HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Class of 2004 says farewell

Annual Traditions around Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai to Laos and Cambodia overland

Class of 2004 says farewell

CMIS graduation

Marion Vogt
Photos by Gerard Krebs

It was a night which will be remembered by all graduates of 2004 as well as their parents. The night when some seniors were heard calling out, “We made it! Life starts NOW!”

Deborah Anita Lanz gave the salutatorian’s speech which moved many people in the audience. “Believe in God, believe in yourself and come out stronger when a storm hits you.”

Jonnel Uptin, acting MC, opened the evening and after a short address from Supaporn Yanasarn, the director of CMIS, the announcement of the awards of the school valedictorian and salutatorian were made.

Guest speaker Robert Allen Troyer, CMIS English teacher.

The audience fell silent when Deborah Anita Lanz talked about the last two years in her life. Everybody was aware of the students who came from Pakistan and who had survived the nightmare of a terrorist attack, but to hear it from the mouth of a young girl was something else. Deborah said that just two years ago she lived in a peaceful secure bubble. The process all of them went through when the school as a whole was moved from Pakistan to Chiang Mai was very painful, but they survived. She compared it with a ship that gets caught in a storm and you almost give up, but you find the sunrise even more beautiful the next day. Robert Allen Troyer was the Guest speaker and his enlightening humorous, yet thoughtful words were well received by everyone. ‘Making the thing without a name’ was his theme which was in reality “Do what you want to do, and by doing that you do what you really want, and that makes you happy. If you do what makes you happy, you don’t mind working longer hours or seven days a week, because it makes you happy. If you are happy, it makes your family happy.” The students got the message.

Vikki Lee Oppel receiving her diploma from Supaporn Yanasarn, the director of CMIS.

The presentation of flowers to the parents as a Thank You for their dedication was touching, and after Vikki Lee Oppel’s Valedictorian’s speech, the CMIS Senior band’s last performance, the presentation of the Parents and Teachers Group scholarship to Sasimon Boonyavatana, it was time for the presentation of diplomas.

Daniel Rene Taubmann, one of the high achievers who will make his way anywhere. Supaporn Yanasarn, the director of CMIS and Heather Smith, chairman of the Board of Graduates give him that big smile.

Jon (Career Counselor) and Carol Hartmann (School Nurse), together with Supaporn Yanasarn, the director of CMIS and Heather Smith, Chairman of the Board of Graduates gave out the diplomas before all were allowed to throw their mortarboards in the air, officially marking graduation.

Sasimon Boonyavatana was the Parents and Teachers Group Scholarship Award winner.

Supaporn reminded them that she hopes to see them again whenever they are back in Chiang Mai. She spoke from the heart when she looked at every single one of her students and told them how proud she and all the teachers were of their successful students. Reverend William J. Yoder gave the prayer of commissioning and the last words which stayed in everybody’s mind were the ones of director Supaporn, “Trust in the Lord and be good!”

Where will it lead you? The CMIS class of 2004.

Mortarboards were thrown in the air - school’s out for the seniors at CMIS!

Annual Traditions around Chiang Mai

A divine workout and a re-awakening of old customs

Saksit Meesubkwang and Autsadaporn Kamthai

A walk to Doi Suthep was recently the theme for an adventure (CMM Vol 22, page 26), but the annual ceremonial walk was initiated with the establishment of Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep Temple, going back to the reign of Phaya Kue Na in 1317 B.C.

King Kue Na and the Sri Lankan monk Phra Sumon Thera who entered the kingdom to propagate Buddhism, carried the Buddha’s relics on an elephant’s back up to Doi Suthep. They were kept inside a case and a pagoda was built to cover it.

The merit-making ceremony was presided over by Sucharit Nanthamontri, deputy minister of the interior, who lit the candles and incense sticks. (Photo by Nopniwat Krailerg)

For many years, a ceremony is carried out the night before Visakha Bucha day, where the public is invited, together with monks to walk the 13 km up to Doi Suthep and pay respect to those Buddha relics.

This year, despite heavy mist and occasional showers, hundreds of people gathered in front of the gates of Chiang Mai University, and lit their candles, together with Yaowapa Wongsawas, a Chiang Mai MP, exactly at the auspicious time of 7.39 p.m.

(Seated front from left) Dr Chao Duangduen na Chiangmai, Chiang Mai Governor Suwat Tantipat, and Sucharit Nanthamontri, deputy minister of the interior.

It was impressive to watch the crowds, young and old, Thais and foreigners, all joining together. Despite differences in backgrounds and beliefs, you could see the word “Sanuk” floating over the heads of the wanderers like a large cloud.

The Buddhist belief engenders harmony; joining the ceremonial hike in the darkness created more than harmony among the participants as it added Buddhist values to their hearts as well.

One of the beautifully illuminated floats on the way up to Doi Suthep.

The smell of incense sticks mixed with the smell of scented perfumed water made it a little surreal at times. Everybody lent a hand and helped each other as the goal was the same - to arrive at the top of the mountain.

Pilgrims in traditional white outfits join in the ceremony walking up to Doi Kham.

Phra Yarnna Sompho, deputy chief monk of Chiang Mai, said that he was delighted to see such a crowd of people walking up Doi Suthep despite the temptation presented by the stream of red buses.

Everyone arriving on top of the mountain, regardless of nationality, had that “enlightened, happy” look on their faces. It could easily have been mistaken for relief but was probably just the anticipation of the eight hours’ meditation which lay ahead.

Hundreds of ordinary people from in and around Chiang Mai and its villages walked up to Doi Kham.

There was a second walk a couple of days later, when hundreds of people joined in the procession up to Wat Phrathat Doi Kham on the late evening of June 9. Again, there were hundreds of strong-willed people, including Kamnan and village headmen of Tambon Mae Hia local communities, local Mae Hia people, students from Chiang Mai University’s Faculty of Agro-Industry and Wattanothai Payap School.

The night march was done a day in advance of the ceremony of sprinkling water on the Buddha relics at Wat Phrathat Doi Kham, and people carried the water all the way up the hill. This year being brought from three sacred sources, namely Wat Doi Kham Mor, Wat Num Bor Luang and Wat Phrathat Sri Chom Thong.

The graceful procession started at the foot of the Doi Kham hill and along the four km of paved road, lighted candles illuminated the route for the pilgrims dressed in Lanna style.

Tatsanai Buranupakorn, president of Chiang Mai Municipal Council, presided over the ceremony and even participated with the local people. “Four major objectives are our goal,” said Thanawat Yodjai, president of Tambon Mae Hia Administration Organization. “The first is to worship the Lord Buddha as the holy water is carried up to be used for the sprinkling ceremony. Secondly, to create unity in communities by bringing them together. Thirdly to promote exercise and simultaneously reduce pollution from vehicles driving up the mountain. Lastly, such a re-awakening of old traditions helps to promote tourism in the area.

The procession of the offerings carried up the hill.

Novice monks from a number of local temples carried candles.

Chiang Mai to Laos and Cambodia overland

Part II of a travelogue

Reinhard Hohler

We left Veun Kham in Laos on May 26 around 9 a.m. and headed by boat to the immigration border post at Dong Crorlor on the other side of the Mekong River, where the local staff of Christinair Tours Cambodia waited for us. They had come up the Mekong River by a speedboat from Stung Treng, 50 kilometers from the border and the commercial hub into the north-eastern mountains of Cambodia.

The many heads of the naga guarding the old stone bridge of Bantey Kdei.

Immigration formalities took an hour until our visas were cleared without any hidden costs. Bundled into a speedboat to Stung Treng, we passed an overwhelming river landscape with an endless string of forested islands and rapids. After one hour, the flat profile of Khmer fishing houses appeared at the confluence of the Sesan and the Mekong River. Not far away is a third river coming down from the Boloven Plateau in Laos called Sekong.

We landed safely at the busy river port area and climbed the steep bank towards the small river town. It was only a short walk to the popular Sok Sambath Hotel, where rooms are available for USD 5 upwards.

A traditional transport pony seen in May 2004.

It was decided that we continue our survey trip by boat to Kratie on the following day, because Highway 7 leading to Kratie is still under construction and there is not much to see along the way besides jungle and the remnants of a road that was target practice during the Indochina wars.

After a lunch and Angkor Beer, we used the remaining afternoon to explore a pre-Angkorian brick temple on the west bank of the Mekong River. Prasat Boran is the only edifice which has conserved a complete type of two room building. In front of the temple is a shady area where the Shiva bull Nandi is kept.

Nandi the sacred bull of Shiva at Prasat Boran near Stung Treng.

The next day, we used the daily bullet boat from Stung Treng to Kratie. The ticket costs 32,000 riel in local currency (1 USD = 4000 riel) and the overloaded boat left for the 4 hours down river trip around 7.30 a.m.

We arrived in the port of Kratie and had our lunch at the local Mekong Restaurant. Boarding our waiting minibus, we had a short city tour and started for the journey towards Kampong Cham and Phnom Penh, more than 300 kilometers away. Pepper and rubber plantations can be seen all the way.

Pol Pot’s grave is a new tourist attraction in Cambodia.

Arriving in the river town of Kampong Cham, the hometown of strong man Hun Sen, we crossed the new Mekong Bridge and visited the temples of Wat Nokor Bachey and Phnom Pros, Phnom Srei. The last 100 kilometers had endless emerald green rice fields studded with picturesque sugar palms.

The ancient stone bridge of Bantey Kdei near Angkhor.

Finally at 7 p.m. we arrived at the Phnom Penh Restaurant Row just before crossing the Japanese Bridge and had a sumptuous Khmer dinner in one of the better restaurants.

Highly recommended in Phnom Penh are the Thai-managed Juliana Hotel and the low budget Hawaii Hotel in the town center. Next morning we departed on Highway 6 to Kampong Thom and Siem Reap, some 290 kilometers away.

Grilled black spiders, offered by a sales girl in a restaurant at Skon.

We had our lunch in Skon, where one special side dish was grilled black spiders. Further on, the excellent road to Kampong Thom passed the 11th century Khmer sanctuary of Kuhak Nokor which is totally built in laterite and features a Cham style library. There is also the temple mountain of Phnom Santuk.

After leaving Kampong Thom, the road got rougher and there is much grading work to be done. Just before sunset, we passed the “naga” bridge of Banteay Kdei, which is a monumental reminder of the abilities of the Angkor architects. Arriving in Siem Reap around 7 p.m. we had a speedy check in at the newly opened Borei Angkor Hotel, centrally located on Highway 6 near the center of Siem Reap and only a short drive away from the huge Angkor temple complex, a UNESCO

The Anlong Veng market place, near the Thai-Cambodian border. That’s the main road leading through the village.

World heritage site and one of the cultural wonders of the world.

Don’t miss out on the opulent USD 11 p.p. Khmer dinner buffet at the Bayon II Restaurant just opposite the Borei Angkor Hotel.

The next day Philip Set Kao, General Manager of Borei Angkor, showed us around his very hospitable and comfortable property, which has 51 deluxe rooms in the main building. But what would a trip be without seeing Angkor Wat, and the most famous sunset in the whole of Siem Reap.

As there is still no direct flight from Siem Reap to Chiang Mai, I had to return again overland. My first stop was the former stronghold of the bloody Khmer Rouge regime. The 120 kilometers long and dusty stretch of road passes the intriguing Banteay Srei temple and Kulen National Park. Having a local lunch in Srei Noi, I reached the market of Anlong Veng after a 4 hours ride. A staunch motorbike driver brought me from here another 15 kilometers to the Thai-Cambodian border of Sisaket’s Chong Sa-Ngam in the middle of the Dangrek mountain range. Nearby, the grave and house of Pol Pot, are new tourist attractions promoted by the Ministry of Tourism in Phnom Penh.

Back in Anlong Veng, the motorbike driver took me on another dusty road for two hours through degraded jungle west along the Dangrek Mountains to the border town of O’Smach, a recent battleground-turned casino area, opposite the Thai border market of Kap Choeng in Isan’s Surin Province. As O’Smach has just a few seedy guesthouses, I opted for the last minibus ride for 100 baht from the border to Surin and overnighted in the basic Sang Thong Hotel.

Early next morning, I took a local bus for 93 baht via Buriram and Maha Sarakham to Khon Kaen, where I had a meeting at the Sofitel Raja Orchid Hotel, regarding the up-coming international symposium on “The Changing Mekong” on July 27-30, this year. An air-conditioned 12 hour night bus brought me back to Chiang Mai for 307 baht.

For further information, contact GMS Media Travel Consultant Reinhard Hohler by email [email protected]