Archive for the ‘Thailand’ Category

Chiang Mai (2)

Sunday, March 1st, 2020

Saturday morning was spent at Seven Fountains Jesuit Spirituality Center for a silent retreat.  One of the Fathers introduced us to the practice of meditation and explained the various areas around the center.  We then spent 2 ½ hours in silence and our own thoughts.  There was a labyrinth, several chapels, open gardens with birds chirping, water.  It was a welcomed time by all of us.  We ended our time there with a silent lunch.

We were then thrust out into the “real/loud” world!  We went to Wat Umong built in 1297.  It is famous for its tunnels and large stupa.  The tunnels have many Buddhist images in carved nooks of the walls.  There also are larger statues.  The “naga” represents rebirth, death, and mortality. There is an area of broken statues. There are “talking trees” which have words of wisdom in Thai and English.  These proverbs hang from trees on footpaths leading to the small lake where we fed the fish and saw many pigeons and turtles.

We were joined in our afternoon activities by Min, the administrative assistant for the MCC office, and the Area Directors for Southeastern Asia.  We went to a craft market for a cold Thai milk tea and for shopping.

In the evening we went to the Night Market, stopping on the way to see a championship game of Sepak Takraw, or kick volleyball. a sport native to southeast asia. A rattan ball is used and players are only allowed to use their feet, knee, chest and head to touch the ball. It also happened to be the night for a gay pride parade in Chiang Mai.

Sunday we had a short worship and sharing time in the morning followed by a relaxing afternoon.  We all went out for one last meal of khao soi gai – and it was the best!  Also cold Thai milk tea was refreshing. We began our travels back to Chuncheon, leaving Chiang Mai at 11 p.m. and arriving at our apartment 1 p.m. the next day! Because of coronavirus and because our travels included being in close proximity with many people (planes and buses), the MCC team has chosen to work from home for two weeks.

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Friday, February 28th, 2020

MCC NEA Retreat

The NEA (Northeast Asia) MCC Retreat was scheduled in Chiang Mai last fall before we arrived in Korea.  The office wanted it during February when MCC work is slower and Chuncheon is grey and cold. They asked to go to some place sunny and warm.  This happened.  We left and returned to Chuncheon with temps in the 30s and 40s and spent the retreat in temps of 80s and 90s!  What was not predicted was the outbreak of the Coronavirus.  Two members of our MCC team were not able to go with us.  (One had medical issues and the doctor said she could not risk the possibility and the other had a sick mother and did not want to take any risks.)  We missed them.

It seemed like a lot of travelling but once we got there, we could relax.  From Chuncheon we took a 2-hour bus ride to airport, 6-hour air flight, 2-hour layover in Bangkok, 1-hour air flight to Chiang Mai, and finally a 30-minute car ride to Juniper Tree, a retreat center where we stayed.  We, personally, had previously been here for a meeting three years before.  It is a lovely spot of shade, and relaxing conditions.  See for more photos from that visit in 2016.  And we also visited Chiang Mai in 2015:

After a rest, we visited the MCC office.  The Area Directors for both Central & NEA Asia program and the Southeast Asia program live in Chiang Mai and have a joint office.  Our directors live next to the office and we had a nice welcome supper with them.  Khao Soi Gai was served and became a favorite of all of us.  We had it four times during our time.  Khao Soi Gai is a classic Northern Thailand speciality – a creamy soup of braised chicken in a coconut-y curry broth with boiled and fried noodles.  We ended with another favorite – mango sticky rice. Fresh mango with sticky rice and sweet coconut milk and salt over.  Yum!

The next morning we had a “working” session followed by a fun afternoon.  We went to Taweechol Botanical Gardens.  It is a beautiful area with orchids, ferns, anthurium, palm trees, man-made waterfalls, and topiaries crafted into many shapes (dinosaurs, giraffe, camels, birds, elephant, etc.).  We rented bikes and rode around for about 2 hours. 

We then went to Sankampaeng Hot Springs.  Two of our team went swimming and the rest of us dangled our feet in the hot stream.  We boiled eggs in the hot springs and ate them with soy sauce.  Quite good.  We ended with a nice supper of Khao Soi Gai.

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.