The ‘Wats’ of Chiang Mai – tread lightly on your dreams.

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There are over 200 temples or ‘Wats’ in and around Chiang Mai to experience and I have never taken my boots off so many times during the space of five hours. Note to all of you, if you ever visit here, wear trainers or sandals! Idiot that I am, I wear my lace up boots, but I tell you now, every time I have to untie my laces it is utterly worth it.

Many of the Wats date back to when the city was originally founded in 1296. The intricate carving and stunning hand painted murals inside them are works of art in the highest order, they are absolute treasures. Since Chiang Mai was founded over 700 years ago, successive kings left their own mark on the city by building everlasting Temples. That so many Temples have survived is testament to both the skills of the original builders and the dedication of the many local villagers that followed, and maintained them for future generations. The Wats today still form an important part in the lives of the Thai people and are in use daily.

I feel humbled today and in awe of what I am seeing. I can’t believe that these have been in the world, in this tiny little city, and I have never seen them. They should be seen by everyone! I find myself wandering in and out of every compound, not wanting to miss any of the intricate statues, monuments, or beautiful gardens that each possess. These places are breathtaking. Each one exudes peace. Once inside, it is always tranquil and silent and whilst not a Buddhist, I am drawn into the energy. It is truly welcoming in a simple, perfect way. It enlightens me to feel open, positive, and loved, not in terms of family and friends, but simply the intense feeling that the universe loves you. I can’t recall having this feeling before. I find myself sitting at the foot of a humungous gold Buddha statue, legs crossed, reaching out to light a stick of incense and a candle.

For the first time in my life, I am alone in my own untrained form of meditation and peace, but I do not feel alone, nor lonely. After what seems like the correct time, (I wait for both the incense and candle to burn out), I somewhat reluctantly stand up but don’t wish to lose this incredible feeling of oneness. Stretching my sore legs, I turn to walk away only to see that a young monk is walking towards me. Unsure whether to speak and break the silence he nods to me and suggests we sit, so we do.

The man does not look directly at me, he seems lost within his own meditative state. His orange robe may be vibrant but he had a way about him which is simple, a tranquil sort of self-confidence which in itself conveys simplicity and beauty.
“Where are you from?” he asks, his voice gentle and quiet.

I feel silly even speaking to him and I am not certain why. “London, originally,” I tell him.
He nods knowingly. “A-ha.”

Then silence… a long one! It clearly doesn’t bother him in the slightest, but I am not used to it and anyway I want to know what he means by ‘A-ha!’ I watch him from the corner of my eye and feel somewhat jealous that he can sit here so obviously comfortable, while I feel so awkward.

So we sit…and sit… I wait to see if he will say anything further. As it goes on, I begin to feel more and more at ease with the silence, nothing is expected of me and that is nice. I began to enjoy sitting with this Monk below the statue of the Crystal Buddha in the Wat.

“You want to ask question?” he suddenly states gently. His intuition is spot on and I have many. It is like there is a journalist in my head scrambling through the thousands of questions I have jumping to the forefront of my mind, but he really did not need to answer with words. His self-confident grin and clear warmth and love for his fellow human being shines as a beacon answer, however I feel the need to ask something.

“What is happiness for you?”

He lifts his head and looks around him, and a smile grows on his face. I get it!

“So, I guess you don’t miss sex. Surely, that is difficult?”

He looks around again and smiles, and I get it.

“So, um, what did you do today?”

He pointed at a bench where there are sheets and an orange robe draped to the side. “I sleep, I meditate, but now, I need to eat and I go to toilet.”

The simplicity!

He stands and bows his head towards me. I bow back trying not to feel silly and he floats away. I can’t believe I just asked a monk about sex! This, for me however, is one of the most spiritual experiences I have ever encountered.