Our trip to Thailand took place from December 8th through the 15th, right before winter break. The purpose of the trip was to meet missionaries from different agencies directly where they work so they could share some of their experience and their needs. We also had the chance to do some tourist activities and were able to learn a lot about Buddhism.
Here’s some of what happened:
We left Jeju to go to Seoul, where we had a flight for Bankok at 4:30. The flight lasted 5h45 and we landed in Bankok at 8:15 local time.
Day 2 Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai's Night Market is so gigantic, it's impossible to see everything in only one night (fortunately we got to go for 3 evenings). It’s a maze of vendors, each twist and turn filled with live music, bargaining shouts, and a fresh assortment of Thai pants. There was a little traditional dance show, and we had fish nibble off dead skin from our feet.
After lunch, we went to the "sticky waterfalls" in a park in the middle of the jungle. It was really fun to be able to cool off in the water, but above all to climb the waterfalls. Basically, the sludge deposits accumulated over the years to form a kind of rock which is not slippery at all. Thus, it is possible to climb into the water without slipping.
For dinner we met Nhuvan and Kerry, two missionaries working for Global Recording Network. This agency focuses mainly on recording in local languages the gospel message to make it accessible to communities that do not even have a written language. It may take 8 years before the message is fully translated and ready to be shared. They go to the tribes with a small electronic Walkman-type speaker that is rechargeable wind-up mechanically, to spread the message to members of these isolated communities.
We began the day with a visit to an elephant sanctuary. We were able to take pictures with the elephants, see them bathing in the river, watch them paint canvas, play soccer, and do different tricks with their trunks. Then we had a ride on an elephant in a jungle trail that led us to a traditional village. The Thai government has taken various tribes and placed them in this village for tourists to have a glimpse of the different ethnic groups of the country. The atmosphere is a bit strange, because it's both fascinating and a bit disturbing since these people are not really in their natural environment, although they really live there. They spend their days just sitting in front of their house and sell handicrafts to tourists who take pictures of them ... Really weird. It is also there that we could see giraffe (or long neck) women, which added to the surreal feel of the place.
After lunch, we went to a seminar of Buddhist monks to listen to a presentation of Buddhism by a monk, and to ask him questions. I learned Nirvana is simply a state of complete ceasing of suffering, where one becomes one with the universe, like a drop of water falling into the ocean. A person does not exist anymore. And to exit the cycle of reincarnation (to avoid constantly relive and re-suffer), one must reach the status of male first, and ultimately being a monk. The monk's life is very restrictive. Buddhism is not concerned with issues such as the origin of the universe or why life exists.
Each person has its own story, each has its own beliefs. There is only 0.5% of the population that claims to be Christian. Thailand is the country with the highest proportion of Buddhists. It is a paradise for young men in Asia who wish to become monks. Yet it is clear that despite their devotion to meditate and follow the Buddha Way, there are profound questions that remain about the meaning of life and the value of a human. I wish I could show them that only Jesus can really give them the peace they are looking for and a joy to live, no matter the circumstances. How I wish they could understand the power of a God-centered life, to serve him, to give him all the glory. Who knows, maybe I'll come back to this country in the future...
We went for breakfast at Zion Cafe, a business in downtown Chiang Mai managed by a Thai woman with a pretty amazing story. They go to bars every night to befriend the girls working at these places. Just the fact that they show real interest for them is already special enough for these women who are usually treated as objects. They often invite them to enjoy a coffee at Zion Cafe. During the conversation, they often come to ask them how they find their "job" and if they are interested to come out of this environment. The coffee shop can hire them to enable them to regain control over their life. The cafe also has a hostel, creating more employment opportunities. It is a ministry that is able to support itself. What a great idea! Three girls in our group were able to join their team for three nights, and they were all very touched by the stories of these prostitutes and amazed to see that some of them are able to get out of this environment, thanks to this little cafe place.
Sunday morning, we attended a small Thai church in the center of Bangkok. The pastor and his wife have created a project to help families across the country, providing a telephone number to give assistance in case of family crises. They are also commissioned by the government to tour high schools to teach about sexual purity and abstinence. Let's just say they do not have time to get bored. It was really nice to see all the devotion and passion of this pastor to his community and his country. We had the remaining of the day to rest, do laundry and enjoy the pool.
On Monday, we went to help clean a Thai church and decorate for Christmas. I helped clean up an inflatable pool that was to serve the next week for a baptism, and I cut banana trees growing on the side of the church. We had a really good time to share our dinner with the young adults of the church who were there to help. The Thais are really nice and very helpful.
Finally, we were treated to a spectacular dinner at the top of the highest skyscraper in Bangkok, the Baiyoke Sky Hotel. The restaurant has a 360 ° view of the entire city, and the buffet is so good and varied that it is impossible to taste everything in one evening. A platform is accessible at the top. Two of my friends and I decided to get off the tower by taking the stairs instead of taking the elevator. We descended from the 85th floor down to the 15th, where strangely the emergency exit ended. We had no choice but to get out of the stairwell, and we found ourselves to be in a space for employees, where all the safety cameras are... the employees looked at us very strangely. An employee escorted us to a service elevator to reach the main lobby on the 18th floor, where we were to take one last elevator down to the bottom. We found that in case of fire, it must be really weird if the emergency exit system does not go outside directly ... Anyway, it was still quite funny to see. Our flight was at 2:00 am, so we had to go to the airport in the evening. I had time to have a Thai massage before leaving. It is really peculiar, because the massage is taking place on a mattress on the floor, without oil (so it's only pressure points) and the massage therapist uses his arms as his legs - $5 for a 1-hour massage.
An ex-rebel that is now a Child of God. Humiliated and forgiven. Struggling to remember that identity through the different stages of life. Impatiently waiting to be with my true family. Pursuer of the Hebrew and Greek languages. Dreaming of living France (but wherever God wants me) and owning a Savannah (basically a giant cat that's closer to a dog size-wise). Collector of all things orange.