NPS Gr 8 – Chiang Mai

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“Chiang Mai is a city of magnificent diversity, mouth-watering food and friendly locals. The northern city in Thailand has dazzled us during our trip. Two of the main attractions were the Night Bazaar and the Wat Phrathat Dou Suteph Temple. The temple is an awe inspiring marker of history, of significance to Buddhists from around the globe. Built 630 years ago it is a monument to Lord Buddha. Running across the walls are colourful and vibrant murals depicting Buddha’s various stages of enlightenment. Intricate teak wood sculptures flank marble lanes bustling with tourists and devoted Buddhists. These sculptures portray Buddha’s story, a long epic of magnificent proportion. They are flanked by stone sculptures of fish-guardians called ‘moms’, which diligently guard the monks. The golden domed pagodas even glisten under the sweltering yet pleasant sun. This paradise is found three hundred steps from the base. It was well worth the trip!” – Neha & Anshu

“On the second day in Chiang Mai we were put in the shoes of the Thai builders and helped with the construction of a local playground. It was my first time doing community service in a foreign country and I was happy to play a role in providing better facilities for local residents. ‘Mix, mix, mix!’ These were the words set in our minds like concrete as we toiled under the blazing sun in the afternoon. Beads of sweat dripped down my forehead as I collected several buckets of gravel to combine with water and cement for making concrete. We were instructed to mix six buckets of water, eight buckets of gravel and four buckets of cement to produce one big tub of concrete. Ten tubs were needed in total to fill the empty space. Gathering the sand with shovels and continuously churning the mixture with a hoe gave us all a major muscle workout. At the end, after 3 hours of hard work in the scorching heat, we managed to complete our task. However, unfortunately right after we were done I was horrified to see a footprint on the wet cement surface. Everyone denied stepping on it but the was concrete evidence!”

Beads of sweat trickled down our backs as we made our way through the fields. Like ants we scrambled across the river streams in perfectly straight lines. Even the bright sun shining on our faces and the heavy bags on our backs were not enough to weigh our excitement down. Finally we reached the base camp of the mountain where our instructors handed out helmets and headlights in preparation for our caving expedition. Dodging trees, bushes and spider webs we trekked up the steep path. Now and then we would scream ‘red light’ as a signal for our troop to stop and pour cool refreshing water down our dry throats. Every step that we took involved some forethought as one wrong move could get us tumbling into a hospital bed. at the peak of the mountain we rested on logs of fallen trees, taking in the beautiful scenery. On the descent we took a diversion from the path ad landed at the majestic mouth of the cave. After a briefing from our instructors we geared up, turned on our headlights and entered the cave. The journey through the dark cave lasted over an hour and throughout the journey we encountered large huntsman spiders, crickets and bats. These innocent creatures might have been blind but our scared screeches would have definitely made them deaf as well. As we proceeded deeper into the living cave we observed several rock formations like curtains, popcorn, stalactites and stalagmites. We also learnt a great deal about the local myths and stories about the formation of the cave. According to the locals the cave was formed when a monk gained enlightenment and turned into a snake or ‘naga’ that burrowed its way through the mountain resulting in the formation of the cave this story was supported by the scale like patterns carved into the walls of the cave. One of the highlights of this experience was sitting in complete silence in the dark depths of the cave with all lights off. This experience was surprisingly calming and rejuvenating. There were two exits to the cave, the dry one and a wet one. We we listened to our adventurous souls and crawled our way through the wet exit. Under huge boulders, knee deep in water we followed the stream out of the cave into the much missed daylight! – Sahana Prabhu

My rafting experience was amazing. It was a lot of fun and it was something I have never done before. We rafted along the Maetong river for two days from Wild Long Bua to a remote village named Pakalam. From the village we rafted further down towards Chiang Mai. The total rafting journey was 30km long and took us nearly 14 hours to complete. The two day rafting journey allowed us to explore the wildlife in the area and learn more things about nature. Each raft had 4-5 people and a captain who directed us throughout the journey. We encountered many rapids along the way and had to choose our paths carefully so that we wouldn’t get stuck. For me, falling down was the nest part of the experience. There were many shallow areas where we couldn’t paddle through so we had to jump out and walk. During that time slippimng and falling was very frequent and there were many trees along the sides of the river which were home to many spiders. If we didn’t avoid the trees then the spiders would jump in and everyone would be scared of it. Every team was competitive during the journey and tried to over-take each other. Even though it was extremely exhausting and tiring after several hours of rafting, we all enjoyed and made the most of it as it was an opportunity that we won’t get again soon!”

“After six hours of rafting we arrived at our destination. Soaked from head to toe we cuddled around the bonfire while our bags were unloaded and then we made our way to the beautiful longhouses. We were in awe of the humble lifestyle of the local people living in this village without electricity. After getting warmed up by the bonfire we went to find a spot in the longhouse. There were beds neatly arranged for us with blankets and pillows. We freshened up to cook dinner at 6:30pm because we had to cook it before the sun went down. My team ‘Taco Tuesday’ (circle of life!) were cooking the most exquisite red pasta and white spaghetti. It was so good that there was hardly a morsel of food left. We cleaned up later and headed to bed. We were woken up by the roosters and realised that we were freezing and shivering so much that we had to go out of the house with our blankets. We brushed, changed and were ready to cook breakfast. Foe breakfast we had scrambled eggs, baked beans, corn flakes and toast. Everyone enjoyed thoroughly and was scraping the last pieces of food in the dishes. Staying at Pakalam Village was an incredible experience overall”.

“Chiang Mai! Where do we even begin with this bustling city? The mornings are quite pleasant with tropical climate while during the night the streets are packed with a dazzling array of neon lights in each corner filled with colourful souvenirs. Before our departure we managed to visit the famous temple, Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, known for their golden domes glistening against the soft sun rays. The temple is filled with various murals, statues and inscriptions about the Buddha’s life. We were fortunate enough to witness the magnificent views from the mountain and even catch a glimpse of the monks while basking in this serene atmosphere, Truly a sight not to forget. We even got a chance to learn about our own prophesies!”

The NPS Gr 8 students were an amazing group to take on this trip to Chiang Mai. They proved themselves to be energetic, intelligent and polite and it was my pleasure to get to know them. – Matthew, Little Planet


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