Cheaper healthcare outside US.

Why is Healthcare So Much Cheaper Outside the U.S.?

A recent survey reported that a single day in a hospital in the U.S. costs, on average, $1,514 (up to as much as $12,537), while in France it costs $853.

An appendectomy in the U.S.—including physician and hospital bills—costs $8,156 on average (up to as much as $29,426). The same procedure in France costs $4,463.

Hip replacement surgery costs an average of $25,061 (up to $87,987) in the U.S., but just $10,927 in France.

Median price for routine heart bypass surgery in the U.S. is $46,547 (up to $61,649). In France the average cost is $22,844.

A routine doctor’s visit in the U.S. costs an average $95 (up to as much as $176). In France, though, you’ll pay just $30.

And why do prices vary so greatly in the U.S.? Because they’re mostly paid through insurance claims, and prices are negotiated by insurance companies. You pay what they say you’ll pay. The prices you pay can vary greatly from region to region, from market to market. And don’t be fooled into thinking you’re paying more for quality for a name-brand hospital. Because that’s not necessarily the case.

(By the way, if you live in a U.S. city that’s experienced a lot of hospital mergers, you’re probably paying more than you should be…that’s the nature of monopolistic pricing.)

In other words, it can pay to move overseas or to shop around internationally for your healthcare. You’ll see some huge savings, as the pricing examples I’ve just given for the U.S. and France clearly show.

 

“The Low Cost of Healthcare Literally Saved my Life”

International Living’s Colombia correspondent, Nancy Kiernan, and her husband Mike moved from Maine to Medellín four years ago. As well as enjoying the great climate and the lower cost of living, Nancy speaks from experience when she says she’s impressed with the healthcare in the city.

“We are very satisfied with the city’s health and dental-care systems,” Nancy says. “From something as simple as getting a blood test or your teeth cleaned, to surgery and root canals, healthcare professionals in Medellín provide excellent service.”

Curt Noe, a retired traffic engineer from New Jersey, moved to Medellín in 2007. “I arrived with a pre-existing condition of cancer,” he states. “I expected to have a problem getting health insurance here and was pleasantly surprised that I was completely covered by the national health plan (EPS) after only a six-month waiting period.”

During his first few years in Medellín, Curt flew back to the U.S. for second opinions and follow-up appointments.

“I realized I didn’t need to spend the money to do that, after my U.S. doctors said that the care I am receiving in Medellín is on par with what they would do.”

Healthcare costs are far lower there too. In 2015 the cost of a hip replacement in the U.S. averaged just over $40,000. In Colombia, the same procedure averages only a little over $8,000.

In Southeast Asia, the story is the same. “Not only were the meds I needed easily available, but the low cost of healthcare literally saved my life.”

That’s what expat Roger Carter has to say about the excellent healthcare he’s found in Southeast Asia. And Roger is just one of the growing number of expats discovering the excellent (and highly affordable) care that this region has to offer.

In Southeast Asia today, you can access English-speaking doctors trained in Western hospitals—often without an appointment. Hospitals accredited by the Joint Commission International (the gold standard of healthcare accreditation) are common. Expats report receiving equal (or better) care here than they did in the States.

Healthcare in this region is stunningly affordable. You can see a specialist for $20 or less. You can get prescriptions for as little as 5% of the U.S. cost. And you can complete a hospital stay with top-of-the-range treatment for a fifth or less of the price back home. Need surgery? No problem. A procedure that would cost you $18,000 or more in the U.S. will set you back $2,000 in Southeast Asia.

The top notch but low-cost medical care available in Costa Rica is a huge draw for retired expats and also makes it one of the world’s top destinations for medical tourism.

“One of the most important reasons we moved to Costa Rica was the low-cost medical care,” says International Living editor Jason Holland. “And not just that it’s cheap but that it’s good, essentially North American standard.

“My wife was pregnant. And after being laid off in the U.S., the cost to have the baby there was astronomical. In Costa Rica, the total cost was $3,000—the obstetrician, anesthesiologist, hospital costs…everything. And the care was excellent.

“After that we had plenty more opportunity to use both the public and private healthcare system. Through the Caja government-run system, we paid $180 a month for full coverage for our family of four. And when we visited private doctors it was $50 per visit, cash.”

 

Spend Less on Your Prescriptions, too

In most of the rest of the world, healthcare prices are established centrally by the government. Laws and court systems don’t allow for frivolous lawsuits. Suing someone can take years and judges have no incentive to dole out multimillion-dollar awards. So malpractice insurance is very low, as are doctors’ and health workers’ fees and hospital and clinic charges—savings that are passed along to customers.

  • You’ll get not only excellent quality medical care but you can buy your prescriptions for much less than in the States:
    In Malaysia, the high-cholesterol medication Zocor will cost you less than $22 a month, while the generic, simvastatin, costs less than $5.50 a month. Private hospital-room charges there start at $28, but for $90 a day you can have an en-suite room with cable TV.
  • A prescription I take costs $30 a month in Ecuador and $80 in the U.S. A full dental cleaning in Ecuador costs just $30 to $45. Partial plates run about $325, and a complete set of dentures costs about $900, including office visits, fittings, lab work, and impressions. Teeth bleaching costs $25. A porcelain crown is just $250.
  • In Nicaragua, you can have lab work done for as little as $8—and as in most all of the rest of the world, you take the results with you to whatever doctor you choose. An overnight stay in an internationally accredited hospital costs about $100. An electrocardiogram is only $25. And a doctor’s visit routinely costs as little as $10.

Importantly, you’ll find that in most of the rest of the world, healthcare expenses are relative to the local cost of living.
It just costs less to live in Asia, Latin America, or certain parts of Europe than it does to live in the U.S.

Housing and construction costs are lower. Taxes are lower. Food costs less. And salaries are lower. Foreign doctors often make a sixth of the salary of their U.S. counterparts.

Healthcare plans, too, can be amazingly affordable outside the U.S. In Panama, Costa Rica, or Mexico, for example, a couple might spend $250 a month—depending on age and other factors—for comprehensive, low-deductible private health insurance. In Ecuador, you can join the IESS social security plan—despite pre-existing conditions. A couple will pay just about $80 a month for that…and it includes prescriptions.

When you retire overseas, you’ll save on both healthcare costs and on general costs of living. So why wouldn’t you at least consider it?

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Mae Kuan Im Goddess of mercy

Kwan Yin (Mae Kuan Im)
The Goddess of Mercy

In the past ten years, the Kwan Yin or (Mae/Mother) Kuan Im cult has become more popular among Thai people. There are now many more Kuan Yin images both inside and outside Theravada temples in Thailand. Many temples also have a “Welcome” sign related to the worship of Mae Kuan Im to attract tourists. These Kuan Yin images are not only in the southern provinces of Thailand where there are a lot of tourists from Malaysia, Singapore, and Hong Kong but also in other provinces. The largest Kwan Yin image in Southern Thailand is located in a municipal park in Hat Yai.

Generally, when we think about Kuan Yin, many people think only in terms of “Chinese” people as worshippers of Kwan Yin. For Mahayana Buddhists, Kwan Yin is an incarnation of Avalokiteshvara in female form, also known as “The Goddess of Mercy or Compassion.” In Thailand, however, this cult is not only popular for Thai-Chinese but also other lay people who may not even be sure of their Chinese ancestry.

There are many Kwan Yin centers (samnak) in Thailand. Each center may maintain its own ceremonies, observances, and practices, which are related to Buddhism. We may say that the cult of Kwan Yin constitutes a bridge between Thai traditional belief and (Mahayana) Buddhism. Most Thai people worship Kwan Yin because they expect good luck or fortune. Perhaps they believe that Kuan Yin can give them a lucky number for their next lottery, or some people believe that Kwan Yin can give them some good advice for their business, family, health, or any of life’s problems. Other people may just want a peaceful place to “rest,” a refuge from the world, which they may not be able to find in some Thai temples.

The fascination with Kwan Yin also involves a strong belief in “karma.” To attain one’s wishes or expectations, people must practice “good karma.” Believers pray (phawana) using Kuan Yin chants. Such practices constitute a form of meditation. This meditation involves cleansing the mind as well as the body. Kwan Yin believers abstain from beef and often work their way towards becoming vegetarians.

Some observers have pointed out the importance of the new interest in Kwan Yin:
1) Such centers may be viewed as a new kind of gathering place for people to get together and exchange their experiences. This phenomenon creates a new “community,” which is not very different from people who use to frequent Buddhist temples in the old days;
2) Kwan Yin imagery and practices can be viewed as extension of Buddhist beliefs and practices, with Kwan Yin becoming a part of the Thai Buddhist pantheon;
3) Kwan Yin may serve as a surrogate mother for some Thai women. The movement is of special interest to women because for most Buddhist practices the role of women is subservient to men. Many other Thai spirits are female, such as The Goddess of Rice, Mae Phosop. Kwan Yin may be viewed as an extension of this tendency to deify female spirits of nature.

Box jellyfish in Thai waters.

The magnitude of severe box jellyfish cases on Koh Samui and Koh Pha-ngan in the Gulf of Thailand

BMC Research Notes20169:108

DOI: 10.1186/s13104-016-1931-8

Received: 2 December 2015

Accepted: 10 February 2016

Published: 17 February 2016

Background

Despite recent deaths caused by box jellyfish envenomation occurring on the islands of Samui and Pha-ngan in the Gulf of Thailand, many people do not believe box jellyfish can kill humans and many people dismiss the problem as insignificant. More evidence has been requested from the communities in order to evaluate the need for and the implementation of sustainable prevention measures. We aimed to determine the magnitude of cases of severe stinging by box jellyfish and describe the characteristics of these cases on the islands of Samui and Pha-ngan in Surat Thani Province from 1997 to 2015.

Methods

Various strategies were integrated prospectively. Toxic jellyfish networks and surveillance system were established. Outbreak investigations were conducted retrospectively and prospectively from 2008 to 2015.

Results

There were 15 box jellyfish cases. A small majority of them were women (60.0) with a median age of 26.0 years (range 5.0–45.0 years). The highest incidence by month were August (33.3 %), September and October (20.0 %), and July (13.3 %). Eight cases occurred on Samui (53.3 %), 6 cases on Pha-ngan island (40.0 %), and one case on the boat. All cases developed symptoms and signs immediately after being stung. More than half of the cases were unconscious. There were six fatal cases (46.7 %). The wound characteristics had an appearance similar to caterpillar tracks or step ladder-like burn marks. Almost all cases involved Chirodropidae. One fatal case received fresh water and ice packs applied to the wounds (16.7 %). Among the cases with known first aid, only one out of six fatal cases had vinegar applied to the wounds (16.7 %), while haft of six surviving cases received the vinegar treatment.

Conclusions

The islands of Samui and Pha-ngan have the highest incidence of fatal and near fatal box jellyfish cases in Thailand. There is an urgent need for informed pre-clinical emergent care. Optimal pre-clinical care is an area of active research.

Background

It is widely known that box jellyfish are one of the most venomous marine animals in the world [1]. Envenomation involves the physical discharge of venom into tissues. The venom is a complex mixture of polypeptides and proteins, including hemolytic, cardiotoxic and dermatonecrotic toxins [2, 3, 4]. There are two major families of box jellyfish, are Chirodropidae and Carybdeidae [5, 6]. The most lethal member of Chirodropidae is Chironex fleckeri. Envenomation by Chironex can lead to “rapid cardiorepsiratiory depression”. The injured person who received a high dose of toxin can die within a few minutes [2, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10], Local physicians, nurses and other health personnel still lack the necessary knowledge regarding box jellyfish, despite there being reports of envenomation incidents in Thailand. Thus, diagnosis of Irukandji syndrome (often associated with carybdeid stings) and other box jellyfish envenomation sequelae has been rare in Thailand [1]. According to Thaikruea et al. [11] a study of the morbidity and mortality rates of toxic jellyfish stings from thirty-three health services in the southern provinces of Thailand (Surat Thani, Krabi, Phuket, and Satun), there were 381 cases involving toxic jellyfish between 2003 and 2009. However, only 51 cases were diagnosed as being in the toxic jellyfish category, one case of neuropathy from the neurotoxin of a jellyfish, and one case of suspected Irukandji syndrome. While the Thai surveillance system of toxic jellyfish injuries and deaths that was established in 2009 identified at least 38 toxic jellyfish cases within 1 year period, Thaikruea et al. [12] reported at least four fatal and four near fatal probable box jellyfish cases in Thailand. Three out of four fatal cases occurred on the islands of Pha-ngan and Samui in the Surat Thani province. These islands are located in the Gulf of Thailand. With the sparsity of information the magnitude of the problem is likely to be underestimated.

Proper first aid carried out at the scene is crucial for the survival of an injured individual who has been stung by a box jellyfish. Household, food grade vinegar (4–6 % acetic acid) is effective in acid fixation based inactivation of unfired nematocysts. It should be poured continuously on the wound for at least 30 s [5, 13]. One of the two latest deaths which was probably due to a box jellyfish sting was on July 31st 2015 and was quite naturally of great concern to the public (Nation TV. August 1st 2015. http://www.nationtv.tv/main/content/social/378466023/). This Thai woman aged 31 years was diagnosed as “Cardiac arrest with anaphylaxis following contact with a venomous animal”. One of the concerns about jellyfish envenomation is that a wrong diagnosis can lead to inappropriate treatment [14]. A marine biology expert recently announced in the press the need to use seawater splashing on the tentacle marks before pouring vinegar as a first aid treatment for box jellyfish stings. This news introduced confusion among both professionals and the public, in particular it has caused great concern for the people who live on the islands where the majority of the incidents have taken place. The local people tried to keep people safe. One protection measure used was the erection of warning signs saying “bluebottles” on the beaches that are famous for the “full moon parties”. This warning sign was wrong because the danger was ‘Box Jellyfish Species Present’. There are many cubozoan species linked to lethal stings. Both Chirodropids and Carybdeids can cause death. Signage should include images of both families of cubozoa and there was no education message written in the sign

The islands of Samui and Pha-ngan locate next to each other (20 km) in the Gulf of Thailand. A travel time is about 15 min by ferry. There are various conflicts of interest among stakeholders such as business owners, hotel/resort owners, fishermen, tourist guides and non-government organizations. Many people do not believe box jellyfish can injure or kill human based on interviews, meetings and workshops carried out over the past 7 years. Even of the people who accept the fact, many of them still think that the problem is small. More evidence is requested from the communities in order to implement sustainable prevention measures. This study aims to determine the magnitude of cases of severe stinging by box jellyfish and describe the characteristics of these cases on the islands of Samui and Pha-ngan in Surat Thani Province from 1997 to 2015.

Near fatal case: a 26 year old American woman stung by a multiple tentacle box jellyfish on September 3rd 2010 at a beach on Pha-ngan island. She lost consciousness and revived following resuscitation. Vinegar was applied (Source photo: case).

Various strategies were integrated prospectively. The strategies included establishing toxic jellyfish surveillance system, establishing toxic jellyfish networks, conducted case investigations, performed studies (about the situation in Thailand, existence of deadly box jellyfish, and first aid and treatment), participated and supported communities to create innovations (vinegar first aid pole and sting net), and implement prevention measures. The toxic jellyfish network was established in 2008 by this team of authors in order to ascertain whether box jellyfish could cause death in humans and whether this is a threat in Thailand. The initial members included a journalist and experts from universities in Australia and the Divers Alert Network (DAN). The membership expanded to stakeholders such as resort/hotel managers/owners, divers, speed boat/long-tail boat groups and biologists in order to gather more information (interviews and focus group discussion), build knowledge and collaborate regarding possible prevention programs. Toxic jellyfish surveillance was begun in 2009 to identify venomous jellyfish incidents, collect information regarding the cases and implement prevention measures. The team prospectively and retrospectively investigated all suspected cases box jellyfish sting outbreaks, which were detected by toxic surveillance system and networks. Only severe cases involving admission into the hospitals or health services in Samui and Pha-ngan islands between January 1997 and October 2015 were included in this study. Descriptive analysis was done, including proportion (%) and median (range: minimum to maximum). The investigation was under the government service policy of emergency and public health problem. The ethics submission was not applicable. The descriptive analysis was done as group average and could not identify each individual. For participants who provided photos, we obtained consents to publish from them (or legal parent or guardian for children) to report individual patient data and photos.

Results

Demography

There were 15 cases of severe stinging by box jellyfish admitted to hospital from 1997 to 2015. The majority of them were women (60.0 %) and the median age was 26.0 years (minimum 5.0 years and maximum 45.0 years). The highest frequency of nationalities included British (20.0 %), American (13.3 %), German (13.3 %), and Italian (13.3 %). The other nationalities included French, Australian, Russian, Swiss, Chinese and Thai.

Incidence by time

The highest incidence by year were 2012 (20.0 %), 2015 (20.0 %), 2014 (13.3 %) and 2002 (13.3 %). The highest incidence by month were August (33.3 %), September (20.0 %), October (20.0 %), and July (13.3 %). Two cases occurred in December and May.

Incidence by place

Among eleven cases with information of incidence places, eight cases (53.3 %) occurred on Samui island and another six cases (40.0 %) occurred on Pha-ngan island. One case did not occur on the beach, the man took off his wet suit after diving and a tentacle attached to the wet suit stung his left elbow.

Results

Demography

There were 15 cases of severe stinging by box jellyfish admitted to hospital from 1997 to 2015. The majority of them were women (60.0 %) and the median age was 26.0 years (minimum 5.0 years and maximum 45.0 years). The highest frequency of nationalities included British (20.0 %), American (13.3 %), German (13.3 %), and Italian (13.3 %). The other nationalities included French, Australian, Russian, Swiss, Chinese and Thai.

Incidence by time

The highest incidence by year were 2012 (20.0 %), 2015 (20.0 %), 2014 (13.3 %) and 2002 (13.3 %). The highest incidence by month were August (33.3 %), September (20.0 %), October (20.0 %), and July (13.3 %). Two cases occurred in December and May.

Incidence by place

Among eleven cases with information of incidence places, eight cases (53.3 %) occurred on Samui island and another six cases (40.0 %) occurred on Pha-ngan island. One case did not occur on the beach, the man took off his wet suit after diving and a tentacle attached to the wet suit stung his left elbow.

The highest number of cases occurred on East Rin beach of Pha-ngan island (27.3 %), Chawang beach of Samui island (27.3 %), and Bo Phut of Samui island (18.2 %). Two cases occurred on Lamai beach of Samui island and Khuat beach of Pha-ngan island, subsequently.

Severity

All cases developed symptoms and sign immediately within 1 min after being stung. More than half of the cases were unconscious (53.3 %) within 2–3 min. There were eight near-fatal cases (53.3 %), six fatal cases (46.7 %), and one case was discharged against advice (6.7 %). The wound characteristics had the appearance of caterpillar tracks or step ladder-like burn marks.

Box jellyfish

Nine lethal jellyfish stings were reported as confirmed cubozoan stings. Of these, 5 or 55 % were reported as confirmed Chirodropid stings, three were reported as suspected Chirodropid stings and one case was due to a either a chirodropid or a carybdeid sting.

First aid

Twelve cases were included in analysis where the first aid history was known. Of the six fatal cases, only one had vinegar poured on the injury (16.7 %) as first aid and one had fresh water poured on the wound followed by application of an ice pack (16.7 %). Among the six surviving cases, three received the vinegar treatment (50.0 %). One of them who was stung by Chirodropidae. He lost consciousness and was admitted to Intensive Care Unit, requiring use of a respirator. He received vinegar as first aid at the hospital after 10–15 min being stung.

The incidents occurred more frequently in the southen part of Pha-ngan island which face the northern part of Samui island. However, the northern part and other areas also had incidents (data not shown for mild to moderate cases). Based on the experience of investigating the box jellyfish problem for this study on both Pha-ngan and Samui islands, it was found that people do not believe or do not know that the incidents are more prevalent than their perceptions. These perspectives were demonstrated at several meetings and workshops carried out over the past 7 years. After the death on July 31st this year, another severe case occurred on the island of Samui on September 12th 2015 at Chawang beach on Samui island. This occurred to a 31 year old Chinese male, who was stung by Chirodropidae. He lost consciousness and was admitted to Intensive Care Unit, requiring use of a respirator. He received vinegar as first aid at the hospital after 10–15 min being stung . Stakeholders start to concern about this health problems and want to know more about the magnitude in these islands.

The infamous box jellyfish developed its frighteningly powerful venom to instantly stun or kill prey, like fish and shrimp, so their struggle to escape wouldn’t damage its delicate tentacles.

Their venom is considered to be among the most deadly in the world, containing toxins that attack the heart, nervous system, and skin cells. It is so overpoweringly painful, human victims have been known to go into shock and drown or die of heart failure before even reaching shore. Survivors can experience considerable pain for weeks and often have significant scarring where the tentacles made contact.

Box jellies, also called sea wasps and marine stingers, live primarily in coastal waters off Northern Australia and throughout the Indo-Pacific. They are pale blue and transparent in color and get their name from the cube-like shape of their bell. Up to 15 tentacles grow from each corner of the bell and can reach 10 feet (3 meters) in length. Each tentacle has about 5,000 stinging cells, which are triggered not by touch but by the presence of a chemical on the outer layer of its prey.

Box jellies are highly advanced among jellyfish. They have developed the ability to move rather than just drift, jetting at up to four knots through the water. They also have eyes grouped in clusters of six on the four sides of their bell. Each cluster includes a pair of eyes with a sophisticated lens, retina, iris and cornea, although without a central nervous system, scientists aren’t sure how they process what they see.

Chilies the original traveler.

TIME’s Summer Journey

 

Legends of Somdet Toh by Thanissaro Bhikkhu [dana/©] 2006-2014

Legends of Somdet Toh
by
Thanissaro Bhikkhu
 

Somdet Toh — his formal title was Somdet Budhacariya (Toh Brahmaransi) — was probably the most famous and widely loved monk in nineteenth century Thailand. A skilled meditator closely associated with the royal family, he was famous for many reasons, but his wide popularity rests on two things: Despite his rank, he was easily approachable to people on all levels of society; and he made amulets that — because of his meditative prowess — were reputed to be very powerful. He was also famous for his wisdom and wit. Since his death, in 1872, a cult has grown up around his memory, with many mediums throughout Thailand claiming to channel his spirit.

At the same time, many legends have grown up around his name. Here are a few of my favorites. I can’t vouch for their accuracy, but they all carry a good lesson, which is why they merit passing on.

Somdet Toh was an illegitimate son of a nobleman who eventually became King Rama II. The story goes that one day in 1787 or 1788, when the nobleman was in northern Thailand cleaning up after the Burmese invasion, he happened to get separated from his troops. As he rode along on his horse, he came across a house with a young woman about sixteen years old standing in front. Thirsty, he asked her for some water. She went to the well, got a bowl of water — in Thailand in the old days, they would drink water out of a bowl, rather than out of a glass — and crushed a lotus flower over the bowl, sprinkling the stamens all over the surface of the water. Then she handed the bowl to him as he was sitting on his horse. He took one long look at the stamens on top of the water and then had to drink the water very carefully so as not to swallow them. As he handed the bowl back to her, he asked her, “Was that a trick?”

“No,” she said. “I saw that you were so thirsty that you might gulp the water down and end up choking on it. So I figured this would be a good way to make sure that you drank slowly.”

Well. He asked her, “Are your parents around?” So she fetched her parents. They didn’t know who he was, but he was obviously a nobleman, so when he told them, “I’d like to have your daughter,” they gave their consent. So she joined the king in the army camp, but as the campaign was ending he said to her, “I’m afraid I can’t take you down to the palace with me, but in case you do have a child by me, here’s my belt. Give the child my belt and I’ll know that it’s my child. I’ll take care of him or her in the future.” So he left her and went down to Bangkok.

Her whole family soon followed down to Bangkok when they discovered that she actually was pregnant. They moved onto a floating house moored on the bank of the Chao Phraya River in front of a monastery, Wat In. She gave birth to a son and named him Toh, which means “large.” When he was old enough, he was ordained as a novice. A few years later, when the nobleman had become King Rama II, the family took Novice Toh to Wat Nibbanaram — currently Wat Mahathaad, a temple right across the road from the Grand Palace — and showed the belt to the abbot. The abbot took the belt to the king and the king said, “Yes, that’s my son.” So he later sponsored Novice Toh’s ordination as a monk.

When Prince Mongkut — later Rama IV — was ordained as a monk, Phra Toh was his “older brother monk,” the one who gave him his initial training in Dhamma and Vinaya. Soon after Prince Mongkut’s ordination, his father died, and although by birth Prince Mongkut was next in line for the throne, the Privy Council chose one of his half-brothers to reign as Rama III instead. When this happened, Phra Toh decided it would be wise to leave Bangkok, so he went into the forest. Prince Mongkut stayed on as a monk for 28 years, until Rama III passed away. He was then offered the throne, so he disrobed and was crowned King Rama IV.

Soon after his coronation he sent out word to fetch Phra Toh back to Bangkok. Officials went into the forest, dragging back any monk they could find, and asking, “Is this the monk?” “No.” “Is this the monk?” “No.” Finally word got to Phra Toh, and he came out voluntarily. The king gave him the title of Somdet — which, next to the Supreme Patriarch, is the highest title a monk can hold — and put him in charge of Wat Rakhang, the monastery across the river from the palace.

Rama IV is remembered as a wise and humane king. Somdet Toh’s own epithet for him — in a brief poem he wrote summarizing the history and prophesizing the future of the Chakri (Bangkok) dynasty — was that he maintained or embodied the Dhamma. And Rama IV’s desire to have Somdet Toh near the palace is an indication of his wisdom. He knew that, as king, he would have trouble finding people fearless and selfless enough to tell him frankly when he was wrong, and so he wanted his former teacher nearby to perform this function.

But even as the king’s former teacher, Somdet Toh had to exercise tact and skill in criticizing the king.

One story tells that one day early in his reign, the king — and remember, he had been a monk for twenty-eight years — was sitting out on the boat landing in front of the palace drinking with his courtiers. So Somdet Toh came paddling across the river in a small boat. The king, displeased, said to him, “Here I’ve made you a Somdet. Don’t you have any respect for your title? How can you paddle your own boat?” The Somdet replied, “When the king of the country is drinking in public, Somdets can paddle their own boats.” Turning around, he paddled back to Wat Rakhang. That was the last time the king drank in public.

Another time, Rama IV felt that since Thailand had been laid waste by the Burmese, many ancient Thai customs had disappeared, so new customs should be developed to replace them. So he decided, “Wouldn’t it be nice if we had a boat parade at the end of the rains retreat? Every monastery in Bangkok will be responsible for decorating a boat, and we’ll have a contest to reward the best-looking boat.” So the royal decree went out that every monastery in Bangkok had to decorate a boat for the parade.

When the day for the parade came, a long line of beautifully decorated boats floated past the royal reviewing stand — except for one, a little canoe carrying a monkey tied to a leash with a sign on its back. The king’s immediate reaction was anger: “Somebody’s making fun of me.” He had his officials check the roster to see which monastery was responsible for the boat, and it was Wat Rakhang, Somdet Toh’s monastery.

So they took the sign off the monkey to see what it said. It said, “Willing to lose face in order to save cloth,” which rhymed in Thai, but didn’t make any more sense in Thai than it does in English. A few days later, the king invited Somdet Toh into the palace for a meal and a Dhamma talk, after which he asked him, “Suppose someone sponsored a boat with a sign like this on the back of a monkey. What do you think it might mean?” And the Somdet said, “Well, it might mean that monks don’t have any resources of their own to decorate boats and it’s certainly not appropriate for them to ask for donations from laypeople to decorate boats, so the only course left open to them would to have been to put their robes in the pawn shop. So they were willing to lose face in order to save their robes.” That was the last time the parade was ever held.

Another story concerns a funeral in the royal palace. Funerals in the palace could go on for a hundred days before the cremation. Every night they’d invite four monks to chant. The famous, high-ranking monks would chant toward the beginning of the hundred days, and by the end of the period they were getting down into the ranks of the junior monks. One night toward the end of this particular funeral they invited four young monks who had never seen the king before in their lives. And this was back in the days when if the king said, “Off with your head!” it was off with your head. So they were nervous about their performance. After all, the king had been a monk for 28 years. He would know if they made any mistakes in their chanting.

Finally the king entered the room, followed by his entourage. Now, Rama IV had a rather stern and fearsome appearance, and as soon as the monks took one look at him they went running behind a curtain. This infuriated the king. “What is this? Am I a monster? An ogre? What is this? Disrobe them immediately!” So a royal decree was written up and sent over the river for Somdet Toh to disrobe the monks. He happened to be sitting at a writing table, next to a small altar where incense was burning. Taking one look at the royal decree, he placed it over a stick of incense, burned three holes in it, and sent it back across the river to the palace. The king, of course, had studied Buddhist doctrine; he knew what the three fires were: the fire of passion, the fire of anger, and the fire of delusion. The Somdet’s message was, “Put them out.” So the monks didn’t have to disrobe. That’s how you criticize a king.

Once, however, Somdet Toh didn’t get away with criticizing the king. There is a tradition recorded in the Apadanas that the Buddha’s clan, the Sakyan clan, started from a time when the sons and daughters of a particular king had to leave their country. They took up residence in Kapilavastu, the area that eventually became the Buddha’s home. After building their city and settling in, they looked around the area for spouses but couldn’t find anyone who was high-born enough for them to marry. So the brothers ended up marrying their own sisters. That’s the tradition recorded in the Apadanas to explain the name of the Sakyan — “One’s Own” — clan.

One day Somdet Toh was giving a talk on this topic in the royal palace, and after discussing this point he continued, “Ever since then it’s become a custom among royal families. Uncles go running after their nieces, cousins go running after their cousins…” Now, Rama IV’s major queen was his niece, so again he was furious. “You cannot stay in this country!” he said. So Somdet Toh was banished from Thailand. Now, in Thailand the civil law does not extend into the sima, the territory immediately around ordination halls. For instance, if a thief goes running into a sima, the police have to get the abbot’s permission before they can go into the sima after him. So the Somdet returned to Wat Rakhang and moved into the ordination hall. For about three months he didn’t set foot outside the sima.

Meanwhile, the king had forgotten all about the banishment order, and one day he said, “We haven’t had Somdet Toh over for a talk in a long time. Let’s invite him over.” So the invitation went across the river to the monastery, but word came back, saying “I cannot set foot in this country, remember?” “Oh,” the king said, “I forgot.” And he lifted the banishment order.

So it wasn’t an easy thing to criticize kings in those days. Even if you were his personal teacher, you had to be careful.

Of course, not all of Somdet Toh’s comments about the king were critical. After all, the respect he felt for the king was what had inspired him to leave the forest to be of help in the first place.

One of the most famous stories about their relationship concerns a Dhamma talk Somdet Toh gave in the palace. Palace Dhamma talks were highly ritualized affairs. The talk was expected to be long and literary, preceded with and followed by many elaborate chants and other formalities. Once Rama IV invited Somdet to present such a talk and had prepared an especially large pile of offerings to be presented to the Somdet after the talk — a sign that he was looking forward to an especially long and learned disquisition, to test the Somdet’s knowledge of the Dhamma. After the beginning formalities, however, Somdet Toh said only one sentence: “The king already knows everything there is to know.” Then he chanted the ritual passages to conclude the talk and returned to his seat on the dais, quiet and composed. Immensely pleased, the king presented him with the offerings, commenting that that was the best Dhamma talk he had ever heard. (Ajaan Lee tells the story that later another monk tried the same trick, but with different results: The king was so offended that he had the monk stripped of his ecclesiastical titles.)

At another, similar event at the palace, Somdet Toh began the closing blessing with the standard chant:

Yatha varivaha pura
Paripurenti sagaram
Evameva ito dinnam
Petanam upakappati…

Just as rivers full of water fill the ocean full,
Even so does that given here benefit the hungry ghosts…

As he reached this point in the chant, the king in a very unusual breach of Buddhist etiquette called out, “Why are you giving all the merit to the hungry ghosts? What did they do to deserve it?”

Somdet Toh, without missing a beat, backed up to change the last line:

Evameva ito dinnam
Sabbam rañño upakappati…

Even so does everything given here benefit the king…

The king, who was fluent in Pali himself, was delighted with the Somdet’s ability to think on his feet.

There are many other legends concerning Somdet Toh that don’t deal with the king. Ajaan Fuang, my teacher, especially liked to tell a story of how Somdet Toh dealt with high-ranking lay people who would visit monasteries and waste the monks’ time in idle conversation.

Somdet Toh ate his meals in a small open pavilion in front of his dwelling. If a stray dog wandered past, he would toss a little food to the dog — which meant that, over time, a whole pack of dogs would regularly come to sit around him at his meal time, waiting for food. This meant that if any high-ranking lay people wanted to come pay their respects and chat with him while he was eating, they’d have to bow down to the dogs as well. As a result, only the people who weren’t too proud to bow down to the dogs got to talk to him during his mealtime.

Another story concerns a wealthy layman who wanted to invite Somdet Toh to his house for a meal and a Dhamma talk. Events like this would often be fairly public, with the donor inviting many friends and relatives to participate in the meal offering and to hear the talk. So the layman sent his servant to convey the invitation to Somdet Toh, saying that he wanted Somdet Toh to give a talk on a lofty topic, the four noble truths. Now, it so happened that the servant wasn’t familiar with the term, “four noble truths” — which in Thai is ariyasat. To him, it sounded like naksat, or zodiac. So he told Somdet Toh that his master wanted to hear a Dhamma talk on the zodiac. The Somdet knew that this couldn’t possibly be right, but the servant’s mistake amused him, and he decided to use it as an opportunity to make a Dhamma point — and have a little fun at the same time.

When the day for the talk arrived, he went to the layman’s house and, after the meal, got up on the sermon seat and began the talk by saying, “Today our esteemed host has invited me to deliver a Dhamma talk on the zodiac.” He then proceeded to describe the twelve houses of the zodiac in a fair amount of detail. Meanwhile, the master was staring daggers at the servant. After finishing his description of the zodiac, the Somdet then added, “But, regardless of what house of the zodiac people are born into, they are all subject to suffering.” With that, he switched to the four noble truths — and probably saved the servant’s job.

Another time some Christian missionaries came to visit the Somdet. One of the missionary strategies in those days was to show off their knowledge of science so as to dazzle the heathens, win their respect, and possibly win converts. With Somdet Toh so closely associated with the king, perhaps they thought that if they could convert him, the king might be converted as well. So they discussed various scientific topics with him, and finally touched on the fact that they had proof that the world was round. The Somdet, instead of being surprised, said, “I know. In fact, I can show you where the center of the world is.” This surprised the missionaries, so they asked him to show them. He got up, took his staff, went out in front of his hut, and planted the staff firmly on the ground, saying, “Right here.”

“But how could that be?” they asked him.

He answered, “If the world is round, it’s a sphere, right? And any point on the surface of the sphere is as central as any other point on the surface.”

After that, the missionaries left him alone.

On the final day of the Rains retreat in 1868, Rama IV passed away. His eldest son, Prince Chulalongkorn, who was now Rama V, was only fifteen years old. As a result, the running of the government was placed in the hands of a Regent — Chao Phraya Sri Suriyawong (Chuang Bunnag) — who was to hold this office until Rama V reached maturity. (In a later reminiscence, Rama V stated that during this period he lived in constant fear of being assassinated.) Shortly after the Regency was instituted, Somdet Toh — who was now 80 — appeared at the Regent’s palace in the middle of a sunny day, carrying a lit torch that he held aloft with one hand, and a long, narrow palm-leaf Dhamma text that he carried at a backward-sloping angle under his other arm. After he had walked through the palace halls in this way, word reached the Regent. The Regent respectfully approached Somdet Toh and asked him to take a seat, after which he assured him that he understood the Somdet’s message: He would not allow his deliberations to be overcome with the darkness of defilement, and he would hold to the Dhamma as a rudder while steering the ship of state.

Four years later Somdet Toh passed away.

Provenance:

The source of this work is the gift within Access to Insight “Offline Edition 2012.09.10.14”, last replication 12. March 2013, generously given by John Bullitt and mentioned as: ©2006 Thanissaro Bhikkhu.
 
Transcribed from a file provided by the author.
Translations, rebublishing, editing and additions are in the sphere of responsibility of Zugang

Bangkok Thailand Fat Cat Cafe Thai Lifestyle

Bangkok Thailand Fat Cat Cafe

Author: Pen Drageon

Discover Thailand with Thailand Discovery

Bangkok Thailand Fat Cat Cafe
 Bangkok Thailand Fat Cat Cafe

Bangkok Thailand Fat Cat Cafe. It is a cat’s world out there. Forget the likes of Garfield when you can mingle with these adorable felines for real at the Fat Cat Cafe Club in Bangkok. A whole cafe dedicated to cats and their owners in the heart of the city is a welcome change. Most city dwellers in Bangkok live in flats, apartments or condos that do not permit animals or only small animals such as toy sized dogs and cats. Most of these animals are home-bound, seldom seeing the outsides of their homes and with little opportunity to mingle with others of their kind. This provided a niche opportunity for budding entrepreneurs to come up with ingenious ideas of cafes for one’s favorite pet.

Bangkok Thailand Fat Cat Cafe

 Bangkok Thailand Fat Cat Cafe

The Fat Cat Cafe Club is one such cafe for cats in Bangkok, nestled among high rise apartments and condominiums, it provides a sanctuary for owners to bring their cats for a time out of their abode. Occupying the ground floor of a corner shop lot, the owners of the cafe has provided a much needed service where the felines can roam free inside and play with all manner of climbing poles and simulated tree houses to mixing with other fellow felines and getting acquainted. Aptly considered a club, the owners are just as proud to bring their well-groomed charges for much needed quality time outside while they exchange stories about them and chat with members who have similar interest.

Bangkok Thailand Fat Cat Cafe

 Bangkok Thailand Fat Cat Cafe

This cafe prides itself on cleanliness …for the cats! Humans have to desensitize their hands and remove their shoes in a cordoned off entrance way before entering the cafe so as not to cause the felines any illness or discomfort. Therefore, priority is not on you but your cats! There are toys and cushions to make these pets feel right at home and they occupy any place they like in the cafe.

Bangkok Thailand Fat Cat Cafe

 Bangkok Thailand Fat Cat Cafe

This cafe is mostly frequented by the younger generation of city dwellers, some with more than one cat who come quite frequently from the familiar greetings of the owners when they step into the cafe. You can be here all day if you like as there are kitty litter trays provided and even cat meals if you require them for your pet.

Off course if you are wondering “what about for their humans”, yes there is a small menu selection of snacks and desserts to keep you munching your time away or free WiFi for you to use while you wait until your dear cat feels like going home or the cafe closes.

Bangkok Thailand Fat Cat Cafe

 Bangkok Thailand Fat Cat Cafe

The resident cat at the cafe reminds me of the famous Grumpy Catand he obviously does not like to be carried by strangers even though he seems adorable. Cats by nature are nocturnal and can be very lethargic in the day time which is why we noticed quite a number of them sleeping contentedly in the cafe. Some were playing with the floor to ceiling climbing poles or just feeling happy to be paid extra attention by their owners.

Bangkok Thailand Fat Cat Cafe

 Bangkok Thailand Fat Cat Cafe

The cafe itself has everything catty right down to cat cushions and colorful wall murals. Most owners are happy to sit on the floor with their cats. All the cats here seemed well-fed and chubby so there is no lack of attention paid to them.

Bangkok Thailand Fat Cat Cafe

 Bangkok Thailand Fat Cat Cafe

Mr Grumpy here keeping an eye on things from the cashier counter. Seems to be his favorite spot where he has a commanding view of the whole cafe. Then again, he is after all the master of the cafe!

Bangkok Thailand Fat Cat Cafe

 Bangkok Thailand Fat Cat Cafe

This cat reminds me of my own fat cat back home with exact colours and size. Cats can be very intuitive as well as social snobs. Their fierce independence gives them an air of aloofness and dignity plus they are very clean creatures when it comes to toilet time being particular to have a clean sandbox.

Bangkok Thailand Fat Cat Cafe

 Bangkok Thailand Fat Cat Cafe.

Masters of the cafe making sure the rest tow the line as it would seem in this picture. Short of using the cash register to ring up sales, this pair could pass for counter staff.

Bangkok Thailand Fat Cat Cafe

A beautiful Onyx stripped cat belonging to a customer, too lazy to move and just watching the others go by. Cats have priority where they want to be in the cafe and you, the human, has to make way for them.

Bangkok Thailand Fat Cat Cafe

A lady and her pet enjoying time together. The cats need not be on a leash but maybe this lady likes to keep her pet close by. This is a very typical Thai lifestyle among the new generation of Thai city dwellers which is why if you walk the Chatuchak weekend market, you will find a whole section dedicated to pets and pet accessories as well as many pet shops that has sprouted in almost every nook of Bangkok.

Bangkok Thailand Fat Cat Cafe

A pair of sleeping beauties cosy up together on a play track. Simply adorable just watching them sleep without a care in the world except to be loved, eat, sleep, play and poop. Aaahhhh …. a cat’s life it is!

Bangkok Thailand Fat Cat Cafe

The lady owner with one of the prize cats. Look at the size of this beauty, almost the size of a small dog. The Fat Cat Cafe Club is most definitely dedicated to cats and cat lovers in Bangkok who cannot get enough of these adorable yet very independent creatures.

Bangkok Thailand Fat Cat Cafe

Whoever said that black cats were bad luck, seems that this particular one is enjoying plenty of good luck. With blazing green eyes it keeps a wary watch over incoming visitors to the cafe and probably checking out the competition.

Bangkok Thailand Fat Cat Cafe

Cat lovers can now add a new favourite cafe to their list with the establishment of such feline friendly places in the city. It makes sense to have such cafes in the city where after all we have fun gyms and parks for children, so why not for our favourite pets!

Bangkok Thailand Fat Cat Cafe

In my short time there I was given the opportunity to cuddle up to these wonderful beauties as well as to hear numerous cat related stories about almost every cafe cat there on the premise.

Bangkok Thailand Fat Cat Cafe

I am sure there are quite a number of these animal friendly cafes in Bangkok city that provides a welcome change from regular cafes that are not pet friendly, especially for those who would like to bring their pets out with them. There are also dog friendly cafes available similar in concept to this cat cafe. Many owners especially here in Thailand keep small pets to be companions in a bustling city that has many stress related jobs and lifestyles, so their pets are a way of distraction for their mundane everyday routines. Some would consider their pets as family members or even as “children” and dress them in clothes or walk them in baby prams at department stores or markets. One thing is for sure, Thai people adore their pets and lucky are the creatures that end up with a very pampered lifestyle here in the Big Mango!

CHIANG RAI 7 PLACES TO VISIT IN 24 HOURS

CHIANG RAI 7 PLACES TO VISIT

Author: Jyotsna Ramani

Discover Thailand with Thailand Discovery

CHIANG RAI 7 PLACES TO VISIT. When you have just 24 hours to spend in one of the most exotic and stunning locales in North Thailand, what do you do? Well, you make the most of it.

As part of the Tourism Authority of Thailand newsroom bloggers trip, we had exactly one day in this amazing city and we maximized it by going to the best places to visit in Chiang Rai. Follow our game plan if you are short on time, though, I would recommend atleast a week in Chiang Rai or more.

Top Places to Visit in Chiang Rai

CHIANG RAI 7 PLACES TO VISIT

CHIANG RAI 7 PLACES TO VISIT

Doi Tung Royal Villa

Nestled on the steep Doi Tung hill at a height of around 1400 m, the royal villa was the former residence of present king’s mother, Somdej Phra Srinagarindra.

CHIANG RAI 7 PLACES TO VISIT

CHIANG RAI 7 PLACES TO VISIT. North Thailand flags at entry of Doi Tung

The villa is now converted into a museum which showcases life and achievements of the princess mother. You can literally walk into this royal house and enjoy the grandeur whilst taking in the history via the audio tour.

CHIANG RAI 7 PLACES TO VISIT Entry to Doi Tung Villas

CHIANG RAI 7 PLACES TO VISIT. Entry to Doi Tung Villas

Photography is prohibited inside the villa so I could not capture the elegance. The most remarkable element of this place is the ceiling of the main hall. Princess mother was big into astrology and she had her favorite constellations engraved with light bulbs denoting the stars. The position of the planets and stars represented her date of birth – 21st October, 1900. This ceiling was professionally designed by Astronomical society of Thailand.

CHIANG RAI 7 PLACES TO VISIT Garden of Doi Tung Royal Villas

CHIANG RAI 7 PLACES TO VISIT. Garden of Doi Tung Royal Villas

Tip – Cover your shoulders, knees and preferable ankles when you visit the royal villa. No transparent clothing allowed. Jeans and tee would work well here. 

Entry fee and timings – Entry to the villas is 90 Baht . Opening hours are 0700 – 1700, open everyday.

Mae Fah Luang Garden

CHIANG RAI 7 PLACES TO VISIT Mae Fah Luang Garden

CHIANG RAI 7 PLACES TO VISIT. Lovely exhibit at Mae Fah Luang Garden

In the same Doi Tung complex, is the lovely Mae Fah Luang garden. Spread over a whopping 10 hectares, this extravagant display of plants and flowers was conceptualized by Princess mother.

The garden is maintained by local villagers and forms a stable income for them due to the ongoing revenue from tourism.

CHIANG RAI 7 PLACES TO VISIT Mae Fah Luang Garden

CHIANG RAI 7 PLACES TO VISIT. Mae Fah Luang Garden is filled with photo opportunities

Entry fee and timings – Entry to the garden is 90 Baht . Opening hours are 0700 – 1700, open everyday.

Baan dam Museum

Our next stop was the famous Baan dam museum, created by Thailand’s renowned national artist Thawan Duchanee.

CHIANG RAI 7 PLACES TO VISIT Black houses at Baan Dam

CHIANG RAI 7 PLACES TO VISIT. Black houses at Baan Dam

It is famous for the lovely Laana style ‘Black houses’ which boast of architectural detailing. The name Baan dam is actually derived from Baan, which means house and Dam which means black.

CHIANG RAI 7 PLACES TO VISIT Many artistic and detailed black houses at Baandam

CHIANG RAI 7 PLACES TO VISIT. Many artistic and detailed black houses at Baandam

The work displayed is controversial, to say the least and might not be everyone’s cup of coffee. However, visiting Baan dam once during your visit to Chiang Rai is a must.

CHIANG RAI 7 PLACES TO VISIT One of the paintings displayed in Baan Dam museum

CHIANG RAI 7 PLACES TO VISIT. One of the paintings on display at Baan Dam museum

Entry fee and timings – Entry to the museum is free. Opening hours are 0900 – 1200 and 1300-1700 hrs, open everyday.

Rai Boon Rawd (Singha Park)

CHIANG RAI 7 PLACES TO VISIT singha park

CHIANG RAI 7 PLACES TO VISIT. The lovely colorful cottages on a clear day at Singha

Rai Boon Rawd was one of the highlights of our trip. It is spread over 3000 acres in the Thum bon Mah–Korn district. Singha park is beautiful with the iconic golden lion statue in the middle, surrounded by epic scenery, tea plantations, cute cottages and a lovely lake.

CHIANG RAI 7 PLACES TO VISIT Bird eye view of Singha Park

CHIANG RAI 7 PLACES TO VISIT. Bird eye view of Singha Park

The best part of Rai Boon Rawd is the zipline. Some of us adventurous souls enjoyed a lovely ziplining experience overlooking the vast expanse of Singha Park.

CHIANG RAI 7 PLACES TO VISIT Ziplining at Singha Park

Ziplining at Singha Park with Svetlana @SvetlaFly

A great way to end the evening is by spending quality time at the Bhu Bhirom, fine dining restaurant. With scenic 360 degree views, it is advisable to opt for outdoor seating and watch the sun set and moon rise whilst enjoying cocktails and delectable cuisine.

CHIANG RAI 7 PLACES TO VISIT Taking selfies with the golden Singha statue

Taking selfies with the golden Singha statue

Entry fee and timings – Entry to the park is 50 Baht. It is open 24 hours, daily but best time to visit is 0900 – 1600 hrs. 

Chiang Rai Walking Street

The Saturday night market at Suk Sathit, Chiang Rai is quite popular among locals and tourists. Souvenirs start at just 10 Baht each and there is a huge variety of home decor, local street food, clothing, collectibles and handicrafts to choose from. You can easily spend 3-4 hours on this bustling street so ensure you go early and shop at leisure.

CHIANG RAI 7 PLACES TO VISIT Street food at Chiang Rai walking street

CHIANG RAI 7 PLACES TO VISIT. Street food at Chiang Rai walking street. Photo Credit – TATnewsroom

Entry fee and timings – No entry. Open every Saturday night from 1700 – 2300 hrs. 

Clock Tower

The Golden clock tower in Chiang Rai is a popular landmark in the city center. This lovely tower has intricate design and lovely aura as it stands tall as a road junction.

clock tower chiang rai

CHIANG RAI 7 PLACES TO VISIT. Mesmerizing clock tower as it lights up! Photo Credit – TATnewsroom

The highlight is watching the 10 min sound and light show as the clock strikes 7/8 and 9 pm every night. There is a blast of colors as the tower lights up in different shades of blue, pink, yellow, white ,golden lights with music blasting in the backdrop. It is quite a stunning sight and gathers more than a handful of eyeballs.

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Entry fee and timings – No entry. Open everyday but highly recommended to visit at 1900, 2000 or 2100 hrs to enjoy the light and sound show.

Wat Rong Khun (White Temple)

CHIANG RAI 7 PLACES TO VISIT Magnificent Wat Rong Khun aka White Temple.

CHIANG RAI 7 PLACES TO VISIT. Magnificent Wat Rong Khun aka White Temple. Photo Credit – TATnewsroom

Next morning (Still within our 24 hours), we headed to Wat Rong Khun. This was the most anticipated part of our journey to Chiang Rai and we were surely not disappointed. The white temple is simply breathtaking, in style of design it is quite similar to the golden clock tower as both structures were designed by Mr. Chalermchai Khositpipat. It mesmerizes you with the untouched beauty and stories behind it are just as interesting as the temple’s design and structure.

CHIANG RAI 7 PLACES TO VISIT white temple chiang rai

CHIANG RAI 7 PLACES TO VISIT. Entry to the exquisite temple. Photo Credit – TATnewsroom

CHIANG RAI 7 PLACES TO VISIT Group picture with TAT Newsroom team & bloggers

CHIANG RAI 7 PLACES TO VISIT. Group picture with TATNewsroom team & bloggers. Photo Credit – TATnewsroom

From the wishing well to the heaven and hell conflict, from super heroes to do-gooders, every part of the temple has a story and a meaning behind it.

CHIANG RAI 7 PLACES TO VISIT Under the wishing tree

Under the wishing tree. Photo Credit – TATnewsroom

The golden toilet (umm, yes its a toilet) is definitely the world’s most beautiful washroom – there, I said it! I mean, I didn’t even want to use the amenities but I had to – how can you not indulge when this is your toilet? – (pic below)

CHIANG RAI 7 PLACES TO VISIT Golden Toilet at white temple

The mighty Golden Toilet. Photo Credit – TATnewsroom

Tip – You are visiting a temple so be respectable of the Thai culture.Cover your shoulders, knees and preferable ankles when you visit the White temple. A full sleeves shirt with full pants/jeans is recommended. 

CHIANG RAI 7 PLACES TO VISIT White temple chiang rai thailand

The usual “I was there” photo with the lovely temple in backdrop

Entry fee and timings – Entry is 50 Baht for foreigners (implemented from 1st Oct 2016), donations are optional. Open everyday from 0800 – 1800 hrs. 

So, have you ever been to Chiang Rai? If so, did you visit these places and how long did your stay? Or if you intend to visit, do these places interest you?

Thailand Vegetarian Food Festival

Thailand Vegetarian Food Festival 2016

Thailand Vegetarian Food Festival 2016

Author: Pen Drageon

Discover Thailand with Thailand Discovery

Thailand Vegetarian Food Festival
 Thailand Vegetarian Food Festival

Thailand Vegetarian Food Festival

Thailand Vegetarian Food Festival

Thailand Vegetarian Food Festival. The Vegetarian Festival is widely celebrated throughout Thailand and especially of significance in Phuket with a big community of Thai Chinese. This festival is celebrated over a nine days period and in other parts of South East Asia it is known as the Nine Emperor Gods Festival. In Thailand, it is known as the thetsakan kin che or Vegetarian Festival. This celebration falls on the ninth lunar month in the Chinese calendar which makes it around the first week of October.

There is a celebration in Phuket where many rituals are observed culminating in a special parade where devotees will indulge in self-inflicted piercings, cuttings and skewering of body parts while under a trance-like spell. However, other parts of Thailand observe this auspicious celebration by abstaining from meat, meat products and indulging instead in making merit and visiting temples to meditate.

Thailand Vegetarian Food Festival

Thailand Vegetarian Food Festival

During this festival in Thailand, you can observe many food outlets from restaurant to street food vendors offering a variety of vegetarian cuisine call “Jeh” or “เจ” in Thai. You can easily recognize a shop or outlet selling Jeh food by the little triangular yellow flags that are placed on streamers of little bamboo sticks at the stall or restaurant. This indicates that they are only selling vegetarian food.

Thailand Vegetarian Food Festival

Thailand Vegetarian Food Festival

True Buddhist Vegetarian food is found in the temples where the preparation of the food undergoes a ritual that is overseen by the monks during the preparations. The vegetarian food in a temple is free from any animal or animal products including eggs or flavoring derived from animal products, no shallots or onions which are flavor enhancers or animal based stocks. Devotees or the general public are welcomed to eat the prepared vegetarian food at the temples on particular days of the celebration which normally is on the first and last day of the festival.

Thailand Vegetarian Food Festival

Thailand Vegetarian Food Festival

The Thai Vegetarian Festival is celebrated with vegetarian cuisine cooked in a variety of Thai and Chinese styles. Some staples of vegetarian dishes are very similar to those found in other parts of South East Asia which also celebrate the festival such as Malaysia, Singapore, Myanmar, Vietnam and Indonesia. Items used in vegetarian cooking is mostly various types of vegetables, soy products such as soy bean curd, soy skin, tofu, a wide range of mushrooms and herbs and spices for flavoring. In Thailand, the use of mushroom products in innovative ways is what makes Thai vegetarian cuisine unique.

Thailand Vegetarian Food Festival

Thailand Vegetarian Food Festival

A usual sight where vegetarian cuisine can be found in a variety of dishes is at the stalls that sell economy rice dishes. Economy rice is where a stall displays a wide variety of mostly home-cooked vegetarian dishes that one can pack either in takeaway packs to eat at home or to eat on the spot if there is sitting space. Sometimes people pack just the dish while others have rice to accompany the dishes. These stalls mostly serve their vegetarian food with Thai brown rice which has a nice aroma and is healthier to consume. There can be anywhere between 20 to 30 different varieties to choose from. It is known as “economy rice” because it is inexpensive and serves mostly the working crowd. A pack of economy rice with two or three varieties only cost around THB30 to THB50 a plate depending where you are.

Thailand Vegetarian Food Festival

Thailand Vegetarian Food Festival

Soy bean products are most popular during this season an special types of soy and a mixture of soy and flour products such as soy cakes, different types of tofu, soy and seaweed fillets, soy skin patties are just some of the products specially made for the season.

The products are used to cook a tasty variety of dishes including braised tofu with fermented bean curd sauce, deep fried tofu skin patties, braised firm tofu with vegetables and more. You won’t be able to get these dishes once the festival is over, so this is the time to indulge in it for the one week celebration.

Thailand Vegetarian Food Festival

Thailand Vegetarian Food Festival

Another favorite vegetarian dish is the fried noodles. A few varieties of noodles are used such as rice vermicelli, yellow noodles and flat rice noodles are the base of the dish. The noodles are then fried with bean sprouts, firm bits of tofu strips or tofu crumbles, garlic leaves and chili. Sometimes a red fermented bean sauce is used which gives it the signature pink color and a distinct flavor.

Side condiments of more fresh vegetables are given to accompany the noodles and some people like to add on a side dish of fried tofu to go with it. Noodles are normally eaten in the morning or as a light meal. A box of noodles with condiments cost around THB30 again depending where you buy it from.

Thailand Vegetarian Food Festival

Thailand Vegetarian Food Festival

There are also many varieties of sweet and savory tofu snacks which sometimes doubles as a dish. A favorite is tofu crackling which is deep fried until crispy and crunchy, then dipped into a mix of soy sauce and molasses, sprinkled with sesame seeds and lightly oven baked. they make a tasty energy snack or eaten with plain brown rice or even fragrant sticky rice. Thai people predominantly like fried foods and sticky rice which makes up a fairly large portion of their diet including favoring a sweet and salty taste to their food.

Thailand Vegetarian Food Festival

Thailand Vegetarian Food Festival

Mushrooms are another big favorite not just during the festival but year round. However certain dishes made with mushrooms are only available during this festival. Thailand grows a large variety of mushrooms including huge Portobelloes, Swiss browns, white buttons and other types of champignon and off course the staples like Inoki, gray and brown oysters, elephant ear lichen, shiitake and Orenji.

No parts of the mushroom is wasted as the stems and caps are sometimes used differently. Some mushroom stems are used to make mushroom essence and the stems are then dried and shredded to be fried with sauce, lemongrass and lime leaves into a dish. Oyster mushrooms are shredded, deep fried and marinated with soy and honey to make a crispy mushroom snack. Mushroom powder is made into a flour paste for making mushroom balls. So the mushroom is one of the most intriguing and innovative plants used in cooking.

Thailand Vegetarian Food Festival

Thailand Vegetarian Food Festival

There are a few types of egg plants used in Thailand in their Thai cuisine. A popular one is the long green egg plant. It is lightly fried with chili paste, fresh chilies, Thai basil and soy bean curd. Sometimes it is thinly sliced and fried with eggs as an omelette. Another variety is the small round and green egg plant which is used in Thai curries such as the green curry. During the Vegetarian Festival the Thai green curry uses no meat but only a variety of vegetables in combination with soy bean curd and tofu. It taste just as good without the meat and something that you should try during the celebration.

Thailand Vegetarian Food Festival

Thailand Vegetarian Food Festival

Thai cooks are very innovative with their use of vegetables and they also like to use a variety of fern shoots and creepers or even flowers in their cooking. The Fiddlehead fern is an edible fern where mostly the young shoots are used. They are very flavorful and crunchy making a nice vegetable dish. Fried with mushroom essence sauce, fresh chili, bits of soy bean curd and a little corn starch to thicken the sauce it turns out to be one of the unique vegetarian dishes during the festival.

Thailand Vegetarian Food Festival

Thailand Vegetarian Food Festival

Young bamboo shoots are also used in Thai cooking even on normal days. It is known as “Noi Mai” in Thai. These young bamboo shoots are harvested, the outer skin with the fur removed (the bamboo fur causes itching to the skin as it is very fine and can embed itself under the skin causing it to itch, hence the difficulty in harvesting the young shoots) and the shoots then boiled in brine water to remove the strong green flavor.

When the bamboo shoot is cooked it is then cut into fine strips and used for cooking the Thai dishes. A favorite dish is “Pad noi mai” which loosely translates to fried bamboo shoots. The bamboo is fried with fresh chili, chili paste, soy sauce, chives or Chinese celery and soy bean curd bits. Bamboo shoots are also used in curries like “Gaeng noi mai” which is a yellow curry.

Thailand Vegetarian Food Festival

Thailand Vegetarian Food Festival

Dumplings made of glutinous rice and wrapped in palm leaves called “bachang” is mostly found during the Moon Cake Festival but also available by selected stalls during the Vegetarian Festival. These dumpling made during a vegetarian celebration contains no meat and are not of the savory variety. Rather the stuffing consist of red bean, green bean or yam paste. Sometimes they make the smaller ones which are plain and the rice pre-soaked in a solution which turns the rice yellow when cooked. This dumpling is eaten with liquid palm sugar or normal brown sugar and has a tasty flavor in that combination.

Thailand Vegetarian Food Festival

Thailand Vegetarian Food Festival

The picture above shows a typical vegetarian economy rice dish. Served with Thai Jasmine brown rice there is fried mushroom stalks with lemongrass and lime leaves, fried whole straw mushrooms with soy sauce and fried Fiddlehead fern shoots with soy bean curd bits. This dish cost only THB40 for a full meal! Remarkably amazingly cheap prices for a full meal during the Vegetarian Festival here in Amazing Thailand.

Thailand Vegetarian Food Festival

Thailand Vegetarian Food Festival

The Thai people love snacking, so what do you do when you are abstaining from meat and longing for your usual fried or grilled meaty snacks? Thai cooks has the answer to your need for chewy, crispy “meaty” snacks that just might fool you to thinking it is made of chicken, pork or fish!

Guess what? They have “meat” balls, “meat” nuggets and even “crab” claws BUT made out of mushroom! The texture and chewiness will outright fool you and all these snacks are available only during the Vegetarian Festival. They are served deep fried, battered and fried or even grilled and accompanied by a tasty chili sauce. One thing is for sure, you will not miss having meat during this time of the year, there are just too many varieties of vegetarian food for you to try.

Most Buddhist Thai take the Vegetarian Festival as a time for making merit by abstaining from meat for the nine days. Others like me, take it as an opportunity to enjoy the abundance of vegetarian food that is only available once a year. You will not believe how varied the types of dishes are available and seriously speaking you will not miss a carnivorous diet and can turn herbivorous for even longer than the nine days if this food is available year round. I have seen some vegetarian food that looks like the real thing from fish fillets to chicken drumsticks and I remember my dad used to say they were falsies, not real food! Falsies or not, they taste just as great cooked Thai style!

Thailand Lopburi

Thailand Lopburi Monkeying around

Thailand Lopburi Monkeying around

Author: Pen Drageon

Discover Thailand with Thailand Discovery

Thailand Lopburi
Thailand Lopburi

Thailand Lopburi Monkeying around in Lopburi,Thailand

Thailand Lopburi. Lopburi is one of 77 provinces in Thailand and one hundred and fifty kilometres northeast of Bangkok city. It takes about a two and a half hour drive to get there. Lopburi is famous for their sunflower farms but another attraction is their many primates that occupy a temple right in the heart of Lopburi town.  The highlight of Lopburi town that draws in thousands of visitors at one time is the famed Monkey Feeding Festival which is held in the month of November on the 28thand 29th each year. Monkeys are given a huge buffet spread generously provided by residents of the town in this annual event. Aside from the monkey feeding buffet are also other event activities like costume shows, parades, games and off course a variety of street food and snacks.

Thailand Lopburi Monkeying around in Lopburi,Thailand

Thailand Lopburi City Dwelling Primates

Monkeys wander around freely in this township of Lopburi. While theMonkey Temple is itself located in the heart of the city on a small hillock, the primates roam around the city and can often be seen in shop lots, on the roads and just about anywhere. The Monkey Temple is also known as Pra Prang Sam Yot temple and was built by the Khmer in the 10th century and very similar in design to the temple ofAngkor Wat in Cambodia.

Thailand Lopburi Monkeying around in Lopburi,Thailand

Thailand Lopburi

These monkeys are very accustomed to human beings and have been known to snatch food, drinks and even cameras or jewellery from visitors. They can also be a little aggressive at times so it is best to keep a distance and do not attempt to hold or feed them close up!  The primates are protected here as they are part of the tourist attraction reasons therefore they are given much priority in this town.

Thailand Lopburi Monkeying around in Lopburi,Thailand

Thailand Lopburi Visiting the Monkey Temple

It is not hard to find this temple as it sits on the knoll of a small hill and is a rustic looking stone temple surrounded by a metal gate/fencing. An entrance is charged to go into this temple. Inside the temple is a shrine and plenty of monkeys lazing around in the alcoves and in corners or around the alters. You can make a merit offering if you like or just have a look around. All around on the grounds and outside of the temple will be plenty of these monkeys in all sizes, big and small. Be a little careful of the baby monkeys for though they may look cute but are aggressive and mother monkey is always nearby keeping an eye! Most visitors will buy food such as lotus seeds, sunflower seeds, bananas, drinks and other goodies for them. These primates are actually expecting to be fed by the visitors who come to this place so do not be surprised if they follow you around but keep a good hold of your things as they might think it is food and snatch it from you.

Thailand Lopburi Monkeying around in Lopburi,ThailandThailand Lopburi

There are huge statues of monkeys outside of the temple and a few golden monkeys. These statues are a tribute to the monkey God, Hanuman and his minions. So it is actually very easy to spot this temple as the statues are the first thing you will see and they are large enough not to be missed.
Thailand Lopburi Monkeying around in Lopburi,ThailandThailand Lopburi Monkey Feeding Festival

Once a year, normally in the month of November around the third week of the month, the city of Lopburi will host a massive buffet for the monkeys in the city. The buffet, courtesy of the people in the city was first performed by a local businessman who wanted to explore tourism in the city and to bring in more tourists to Lopburi. He personally donated a huge spread of fruits and other goodies to start attracting the monkeys for a feast and soon it became an annual event with more than 4000 kg of food laid out to feed the 3000 monkeys in the area. This event draws tourist in by the thousands and other activities are also held along with this monkey feeding festival to make it a colourful and enjoyable event.

Thailand Lopburi Monkeying around in Lopburi,Thailand
Thailand Lopburi buffet

Long tables are spread out with bananas, other fruits, nuts, lotus seeds and other vegetables as well as packet drinks and tinned drinks, all for the benefit of these primates. Have you ever seen a monkey open a can of soft drink or even drink from a plastic bag? Well, you will be surprised how human like they can be. They know how to open a drink can and help themselves to the content or bite a small hole in a corner of a drink pack and sip the contents out without spilling a drop! While it is fun to watch them and sometimes you can see some of the townsfolk feeding them up close, do not however try this yourself as the monkeys do have a habit of climbing on you if they know you have food to feed them. These people are accustomed to the monkeys so they do know how to handle them but a word of caution to visitors to keep a distance and just take your pictures a good way away.

Thailand Lopburi

http://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/lopburi-monkey-festival?source=relatedvideo

You can donate to this festivity by buying food from the vendors for feeding the monkeys or contribute to the cause in donation boxes normally found in the monkey feeding area or at the temple.

Thailand Lopburi

The Significance Of The Monkey

To the Thai people, a monkey symbolizes the GodHanumanfrom stories of theRamayana or known as the Ramakin in Thailand. It was believed that Hanuman and his monkey troops saved a Goddess from the clutches of a demon king through his wiliness and courage. Therefore, monkeys are a revered animal in Thailand and often left alone. The monkeys are also a tourist attraction and often found to be smart and somewhat cute to many people. Though they can also be a nuisance but they are never hurt or killed by the people in the town. Their antics are patiently tolerated and the most would be just that they are reprimanded or shooed of if they get to be too much of a nuisance!

Thailand Lopburi

Thailand Lopburi Monkey in Lopburi
Thailand Lopburi hanuman

Hanuman, theMonkey King is often found in many stories of the Thai culture also as a main performer in Thai puppetryand theKhon classical dances. He is easily identified as a character with a white face and a band of gold around his forehead. Anyone who has read stories of the Chinese Monkey King will also know that the band was placed there by Buddha to control the naughty monkey who was often up to mischief.  The monkeys of Lopburi are symbolic of their namesake King, Hanuman and therefore treated with much respect and loved by the townsfolk.

Lopburi is a town with quite a few attractions all year round but a good time to visit would be in November on the 28th and 29th . Drop by to see the Monkey Feast after a day out at the sunflower fields and watch our closets cousins have a feast in their name!

Photos  and video courtesy of National Geographic and Shutterstock

 

Thailand Blogs

Thailand Blogs The Art of Blogging Part 2

Thailand Blogs The Art of Blogging Part 2

By GPendrageon

Discover Thailand with Thailand Discovery

Thailand Blogs The Art of Blogging

Thailand Blogs The Art of Blogging

Thailand Blogs The Art of Blogging. Now that you have all your pictures ready, you can decide on a format to write your blog. I prefer to use the Microsoft Word Document, while others may use the notepad or type straight into a blog site application. Using the word document application is a lot easier because you can use spell and grammar check, insert hyperlinks or pictures and then later just copy and paste everything to the blog application,

Normally a blog article contains around 300 to 500 words. You can keep track of your word count at the bottom left corner of your word document screen. Start writing your blog by first deciding on a topic or your blog. The topic should match your pictures and overall essence of your story. This would go right at the top of your page.

If you have problems inserting pictures into your blogs then maybe Richard can give you a hand to put it into your article or if you are using a blog site already, all pictures will be resized by the application.

Thailand Blogs The Art of Blogging

Thailand Blogs The Art of Blogging

The Art of Blogging Part 2 – Getting ready to blog

Here are the steps to start writing your blog:

  1. Use a blank Word document and type in your topic at the top of the page. This in turn becomes your document file name when you save the document. Once you have the topic, go to the left top corner of your screen to the tab “File”. Click on it and you have a drop list, select “Save As” to save your file to a convenient location, either on your desktop or in a folder. The document will be saved as the topic you have written. Remember to save your file often by clicking on the floppy disc icon on the upper left corner. Do not rely too much on auto save, sometimes when your PC hangs, you will lose your work!
  2. I like to start my blog with a picture but you may go straight into the first paragraph. In the first paragraph, it is an introduction to what your blog is all about. Keep the language simple but make it interesting. The paragraph need not be long maybe around 120 words or less. Describe in here, your overall delights of the place, situation, item etc. This draws your readers to follow next what you want to tell them.
  3. After the first paragraph, you can place the next picture that yo have sorted previously. Make sure there is a flow to your pictures and the actual location as you do not want your readers to be going back and forth if they really go visit the place! Describe in as much detail about the picture and a little of the surroundings in the picture. Tell your readers what you found so exciting that they must see this.
  4. Continue inserting your desired number of pictures and descriptions in the paragraphs until you are done and at the closing paragraph. It is good at this point to reread your article a few tims and check for errors such as spelling or grammar which appear as a red or blue line under your text. Just right click on your mouse when you come to these and it will have a selection of correct spelling or grammar for you to choose from.
  5. Lastly is the closing paragraph, where you can give the readers a general opinion of the place you have visited and why they should go see it. The closing paragraph is where you make a lasting impression to your article.

Some writers like to write their articles with a tone of humour while others are more serious in their overtones. The body of your articles depends on your personality such as are you a straight forward person or do you like light-hearted humour? So do decide which of these overtones best suit you. At this point, you would have written your first article, congratulations! It gets more fun as you write more and start building your own following of fans. Happy blogging!

Thailand Blogs The Art of Blogging