Archive for the ‘Thailand’ Category

Chiang Mai

Tuesday, October 4th, 2016

The Asia Leadership Team (ALT) had their semi-annual meetings in Chiang Mai, Thailand, the last week of September.  ALT is made up of MCC Reps from Afghanistan, Nepal, India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, and Viet Nam plus the two area director couples.  This time three persons of the US and Canada offices joined. There were 2 ½ days full of meetings, plus another ½ day and other scheduled individual meetings.

The meetings were held in a resort which was beautiful.  We had a half day “field trip” to a botanical gardens.  The two of us also visited the neighborhood Buddhist Temple. The last night together we dined at a restaurant next to the river.

We had a good time visiting with colleagues and enjoying the various trips.  Oh yes, we didn’t take photos but we did visit the night market one night and another night we had a Thai massage.

Exchange Program Preparations

Thursday, July 16th, 2015

MCC has three young adult programs—IVEP, SALT, and YAMEN. IVEP participants are young people traveling TO North America and SALT participants are young people traveling FROM North America. YAMEN are young people, mainly from southern hemisphere countries, traveling to other southern hemisphere countries. YAMEN program is in conjunction with Mennonite World Conference. (We think this has been described before, but this is just to remind you!)

Laos has three IVEP and two YAMEN young people leaving Laos in a couple of weeks—two going to Canada, one going to U.S., one going to Indonesia, and one going to India. This means that we are working on four different visa applications with four different procedures! In addition we have never been involved this way before so the applications and procedures are new to us!

completing forms

completing forms

Last week we worked closely with these young people. (They are dubbed YIVEP in order to make the term shorter.) Four of them were able to come to the office and we spent a morning working through many MCC forms that must be completed. Bee was there to help translate English words to Lao when the YIVEPers didn’t understand. Sally Jo was there to explain the English words when Bee didn’t understand. For example, one “legal” MCC document that needed to be signed, had this phrase: “In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand.” What do you mean “set your hand?” And they looked at their hands.

After completing the forms, they came to our house for lunch which was Lao food served American style. They need to learn that most North Americans pass food around the table and usually eat with a fork only—not spoon and chopsticks.

taxi to train

taxi to train

Sunday evening we, Bee, and the two YIVEP going to Canada went by train to Bangkok. Canada does not have an embassy/consulate yet in Laos and so they needed to do their medical checks with Canadian-approved doctors in Bangkok. Bee went because she is learning the procedures and we both went along to give support and because we needed to renew our own Laos visas.

Bangkok is about 10-11 hour train ride. We reserved 2nd class seats which are made into beds for the night. The coaches were air-conditioned and quite comfortable and some of us were able to sleep. In Bangkok we stayed at the Bangkok Christian Guest House which was clean, comfortable and convenient to transportation and to the hospital to which we needed to go. (We met missionaries there from several places who knew Mennonites via their own work in various countries.)

hospital lobby

hospital lobby

All of us were awed by the hospital. The YIVEPers said it was like a 5-star hotel, and we agreed. The medical exams didn’t take long and we had time to do some exploring of the area. However, it was hot, so we were also happy to stay in our air-conditioned room most of the time! The next morning we went to the Canadian Visa Center so that the YIVEPers will know where it is. They will go there when they get permission from the embassy to have their biometrics (finger prints, photos, etc.) done.

All of this takes time! One day last week we spent nearly an entire day completing the U.S. visa application with the YIVEPer going to the U.S. The web site was slow and we weren’t familiar with it; so it took a lot of time. (It was also not particularly intuitive as to how to return to the application when we stopped to go for lunch and came back again.) This young person will be placed in Elkhart, Indiana, with the Seed-to-Feed program.

Today we spent all afternoon completing the India online application. For the most part, it went O.K. However, at one point we needed the “EFOP id number” of MCC in India! They had sent us a lot of papers but none of them had given this number. What to do? On a previous e-mail we found the telephone number of the India representatives. Ron called via Skype and got the rep travelling in a taxi on the streets of Kolkata! She was able to call her husband who then called us via Skype and provided the number! Fascinating world!

We hoped to go to the Indonesian embassy today to fill out their paper forms. However, they are closed because it is the end of Ramadan, and therefore, a holiday in Indonesia!

Such is life!

SE Asia Travels

Friday, March 6th, 2015

Before we went to SE Asia we needed to look at the map to see where we were going. We also needed to look at a map several times when we were there. This was an area of the world where we did not know our geography. So—-in case you may be in the same boat, this is a map of our travels.

We flew to Hanoi, Vietnam first.  While there we traveled overland to Halong Bay.  We then flew to Phnom Penh, Cambodia via Vientiane, Laos.  While in Phnom Penh we traveled by bus to Siem Reap to visit Angkor Wat.  Next we flew back to Vientiane, Laos to do our MCC work and then flew to Luang Prabang, Laos.  Lastly, we flew to Chiang Mai, Thailand.  (Purple lines are flights and yellow lines are land travel.)

ThailandVietnamLaosandCambodia map

travel map

Mae Ngat Reservoir

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015
from launch

from launch

Mae Ngat Reservoir lies within the Si Lanna National Park about an hour’s drive north of Chiang Mai. There are tributaries, islands, and forested hillsides. We spent our last full day in Chiang Mai relaxing at this beautiful spot with our friends. We rode a small long boat about 10 minutes to a floating platform at the edge of the reservoir. There was swimming, food, and generally peaceful spots available. One could also spend the night here; we would love to come back and do that. (We saw a pig’s head being transported in our boat but did not order pork for lunch!)

Chiang Mai

Monday, March 2nd, 2015
Dan & Jeanne's home

Dan & Jeanne’s home

While in Chiang Mai we stayed with our good friends, Dan and Jeanne who are the MCC Area Directors for SE Asia. The live in a wonderfully comfortable traditional Thai house. It’s a mostly open house which is great for the hot weather we experienced while there.

One day we explored the city of Chiang Mai, founded in the late 13th century. The “old” city is enclosed by a mile square moat and parts of the brick defensive wall. We walked around half the moat and wandered inside the moat also. Suan Buak Haad City Park at the southwest corner of the moat was a very pleasant public space to relax. There are formal gardens arranged around a series of pools and bridges, a children’s play area, an exercise route around the inner walls, and places where refreshments are available. We stopped mid-morning for refreshment.

There are more than 300 Buddhist temples in the Chiang Mai area. We visited only one within the city walls. Phra Singh is one of the famous temples with a famous Buddha statue claimed to have been brought to Chiang Mai from Sri Lanka in the 14th century. The paintings on the walls were especially interesting.

We also visited three museums which helped us understand a bit of the history of Chiang Mai and learn about the Lanna culture of the north. And we are always intrigued by open air markets found through Asia.

We were also able to meet up with MCC workers who we previously had known in Uganda and South Sudan. They were staying in Chiang Mai awaiting their first child. We were able to do some “touristy” things with them and then the day before we left, Lillian Juniper was born. It was fun to be able to share their excitement.

Doi Suthep and Bhubing Palace

Saturday, February 28th, 2015

Our first day in Chiang Mai we visited Doi Suthep – one of the north’s most sacred temples—and Phuping Palace – the royal winter residence. Both are located outside the city about a 45 minute drive.

The temple was established in 1383 under King Keu Naone and enjoys a mystical birth story. A visiting monk instructed the Lanna king to establish a temple with the twin of a miraculous Buddha relic. The relic was mounted on a white elephant, which wandered the mountain until it died at this spot, interpreted as the ‘chosen’ location.

The temple is reached by a 306-step staircase, intended as an act of meditation.
The 1st-floor terrace documents this history of the temple with a shrine to Sudeva, the hermit who lived on the mountain, and a statue of the white elephant who carried the Buddha relic up the mountain. On the 2nd-floor terrace is the picturesque golden chedi that enshrines the relic; it is topped by a five-tiered umbrella in honor of the city’s independence from Burma and its union with Thailand.



Bhubing Palace was built in 1961 to accommodate the royal family during state visits to the north of the country. There is also a guesthouse for receiving foreign dignitaries. It is built in the mountains overlooking Chiang Mai, to take advantage of the cool mountain air. We were not able to see the palace itself because it is closed January-April when the family may be there, but the grounds were beautiful. The flowers were especially bountiful. The large reservoir with fountains has music composed by the king broadcasted across the water. There are three log cabins built of eucalyptus wood among the trees.


Thai Food

Friday, February 27th, 2015

We have included a lot of food photos in our blogs recently. But now we have an entire blog dedicated to food! We are always intrigued by the food we see in the markets we visit and the street foods that we sometimes eat or just pass.

Here in Chiang Mai we attended a morning cooking class at the Siam Rice Thai Cooking School.  We first went to the market where a number of the foods were identified and then were given time to look around and ask questions. At the school (which was held in a home) we were asked to choose a soup, noodle dish, and curry from the menu that we wanted to make and eat. There were six of us with one instructor (Pot). Pot was helpful, fun, and instructive. Even though sometimes there were four different dishes being made he was able to help us each chop the correct ingredient and put it together in correct order.

Ron made Hot and Sour Soup, Drunken Noodles, and Khao Soy (a popular curry here in northern Thailand). Sally Jo made Chicken Coconut Soup, Fried Glass Noodles, and Pumpkin Curry Northern Style. We also made our own curry paste to use in our curry dish. All of the food was delicious!

curry paste ingredients

curry paste ingredients

In this photo are the ingredients to make curry paste.  Starting at the top of the plate and going clockwise — lemon grass, shallots, ginseng, garlic, kaffir lime, galangal, tumeric, coriander stems, and in the center shrimp paste.

We ate at various restaurants — sometimes with our hosts and sometimes by ourselves. First we ate at a Middle Eastern one – took a photo of our “table” but forgot to take one when our food came. It was delicious. We also ate Pad Thai and the famous mango sticky rice, a dessert made with sticky rice, fresh mango slices, and coconut milk drizzled on it. Yum!

We have included a number of photos taken of various foods in the market and at food stalls.