giant bells that sat around the temple grounds.  Gradually, we could feel peace descending in our hearts and minds, such that when we opened our eyes again, the hordes of tourists seemed to have disappeared to make way for the stunning views of a city calling us to appreciate it for its spiritual energy.   We had to say goodbye to the temple by walking down 309 steps.  Daunting as it might have sounded, it truly was not - effortless.

Vegetarian For A Cause At Thai Freedom House

When I traveled to a destination with my Yoga practice as a primary purpose, I always went on a vegetarian diet. Chiang Mai was a haven for vegans and vegetarians.  Thankfully I did some research before the trip and chanced upon a blog post at www.neverendingvoyage.com  Thanks to the post about vegetarian restaurants in Chiang Mai, I was drawn to 2 of these restaurants.  One was Juicy 4U located right within the heart of the old city, where I went crazy with every manner of fresh juices including spirulina and wheatgrass shots.  David obliged too and had his less exotic options of pineapple, orange and carrot juices.  He enjoyed the veggie burger tremendously although he grumbled that they did not serve french fries with it.  He said, “a french fry is vegetarian isn’t it?”  I had the scrumptious papaya salad called Som Tum in Thai.  Delicious. 

We searched for another vegetarian restaurant called Free Bird Café for days and finally found it on the day before we left Chiang Mai.  Free Bird Café was a vegan and vegetarian restaurant run by the Thai Freedom House which was a non-profit arts and learning community that supported the Burmese refugees and minority groups in Thailand.  For such a great cause, David and I even busted our “no-dessert” rule and had a vegan brownie.

Yoga From The Heart

Another magical moment that came out of my trip to Chiang Mai, was that it had helped me with my reservations about participating in group Yoga classes.  I always thought I was not built for Yoga, not flexible enough, and too clumsy and slow as I maneuver  through the vinyasa flow sequences.   Then  I remembered Gernot's advice to me, urging me to let go of my ego as I go deeper into my yoga practice moving forward.  I realized, I did not have to wait for my next trip to do that.  I could do it right here and now in Singapore.  On January 1, 2014, Yoga From The Heart, a by-donation, Yoga class will take place at the Jacob Ballas Chidren's Garden at the Singapore Botanic Gardens.  The donations will go to  Emerge Lanka, an NGO that supports the education and empowerment of Sri Lankan girls.  If you are in Singapore, and no matter what level of Yoga practice you are at, do join me at Yoga From The Heart on January 1, 2014, 5.25pm (Singapore Time).

A Second Chance

I definitely had magical moments in Chiang Mai amidst the work-stress and unavoidable work calls and emails.  My regret was that I had not had the time and the frame of mind to peel  more layers off Chiang Mai to discover even more spiritual spaces within the city.  I missed out on the trek across the Doi Inthanon national park, the trip to the Burmese border and the visits to the villages to experience the lifestyles of the minority tribes.  My next trip to Chiang Mai beckons. I want her to give me a second chance.  Next time, I will leave my blackberry at home.

About the writer:

The writer of this blog post is a 44 year old mother of one, who spreads her time between her day job as a Marketing and PR professional at a financial institution, her hobby as a Certified Professional Tarot Reader and Numerologist, and her family which includes a 20 year old son and 3 dogs with personality disorders.  She's married to a Scot who has been affectionately called "The Crazy AngMo" and prays that he does not find out that the colloquail term when translated, has labeled him as a "Ginger Head".   Together, we create a home made up with more nuts than a fruitcake but filled with plenty of love.

The Oriental Siam Resort, Chiang Mai, Thailand - We called this HOME for 6 days

My meditation space at the villa

What a beautiful ancient temple. I can't remember the name of this one.

The remains of the pagoda at Wat Chedi Luang

A relaxing boat trip along the Mae Ping River

Releasing finches at Wat Chedi Luang while uttering a prayer for peace and good health

Free Bird Cafe - a non-profit arts and learning community-run cafe that supported
Burmese refugees and minority groups in Thailand

My medley of Burmese and Shan salad lunch at Free Bird Cafe

Views from Dol SuThep

The people in Chiang Mai are so laid back.  Even the Tuk Tuk driver
had decided that his afternoon siesta was more important than giving us annoying tourists a ride.

This ancient brick wall demarcated the old city from the new. There must be so many historic stories within each brick

We walked down these 309 steps at Dol SuThep.  Check out the hordes of tourists.

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