Category Archives: Asia

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Mongolian Wrestling: From Genghis Khan to Modern Day Mongolia

Seated on a grassy field in the afternoon light, a panel of serious looking judges survey the competitors before them. Half a dozen bare chested men, feet planted squarely on the ground, stretch their muscles and roll their shoulders, some, adjusting their outfits.

And how striking they are! Pink cropped jackets are fastened loosely with string over the men’s stomachs, and below, cling snug blue briefs. Calf-high leather boots and a four sided pointed hat completes the ensemble. To an outsider, it seems oddly incongruous to the men’s broad shouldered and fighter honed bodies. For these are Mongolian wrestlers: practitioners of a set of techniques, thousands of years old known as Bökh, or ‘durability’.

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Nicknamed one of Mongolia’s “three manly sports” (the others being archery and horse racing, san saddle, which girls and women now participate in), wrestling is to Mongolians what soccer is to Brazilians. So much more than just athleticism, wrestling here, embodies the traditions of Mongolian culture as far back as Genghis Khan. The ruthlessly successful 13th century conqueror encouraged his men to stay battle ready through training in what was then, a military sport. Even further back, cave paintings have been discovered in the Bayankhongor region of Southern Mongolia dating from 7000 BC, which depict men grappling in front of crowds.

And while the country is changing at an increasing rate, wrought by a mining boom attracting big international investment, little has changed within Mongolia’s wrestling heritage.

This month, it’s Naadam (‘game’ in English), Mongolia’s annual sporting festival, which celebrates all three traditional endeavours. But it’s wrestling in particular that draws the crowds.

“Wrestlers are the ideal Mongolian men, given our history of being warriors,” explains Lkhagva Erdene, the Executive Producer of Mongol TV, which covers the games every year.

And it takes a lot of work to live up to the expectations of a nation.

“Most wrestlers are in their training camps now. They are forbidden from talking to family or friends during the intense weeks before Naadam, and they will not talk to strangers; it’s bad luck for them.”

The hunt for Mongolia’s top wrestler begins on July 11th, the start of Naadam and Mongolia’s Independence Day. It will be decided over three days.

Preliminary rounds are held on a smaller scale in the countryside, in a provincial stadium or even an open field. The finals are held in the National Sports Stadium of Ulaanbaatar, the capital city.

The countdown has already begun.

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Batbileg Munkhtur trains with national wrestlers from all over the country.

“What’s unique about Mongolian wrestling for me is there are no weight categories and almost unlimited time for the competition.”

Whether skinny, fat, short, tall, young or old, fighters can be paired with each other. Each round is a knockout, with the winner moving forward and the loser being eliminated from the competition.

The rules themselves are very simple: the first man whose back, bum or knee touches the ground, loses. Hitting your opponent, gouging or strangling him is forbidden. Naturally.

“Techniques wise, they can be as sophisticated and elegant as judo.” enthuses Munkhtur.

Grappling holds, leg sweeps, throws and counters can see a man weighing more than 350 lbs lifted cleanly through the air, spiralling over an opponent’s shoulder before being slammed onto the ground.
However, the ceremony begins with a little more grace.

Each wrestler performs a short eagle dance (“devekh”) around the flag of Mongolia, followed by a few slaps on the thighs. Imitating an eagle has it’s origins in shamanism, a form of spirituality still alive in Mongolia despite the spread of Tibetan Buddhism in the 16th century. The symbolism of the fighter’s dance represents power and elegance. The thigh slaps indicate the wrestler is ready.

Then, with hands gripped tightly onto each others arms, the fight begins.

Renown wrestlers, and those who advance to the higher rounds, also have a zasuul, or “fixer”, who acts both as a motivator, and the fighter’s hat holder during his rounds. Whilst there is technically no time limit, one of the zasuul’s roles is to slap the buttocks of his fighter, if he is deemed to be taking too long. Sometimes eliciting a friendly laugh from the crowd, it seems to do the trick.

As the games progress, wrestlers will begin to accumulate titles. The lowest rank awarded is ‘the Falcon of Sum’, and the highest is ‘Giant’. They get longer as fighters win more victories, with additional reverence being added. For example, a ‘Titan’ can become an ‘Invincible Titan’ and even an ‘Invincible Titan to be remembered by all’.

Munkhtur also stresses the importance of tradition.
“Mongolian wrestling is embedded with a lot of cultural aspects.”

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Indeed, the hard and fast of training in the physical techniques of grappling is still coupled with the old legends. Even the wrestling uniform is explained through folklore. The story goes that the reason for the frontless jackets is that there was once a skilled champion who remained unbeatable in many regions. Eventually, the other fighters discovered that their opponent was in fact a woman! Ever since, wrestlers have had to compete bare-chested, to avoid such duplicity occurring again.

Genghis Khan is even said to have had political rivals killed off in bouts.

It seems unthinkable that this remembrance of Mongolia’s past, both real and imagined, will ever change. Yet the balance of ancient and modern in Mongolia is clearly starting to shift. More than a decade-long mineral boom has introduced a taste for Western pleasures to one of the most sparsely populated countries on Earth. Shiny Louis Vuitton and Chanel stores glint invitingly in Ulaanbaatar. Many tour companies now give quotes for their travel packages in $US rather than Mongolian Tugriks. And even for wrestlers, there’s the chance to get a slice of the burgeoning wealth within their country. Becoming a champion can be a gateway into politics aor a lucrative business.
All this goes on every year, largely overlooked by the Western world. Indeed, Americans seem to have largely forgotten the immense Asian nation, nestled between Russia and China. (At 1.6 million km², Mongolia is nearly as large as Alaska). Apart from a brief spike of interest in the 1920’s, when American Paleontologist Roy Chapman Andrews, said to be the real life inspiration for Indiana Jones (fewer hearts being ripped out and more dangerous encounters with bandits and wild beasts) discovered the first dinosaur eggs buried in the Flaming Cliffs of the Gobi Desert. Across America, a dinosaur craze ensued, and Mongolia was put on the map. Briefly.

It’s time to take notice again.

Open to the Western world since 1990, the “Land of Blue Sky” is one of the few places on earth where travellers can still glimpse the lives of true nomadic peoples. It’s so called because there are said to be about 250 sunny days throughout each year.

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Make the most of the clear weather and head out of Ulaanbaatar. US passport holders don’t have to pay for a 90 day tourist visa, which is more than enough time to explore the far corners of the countryside of Mongolia, where the diversity can be extreme. More than just rolling grassy steppes, there are the sand dunes of the Gobi Desert, the permafrost ice valley in Yolyn Am and the thick forests and lakes of Khövsgöl, the “Switzerland of Mongolia.”

Despite all the talk these days of the world getting smaller, that sense does not exist in Mongolia. In a country so large with only 2.8 million inhabitants, you could drive for the better part of a day without seeing a single other soul. With such little light pollution, and hardly any evidence of human construction marring the horizon, the sky became truly vast.

By day, you’ll never have seen a sky stretching out so far. At night, the stars blaze undimmed by any obfuscation.

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For those of you who fancy your chances, the countryside is also the place to try your hand at Mongolian wrestling. Just remember to tell any tour companies back in Ulaanbaatar that you’re interested, whilst asking for package quotes. All participants must be registered in advance.

Yes, sure, there is a lot that’s unique about Mongolia. Throat singing, staying in yurts (called gers) with nomads and shamanism are all big tourist draws. But, unlike those more exotic pursuits, there’s something about close contact competitive fighting that is so much more elemental. Just look at the huge interest in the West in MMA and boxing matches. Somehow, that makes wrestling more relatable.
So what does Munkhtur think will be occupying the thoughts of every Mongolian wrestler right now?
“Rank. Rank is in their minds.”

He explains that a wrestler’s title can only be decided by the hotly contested bouts of Naadam, and not in any other competition. Once earned, they last for life.

And when this year’s games are over, thousands of wrestler’s hopes will spark again. Maybe next year will be theirs.

Maybe next year will connect them to nine thousand years of history, as they simultaneously become a new face of modern Mongolia.

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5 Reasons to Fall In Love With Nepal

kind peopleThe country of Nepal is truly an incredible place in every sense of the word. From the spectacular Himalayan Mountains to the delicious food, Nepal will win your heart. As someone whose heart has been captured by the beauty of Nepal, I would love to share with you a few reasons I believe you will also leave after a trip feeling like Nepal as somehow become a part of you.

The Kind People

I’m not sure if the word “kind” is even great enough of a word to describe the Nepali people. They are gracious, hospitable, genuine, compassionate, fun-loving, forgiving and accepting.  Everything a tourist could ask for, right? After spending ten plus years in Nepal, I really don’t have anything negative to say about the heart of the people. As a whole they are everything you could ask for in a people group. Spend time with them, ask them questions and you will see for yourself the hearts of gold that I am talking about.

The Tasty Food

“Tasty” is a English word that the Nepalis love to use. You will hear it in conversations, see it written on food packaging and even see it on signs above restaurants. When it comes to the food of Nepal, I can honestly say it is some of the best in the world. It is a blend between the exotic food of India and the more traditional food of the Asian hill tribes.

One of the most typical daily meals is called “dahl baht”. The literal translation of this is “rice and lentils”. The lentils go on top of the rice and are served with some type of sautéed and seasoned vegetable. If you are offered a spoon of red paste you may want to politely decline as it will mostly likely be the family’s homemade chili sauce. Don’t expect to eat a lot of meat as meat is a specialty in Nepali culture, saved for memorable occasions. As for dessert, you will most likely be served a variety of delicious fruit.

Nepali food

The Unforgettable View

The gorgeous view of the snow-capped Himalayan mountain range is literally one that will be impossible to forget. In the capital city of Kathmandu, the entire mountain range visibly encircles a large part of the city. You will feel as though we were in a fairy tale. You cannot escape these awesome mountains. No matter where you travel in the city of Kathmandu, you will find yourself gazing at this spectacular series of white mountains reaching up into the crisp, blue sky.

The Romantic Culture

Not only does the snow-capped mountains and delicious food set the scene for romance, but the culture itself does so as well. The women dress in elegant wraps of beautifully designed fabric and the men also love to dress in their dignified traditional wear. Wild flowers fill the side of the nearby hills and almost every home and hotel is dressed with a manicured garden. The Nepali people love to dance, love music, love art and most of all, love to have fun. It is normal to see friends break out in song as they walk down the street or see a grandfather get out his instrument after dinner with the family. It’s a country where you can easily sit back, relax and enjoy the romance of the culture.

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The Adventurous Opportunities 

Whether it is elephant riding, rock climbing, hillside yak riding, mountain hiking, zip lining, white water rafting or climbing to the top of Mount Everest, you will be given endless opportunities to explore the adventurous side of Nepal.  Make sure you don’t stay in Kathmandu the whole time and take the chance of exploring some mountain towns. I can promise that you won’t be disappointed. I will warn you, however, to prepare yourself for a taxi ride into the mountains in the very same way you would prepare yourself for a rollercoaster at a fair!

All this to say Nepal is a stunning country and there will be countless reasons why you won’t want to leave. Take your time, enjoy every moment and make sure to say “Namaste” to everyone!

Steve Halvorson

Jenna Halvorson is an entrepreneur, avid traveler, and the Director of Marketing for Volunteer Card (www.volunteercard.com), a travel insurance provider. While her parents are American, she was born in Nepal and grew up in Nepal, India, and Thailand.

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An Interview with Diana from Save Elephant Foundation

Today we’re kicking off an interview series on OHW that will ask travelers, tech entrepreneurs, social enterprises, and more to share a bit about the work they are doing and why they’re doing it. Oh Hey World believes in not only the transformative power of travel (that’s definitely a focus of ours), but in the positive changes we can create when we connect with like-minded people (that’s the core of the OHW platform). During my travels in Southeast Asia over the years I began to learn more about the plight of the Asian elephant, and conservation efforts in the region. When friend and fellow travel blogger Diana Edelman slowed down her travels and began working for Save Elephant Foundation in Thailand I knew she was just the right person to kick off the interview series. 

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1) Tell me a bit about the work Save Elephant Foundation is doing in Southeast Asia and why it’s needed.

Save Elephant Foundation is working to protect Asian elephants in Thailand and beyond. The foundation, founded by Sangduen “Lek” Chailert, a renowned animal conservationist, not only works to protect the Asian elephant, but also other animals. Elephants in SE Asia are being removed from the wild and the main goal of SEF is to raise awareness about the plight of Asian elephants and how current activities in the tourism industry impact the population of the elephants in the region. Other than the elephants, SEF also works to give people in local communities better lives by providing aid and education — particularly as it relates to elephants mahouts or elephant caretakers who, prior to working with SEF, would have their elephants working.

2) As a traveler yourself, why did you decide to stop traveling and work with the Foundation?

As a traveler, I decided to stop traveling so much and join the Foundation because I believe in what Lek is doing. When I first visited the foundation’s Elephant Nature Park in 2011, I was shocked at how little I knew about animal exploitation and animals working in the tourism industry all over the world. My time as a volunteer there really opened my eyes to the decisions we make as travelers, and the fact that most people who come to this part of the world are not aware that the decisions they make in regards to animal attractions can greatly impact an entire industry and trade. Lek’s unyielding passion and desire to make the world a better place for animals is truly inspiring. Her love knows no bounds and being able to help her raise awareness about her foundation and responsible tourism is a dream fulfilled for me. I’ve always loved to write and do PR, but to be able to use my skills to try to better the world and change people’s ideas of what is responsible tourism … it makes me so happy.

3) What work are you doing at the Foundation right now?

I do the PR and social media for the foundation. I have traveled a bit and done research regarding the human elephant interaction, and also have been a part of two elephant rescues.

4) When I visited the Elephant Nature Park, I noticed visitors could not ride the elephants, which was a new concept for me, can you share the work the Foundation is doing in this regard.

The foundation’s main focus to is to educate tourists and future travelers to this region of how their actions impact the lives of wild and captive Asian elephants. Our hope is that with this information, people will make more informed choices as it relates to the animal activities they choose. The most common mistake people make in SE Asia is not being educated. Ignorance is bliss.

5) How can both short and long-term travelers have the biggest impact in supporting Save Elephant Foundation?

Short and long-term travelers can have the biggest impact by taking what they learn from SEF and their visits to the foundation’s projects and telling others. Education can change the world, and the elephants need people to speak for them.

If you’re keen to connect with Diana on the OHW network, you can follow her check-ins and activity from her OHW profile. Other important links to connect to Save Elephant and Diana include:

Save Elephant on Twitter and Facebook
Diana on Twitter

Shannon O'Donnell

A storyteller and knowledge-seeker captivated by the world. Formally an actress and web-nerd, I left in 2008 to travel solo, volunteer, and hunt down delicious vegetarian eats all over the world. She recently published "The Volunteer Traveler’s Handbook, and her travel stories and photography are recorded on her travel blog, ALittleAdrift.com.

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The Beautiful Temples of Kanchipuram, South India

Temples are located throughout India, and Asia for that matter, but the ones in South India are gigantic and architecturally brilliant. I was born and brought up in India and our favorite family activity during the holidays was to visit one temple after the other, right from a young age. Religious tourism is the popular with most families in India, including mine. When I was young, visiting temples was like a picnic, a family outing. With age, the temple visits have lessened but I have always had a special place for temples in my heart.

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One of the beautiful Hindu temples in Kanchipuram, India

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This specific temple, Ekambareswarar Temple, is particularly beautiful; it is located in a temple town called Kanchipuram, near Chennai, in South India. Ekambareswarar temple was initially constructed in the 7th Century AD and since then it has undergone many modifications and additions and the temple now stands at an impressive 59 meters high.

Kanchipuram, one of the more popular temple towns in India, is called the “Land of 1000 Temples,” and for good reason—the town has been in existence for a very, very long time. In fact, written history of this temple town goes back to at least the 5th Century BC. South Indian temples, unlike their North Indian counterparts, have been relatively lucky because their location down in the south shielded them from the destruction caused by wars and foreign conquests. Hence, there are many ancient temples in this region that have survived—almost completely intact—until today.

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One of the things I love best about the temples in the south are the intricately carved stone sculptures. These beautiful carvings and sculptures can be found on the temple’s towers, the walls, on the pillars, practically everywhere. Even smaller temples in the region have beautiful stone-art inscribed right into the temple structures. One neat thing, if you look closely at the temple towers, many resemble pyramids because pyramids concentrate energy at their base-point (that’s why corpses are kept there in many cultures). Similarly, here in India, the pyramid temple towers concentrate energy at the base and that’s one reason people walking through and around the temple often feel refreshed.

Personally, though I don’t often visit the temples for praying, I do visit them to capture the beautiful sculptures and stone-carvings in my camera. It is unfortunate that many temples in India (including this one) do not allow photography inside, but even with that rule in place, I always end up with some beautiful photos of the outside—if these are the type of sculptures you can see on the outside of these temples you can imagine how many more beautiful ones decorate the inside!

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It takes many years to build a tower like these, and the sculptures inside the Temple were carved over centuries and by many hands. The Ekambareswarar Temple (also called as Ekambaranathar Temple) is one of the most popular temples in Kanchipuram, and I think for good reason. Inside the temple you’ll discover a thousand-pillared hall, a huge temple pond surrounded by long steps, a 2000 year old mango tree bearing four types of mango fruits, and many other beautiful offerings and additions to make the temple a holy and welcoming place.  Also, located right next to the temple (in a 300-year old heritage house) is the Shakuntala Jagannathan Museum of Fine Arts, which is worth visiting while you’re on the temple grounds. And since photography is prohibited inside, you’ll just have to go yourself to see the inside of the gorgeous Ekambareswarar Temple.

As for visiting, foreigners and visitors are very much allowed inside the temple (except a small hall where the main deity is kept). If you visit you should buy and eat the prasadam, food offerings, called Puliodharai, Vadai and Chakkarai pongal. These foods are made from rice and are very tasty— my favorite, so don’t miss!  :)

Photos by Destination8Infinity.

Rajesh

I live in South India, I travel around South India, I blog about South India at Destination Infinity. Forget Taj Mahal, Forget Jaipur Palaces, Forget Delhi/Mumbai. The real gems of India are in the South. Welcome.

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Bangkok’s top 5 off-the-beaten-path attractions

Getting off the tourist trail in Bangkok

Bangkok is one of the world’s biggest, and most bustling cities. It goes by several names, including the official Thai name “Krungthepmahanakhon Amonrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharatratchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amonphimanawatansathit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit” (no joke!). This is the longest city name in the world, or just “Krung Thep Maha Nakhon” for short, translating to City of Angels. Curiously enough, the more westernized name is almost opposite of this, as it is referred to as the “Sin City of Asia” with reference to the busy night life. Being one of the oldest Asian trade cities in dealing with the West, it has had a long term standing accommodating foreigners. This has brought about many popular attractions, and some at high tourist prices!

So what can you do that’s fun, interesting, and not really on the beaten-path? Being such a massive metropolis, there’s hidden gems around every corner in Bangkok. Here’s some of my favourite discoveries:

Forensic Museum

The forensic museum is not your run of the mill museum. This off-the-beaten-path museum is located at Siriaj Hospital, in central Bangkok. This place is crazy… and certainly not for the faint of heart! The Forensic and Pathology Museum takes you through a variety of different exhibits, examining different elements of the CSI related science, and it’s use in Bangkok. The exhibits include coronary studies, head injuries, a Tsunami 2004 exhibit, and even the mummified cadaver of the most infamous serial killer in Thailand. It’s not your run of the mill attraction, but certainly brings with it a heap of information and an inside look at this interesting study.

Thai Barbecue

Perhaps not best to combine this with your day at the Forensic Museum, this is a very popular Thai activity. Similar to a Korean BBQ, the Thai version incorporates a bowl at the bottom of the grill for making a soup with noodles, greens, wontons and of course some drippings from the meat being cooked on the grill above. It’s a do-it-yourself activity, and all you can eat. The typical Thai BBQs run about 120 Thai Baht, and often don’t have time limits dictating your stay. The buffet is immense, with tons of tasty food to try – including salads and desserts! Best if you go with some friends so you have some company to engage with while waiting on your meat to cook to your liking! They can be found all over the city – my personal favourite is Pla Thong located centrally in Bangkok near the Victory Monument sky train station!

Go to the Cinema… in bed

Going to the movies in Thailand may not seem like such a big deal. Sure there’s lots of English choices available, but they’re no different from the movies you can watch back home… except for one detail. A few theater complexes have developed VIP theatres. If you’ve got an extra evening to kill, and you really want to check out that new film your friends back home have been raving about – this is an experience in itself. Often with 3 different seating options, you can choose between the front gallery, where you’ll sit comfortably under the screen in body fitting bean-bag chairs. Moving up a notch going up the sides of the theatre, you will be watching the movie with the comfort of home, in a leather recliner chair – equipped with a blanket for maximum comfort.

And then.. the cream of the crop – Check out the fully reclinable ‘bed’ seats. These ones go up the centre of the theater for the best seating. They have enclosing walls so you and a friend don’t get the distracting sounds from people chatting around you. They also happen to recline almost completely horizontally for the effect of laying in bed. Equipped with pillows and a blanket, this is the ultimate comfort in movie watching.

This is like flying first class, minus the turbulence, and with a giant state of the art screen and surround sound system, to comfortably transport you to a far away land. Oh.. and did I mention they deliver popcorn and drinks directly to your seat? The seating runs about 300-1000 Thai Baht – cheaper than a night out back home, and in much more class and comfort. The Paragon Cineplex in central Bangkok is perhaps the most state of the art if considering this fun option.

Chatuchak Weekend Market

This is about as full on as markets get. At the very end of the sky train and subway lines, it’s easy to get to from nearly every central point in Bangkok. This market is probably the largest of it’s kind that I’ve ever been to. It’s definitely the biggest in Bangkok. It’s so big in fact, there’s maps available showing you the different areas to visit, and how to navigate to them. It’s roughly 4 city blocks in size, and easy to get caught up in and just spend the day browsing! You can get just about anything here – from clothing, to food, to art work, and even pure bred puppies! Once you’ve finished your shopping, or just need a break, there’s a massive park right next to it that you can go and lounge in and examine your loot! You’ll find some of the best prices here, and is a great option for buying souvenirs.

Visit Refugee Prisoners at the Immigration Detention Centre (IDC)

Now this can be a tough one for some people. It doesn’t exactly sound like the beaches and temples vacation you had originally planned on doing, but may be one of the most rewarding off-the-beaten-path experiences in Bangkok. There are countless people who have been imprisoned for overstaying their visas or living here illegally as refugees. They live with very little, and lack some basic necessities, such as vitamins, carbohydrates and hygiene products. There are a few NGOs in Bangkok who, for a very small fee of about $15, take you to visit some of the refugees and bring them these products with your donation. When you get out of your comfort zone and try to help others in need, you quickly learn the benefits of love and adventure that come from changing people’s lives for the better.

Ian Ord

An explorer since birth, Ian has now spent the better half of his life travelling. Spanning all 7 continents, and leaving no stone unturned, he continues to pursue discover new cultures, festivals, foods and all the other riches the world has to offer.

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White Temple - The Main Temple

Chiang Rai’s White Temple: This is a Must-See in Thailand!

The White Temple of Chiang Rai

There is a general ‘tourist trail’ that most people follow when heading to Thailand for the first time. This usually includes a trip to the beaches in the south, pit-stops in Bangkok, and a trip up to one of the northern provinces of Chiang Mai. It is a fair bit less common for people to venture much beyond that, as the city of Chiang Mai holds so many relics and activities already. This being said, for those adventurous enough, a short 3 hour bus ride to the northern most province of Chiang Rai can be well worth the time. Amongst the mountains, rice patties and natural beauty, amidst the ancient history and old cities, there lies another incredible – and bizarre – attraction: The White Temple.

White Temple - The Main Temple

The White Temple

Locally known as Wat Rong Khun, the unconventional temple is a tourist attraction for locals, foreigners, and even monks alike. Though completely different from the usual temples you may see in the north, it is still considered a place of spiritual worship for practicing Buddhists and should be treated as such.

White Temple - Buddha's everywhere

Buddha’s everywhere

Before  arriving to the gates, you can already tell that there’s something truly spectacular about this place! The immense complex of the White Temple is, as the name states, almost entirely white, with small reflective mirrors ornately decorating it.  It’s is a beacon of light to all those within even the slightest bit of an eye-shot away from it, luring them in with it’s beaming glow.

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Guardians of the bridge

This modern temple began it’s construction in 1997. You may say it’s a work in progress, as you can see new structures going up even to this day. With that said, however, there are already a myriad of temples and stupas found on the holy grounds which already completed.

The reason the White Temple is a little ‘different’ from your traditional temples is because it has completely modern elements, which lack in the older temples you may visit. It brings in an unusual contrast of good vs evil. Evil being represented largely in part by sins, modern warfare, and funny enough – Hollywood movies.

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Crossing Over the bridge of Purgatory

With a mixed bag of appearance such as Neo (from the Matrix), Superman, Osama Bin Laden, and even Sponge Bob Squarepants, there is no shortage of recognizable characters in the stories being illustrated. Completely decorated with murals, statues, and even bridges crossing over purgatory, you find yourself becoming part of the journey to enlightenment.

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A place of worship

To anyone thinking of visiting outside the regular tourist trail, this is a highly recommended, and unique, destination to consider. You should give yourself about 3 hours to walk around, and another 30 mins in each direction getting to and from the temple from the city of Chiang Rai’s centre.

Please note: You should dress appropriately while visiting the White Temple. Although it’s bizarre, it is still a place of worship, and should be treated as such.

Ian Ord

An explorer since birth, Ian has now spent the better half of his life travelling. Spanning all 7 continents, and leaving no stone unturned, he continues to pursue discover new cultures, festivals, foods and all the other riches the world has to offer.

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Chiang Mai - Buddhist Ceremony

Chiang Mai – A welcoming Oasis filled with wonder and intrigue

Chiang Mai, Thailand – At a first glance

There’s only a few places on Earth which can create such an immediate feeling of coming home again on your first visit, as Chiang Mai can. A large, yet peaceful city of just over 1 million inhabitants, Chiang Mai is situated in the hills of Northern Thailand. It’s picturesque backdrop of rolling mountains and lush green jungle, is complimented by it’s ancient history, which is still visible around nearly every turn! With an endless supply of activities  delicious food, and smiling locals, it’s no wonder so many expats choose to live here – some short term, others, indefinitely.

I remember when I first arrived to Chiang Mai, I was first taken by it’s awesome location. High in the hills, it sits very close to the Burmese border. This has given it a rich history of both cultural mixing, and invasions. A notable feature is the incredibly large moat and old city walls which still protect the old city’s centre. You are immediately inundated with historical features, which bring light to the magic of a city of such long standings.

In addition to Chiang Mai’s rich history, it is also one of the most spiritual cities, with ornate Thai Buddhist temples hiding at almost every turn! I spent countless days wandering the winding old streets, and exploring the shoeless temples at almost every chance I got. Not only can you explore these beautiful temples, you are often welcomed into the ceremonies and services being conducted within them, as long as you keep a respectful air about you while there.

The food is really one of the biggest highlights for me, being a long time foodie! Not only do they have one of the best, (and CHEAPEST) selections of street food I’ve seen in all of Thailand, there’s a seemingly endless variety of choice for foreign foods as well! From Mexican, to French, to Italian cuisine, they seem to have a knack for doing an exceptional job no matter what food is being prepared. You will also find Thai dishes which are more exclusive to the North. My favourites being Massaman – a peanut-beef curry, and Kow Soy – a crunchy noodle curry.

For anyone looking for somewhere to have a quick visit, or even to settle down and try a new, longer-term adventure, I would recommend putting Chiang Mai high on your bucket-wish-list. It truly has a welcoming charm, giving anyone who visits a sense of finding a home and comfort.

Ian Ord

An explorer since birth, Ian has now spent the better half of his life travelling. Spanning all 7 continents, and leaving no stone unturned, he continues to pursue discover new cultures, festivals, foods and all the other riches the world has to offer.

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Elephant at the Elephant Nature Park Chiang Mai

Elephant at Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai

Drew Meyers

Drew Meyers is the co-founder of Horizon & Oh Hey World. He worked for Zillow from September of 2005 to January of 2010 on the marketing team managing Zillow’s API program and various online partnerships. Founder of Geek Estate Blog, a multi-author blog focused on real estate technology for real estate professionals, and myKRO.org, a blog devoted to exploring the world of microfinance. As passionate as you get about travel.

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Koh Phi Phi

Overlooking Koh Phi Phi

Drew Meyers

Drew Meyers is the co-founder of Horizon & Oh Hey World. He worked for Zillow from September of 2005 to January of 2010 on the marketing team managing Zillow’s API program and various online partnerships. Founder of Geek Estate Blog, a multi-author blog focused on real estate technology for real estate professionals, and myKRO.org, a blog devoted to exploring the world of microfinance. As passionate as you get about travel.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
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