The Naga of the Night

The Naga at night.

The picture above is a common temple decoration in Thailand.  The large green dragon creature is called a Makara, and the serpents coming out of his mouth are the Naga.  It’s really quite amazing how religious mythology travels around Asia, borrowing and reinventing.  The makara and the naga are both Hindu originally but like many items from Hindu mythology can be seen making guest appearances in Buddhist practices in other countries.  It’s always a humbling experience standing at the steps of a temple looking up at the beasts.  It is also a very empowering feeling standing at the top of a temple looking down on the twisting body of such a creature.

Kanchantaburi Temple at Night

The temple in Kanchantaburi

The temple in Kanchantaburi, Thailand at night.

I can’t stress enough how beautiful Kanchantaburi was.  We were there during Songkran so I did not feel comfortable going to the temple service for a holy event I didn’t understand, so instead I waited outside and took photographs.  It was amazing how many stars were out so far away from the cities.  I often go out to the country or the state parks in Wisconsin.  Yet up in the mountains I felt even more removed from the influences of the city.  I was amazed how many stars I was able to pick up on film, the image is a bit grainy but still captures the stillness of the night.

Forest Monk

Forest Monk Statue in India

This statue was at the Thai Temple in India. Dad explained that it was a statue depicting the forest monks, who use to go out to the woods to meditate and only came down for food. He wasn’t really too sure on that though, and again I didn’t find anyone else who felt like telling me about it. Either way it was a neat statue, and it must have been important for some reason since it was being honored. I’ll update the post if I get more information on him.

Inside the Temple

The shrine of the Thai temple in Gaya.

Here are some pictures for an inside look of the Thai temple in Gaya. The shrine not only features Buddha but also many symbols of Thailand including a portrait of the King on the side wall. There were also other tables that contained more pictures of the King. He is very important to the Thai culture and you would be hard pressed to find a temple in Thailand that does not honor him as well. On the other walls however traditional Thai style gave way to more traditional Indian style of decorating. The walls are painted with murals depicting the stories of Buddha in an Indian stylized form. On the back wall is the a story of bringing Buddha and his teachings to Thailand. It seems that in this story they load up a boat to sail towards what is seen background a the a city of the Thai Royal Palace (Bangkok). Yet a storm breaks out and the boat sinks. In the end Buddha is saved and carried to safety by a Goddess  so that his teachings can spread through Thailand.

Loading the ship to sail for Thailand.

The back wall mural, painted in an Indian style, at the Thai temple in Gaya.

A close up of Buddha being carried to safety by a Goddess at the Thai temple in Gaya.

Thai Temple in Gaya

Thai Temple in Bhodagaya

Along the Buddhist pilgrimage there are four main points. At those spots (as well as many others) other Buddhist countries have built temples in the area to honor these spots and give pilgrims from their region a place to stop. Thailand has lots of these temples. According to the Indian tour guides Thai tourism to that area has been becoming very popular in the last few years. The temple in Gaya was where we went first so that some of are party could become monks.  The Thai style roofs are easily recognizable amongst the skyline of temples as a symbol of home for Thai natives.

Roof of the Thai temple in Gaya

Gah-fae Yen – How to Order Coffee in Thailand

The official “Coffee Girl” for the Faculty of Public Health at Burapha University.

My first morning in Thailand I was still recovering from almost and entire day of flying and a twelve hour time zone change, suffice to say I needed an extra pick me up.  So the first thing my father decided to teach me was the basics of ordering coffee.  As it turns out that’s the first thing most exchange students learn in Thailand no matter what country they come from.  My first new words learned in Thai were “gah-fae yen,” or “coffee, iced”.  Personally I’m a bit more of a fancy coffee house girl though so I prefer latte’s.  Lucky for me they stick with the same trusty Italian word for milk so to get an iced latte I simply order a, “gah-fae latte yen.”

Most coffee drinks in Thailand are made with sweetened condensed milk, and a generally quite a lot of it.  That makes the drinks almost unbearably sweet.  To request a less sweet drink you add “mai wan”, meaning “not sweet”, to the end of the order.  So I learned to order “gah-fae latte yen, my wan.”  Which would get me an iced latte, which is still sweeter than a non-flavored latte back home, but still very delicious.  It’s the perfectly morning pick-me-up on 90-degree mornings.

It turns out that Thailand adds a ton of sugar to most of its milk in general; this is because milk is not a native product and is just recently being introduced there.  Many people do not yet like the taste of it, but it is needed for so many of the Western recipes coming in to the rapidly growing country.  It can be a challenge to find some less sweet drinks.  I think all those boys back home who love their coffee black as mud wouldn’t know what do out here.

My dad was always that sort of guy, but he makes do the best he can with “mai wan.”  I love that “gah-fae rown” means “coffee hot”, which turns out to be espresso most of the time. That is the way my dad likes his coffee, so I get to order “gah-fae rown for Dr. Ron” when I get his coffee, making it easy to remember.  I don’t need to add in “mai wan” to his order because he gets it so often they already have his drink done by the time they see him walking down the road in the morning!