HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Buddhist Lent begins next week

Sri Suphan temple, the world’s first silver temple

Beautiful Chiang Mai Skål Thailand’s most Northern outpost

Buddhist Lent begins next week

July 10 & 11

This year, the Buddhist holy days of Asalaha Bucha and Khao Pansaa fall on July 10 and 11. Both are recognized public holidays, and therefore banks and most businesses will be closed. It is also against the rules to sell alcoholic beverages during the beginning of Buddhist Lent. Many activities are planned throughout the city, especially at our temples, and everyone is invited to take part.
Asalaha Bucha Day (July 10)
The Buddhist Holy Day of Asalaha Bucha falls on the 15th night (15 kham) of the full moon during the eighth month of the Buddhist Lunar calendar, this year equating to Monday, July 10. “Asalaha Bucha” means paying homage and worshiping on the day identified according to the Lunar calendar during the eighth month, Ahsala being the name of the eighth month in the Pali language.
Asalaha Bucha Day is worshipped because of three important events occurring on the day. Called the “Triple Gem” (the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha), these commemorate the first sermon given by the Buddha, called the “Dharmachakapavattama Sutta” concerning the “Four Noble Truths” presented to the Buddha’s first five disciples. The sermon set in motion the “Wheel of Dharma”, which is the meaning of “Dharmachaka”.
The sermon concluded that: 1. All things are a source of suffering from the constant cycle of birth, disease, old age and death. 2. Desire or the inability to obtain what one desires is the cause of suffering resulting from cause and effect. 3. Freedom from suffering can be obtained after the complete cessation of desire. 4. The last of the Four Noble Truths is the “Middle Way”, or the path between extremes of asceticism and indulgence leading to the eliminating of desire. The Eight-Fold Path consists of possessing the correct: Views, Resolve, Speech, Conduct, Livelihood, Effort, Mindfulness, and Meditation (or Concentration).
Secondly, the day is considered to be the birth of Buddhism, as the Buddha departed the location where he obtained his enlightenment two months earlier and then, coming to a forest area in the city of Pharansi, he showed favour to five ascetics who became his followers.
The third of the Triple Gems is the Sangha. On this same day, the first person listened to the Buddha’s sermon, realising the truths contained therein and becoming the first Buddhist monk. This created the Buddhist order “Sangha” and the day is known as “Sangha Day” as well as Ahsala Bucha Day.
The Thai government established the observance of Asalaha Bucha Day in 1958. Buddhist temples throughout the Kingdom arrange ceremonies venerating the important historic events in the past. Devout Buddhists participate in the ceremonies by presenting offerings to monks, listening to sermons and performing ritual prayers.
The entire day is revered and certain precepts are adhered to by the more devout Buddhist, and by those who have the inclination and opportunity to do so. The Wientian ritual ceremony is performed in the evening as many go to nearby temples bringing candles, flowers and joss sticks, completing three trips walking around the temple area sacred grounds.

With candles and joss sticks lit, many recite prayers during Buddhist Lent in Pattaya. The Buddhist holy days of Asalaha Bucha and Khao Pansaa will be celebrated throughout the country on July 10 and 11.

“Khao Pansaa”
(July 11)
The day following the start of Buddhist Lent (Asalaha Bucha Day) another important Buddhist Holy day begins in Thailand with the custom called Khao Pansaa. This day falls on the first full moon (1 kham) of the Buddhist Lunar calendar during the eighth month of every year, which this year equates to July 11, and ends on the 15th full moon (15 kham) of the 11th month of the Buddhist calendar, usually in mid-October. During a leap ear it is identified during the second eighth month.
The term “Khao Pansaa” can also translate to entering the months of the rainy season when monks return to the temple for the duration of the rains, usually to the temple where they were ordained. They stay there for approximately three months. The monks are not supposed to depart the temple, or stay overnight at any other location during the months of rain. Although the rainy season is considered to be longer than three months, lasting up to four or even more, monks are only required to remain at the temples for three of the four months. During the last period of the rainy season they can then go elsewhere when the “Katin” ceremony is performed presenting robes to the temples.
Initially, monks were discouraged from travelling during the rainy season because of the idea that it was inappropriate to walk about during the rainy season when many small living creatures were about, which could be accidentally stepped on. This included the rice crops. Inclement weather also made it difficult to get out and about. Therefore, it was established long ago that the monks would remain in temples during the rains for three months, discussing and studying Buddhist scriptures, following Buddhist disciplines, meditating and performing ritual ceremonies.
The custom of Khao Pansaa has continued on to this day with three classes of ceremonies, a Royal ceremony conducted by HM the King of Thailand, ritual ceremonies for devout followers of Buddhism throughout the Kingdom and ceremonies performed by monks in the temples.
The Royal ceremony is similar to the ceremony performed by the general public, but more elaborate. HM the King and members of the Royal Family perform ritual ceremonies to pay homage to Buddhism, and present Khao Pansaa candles and traditional garments to Buddhist monks. The Royal Family also donates many other items used in these ceremonies.
Other followers of Buddhism all over Thailand will attend temples in the morning, bringing food, necessity items, money, the traditional candles, garments and ceremonial items for the monks, with flowers and candles in hand.
For those people having devout faith they may refrain from the recognised eight offences for the duration of the three month rainy season just as monks do, while others may give up a single vice, with yet others recognising 5-8 offences for the day.
The ceremonies performed by monks in temples revolve around rituals accepting new monks, who take vows for periods up to the three months, with some staying even longer. Senior monks at each monastery perform other ceremonies leading followers in worship and prayer.
The two main items presented to monks during Khao Pansaa are the candles and garments worn by monks, specifically the bathing robe. The candles were essential in former times and needed for ceremonies, studying scriptures and performing various other functions. The candle offering has developed into a custom still followed.
The presentation of garments worn by monks is said to have originated from methods of bathing in former times, commonly done in community areas using streams, rivers, ponds and other sources of water, with monks requiring a bathing robe. The garments worn by monks continued to develop until the custom included presenting the entire arrangement worn by monks.
Many people take time away from their work on Khao Pansaa to recognise the importance of the Buddhist Holy Day. Everyone is invited to participate in the temple ceremonies and to refrain from offensive behaviour for the day, and to make the same effort thereafter.

Sri Suphan temple, the world’s first silver temple

Phra Khru Phithak, abbot of Wat Sri Suphan.

Preeyanoot Jittawong
Photo by Nopniwat Krailerg

Chiang Mai is considered the city in Thailand which has the most temples located on one road. Today, we present a unique temple, the Silver Ubosodtha (temple) decorated with sculptured silver. It is a work contributed by local people in the Wua Lai Community, an old silverware manufacturing community in Chiang Mai, in cooperation with Sri Suphan temple.
Ajarn Boonthong Phuthisri of the committee of Sri Suphan temple said that there was an ancient saying that, if we visit Wua Lai Community, what we will hear is the sound of silver being beaten from every house. However, nowadays, local knowledge will soon vanish with people in that community leaving or pursuing other careers. Sometimes, tourists come to the community, but they mostly expect local people to take them to see silverware handicrafts in other districts, despite Wua Lai being the original community for silverware. This why we must do what we can to revive Wua Lai Community to recover its fame as the prime manufacturer of silverware, a heritage from our ancestors.
Local knowledge of silverware handicraft, Muang district, Chiang Mai is an ancestral heritage since King Kawila. Historically, it is believed that Wua Lai local people came from Pagan, crossing the Salween River (or Kong River) and settling in Chiang Mai. In the past, there was much silver in the Salween River and local people were able to fashion silver. The silverware handicraft tradition of the Wua Lai Community was perpetuated from generation to generation and it is considered the oldest silverware community in Thailand.
However, the developing city caused financial backers to interfere with the silverware handicraft business and some craftsmen moved to other districts. Prices of ersatz ware incorporating other metals are now such that many families who have always worked at silverware handicraft have to pursue other careers.

Direk, Wua Lai local resident, a professional silver sculptor is designing decorative motifs.

Phra Khru Phithak Suthikhun, abbot of Sri Suphan temple said that Sri Suphan temple is like the center of Wua Lai local people and is more than 500 years old. He believed that perpetuation of Lanna heritage is very significant. He allowed local people to use the temple’s area to for a silver sculptor group, called “Hatthasilp Lanna Wat Sri Suphan” (Sri Suphan temple Lanna Handicraft Group), led by Sala (sculptor) Direk who learned silverware sculpture from his ancestors to teach those who are interested in silver craft. In 2004, the old church was damaged. Resident monks and people who have faith in Sri Suphan temple agreed to construct a new temple church in the form of a silver temple. There were sufficient materials and professional silver craftsmen in the community so, instead of carving wood, they decided to use silver sculpture.
They dedicated their work to promote local knowledge, produce art to contribute to Lanna, develop cultural tourist attractions, and as merit making.

A very beautiful ornamental roof.

The temple and people involved have built the church within the same boundaries but they decorated it in the ancient Lanna architectural style. The structure was made of concrete and bricks, decorated with genuine silver, aluminum, and silver alloy. Decorative designs were made with Baan Sri Suphan silver sculptors’ original style. Decorative designs on the church were made in contemporary style so that it is a mixture between old and new.
The construction budget was fixed at 10 million baht. It is expected to be finished in five years because it takes time to sculpt silver. Phra Khru Phithak said that the fund for the construction is insufficient. The church roof alone will use 24,000 aluminum plates, but they are still short 7,000 plates. The genuine “Chatra” (tiered umbrella) costs 100,000 baht. During the economic crisis, the cost of equipment has doubled.
The temple wishes those who are interested, to be part of the temple construction. It is not only a Lanna memorial, but it is also the first silver temple in the world. Those who are interested can see more Sri Suphan temple details, silver church details, and charity details at http://www.watsrisuphan.org.

Decorative designs are newly designed with creatures from literature; such as the Elephant, Naga, and Swan.

Inside the temple of Wat Sri Suphan is silver sculpture Buddhist history, completely different from other temples where there are paintings on the wall.

Part of the silver decorative elements on the church side.

Part of the sculptured silver for the church decoration.

Silver church of Wat Sri Suphan, the first religious building made from silver.

Teenagers of Wua Lai Community help sculpting a huge plate of silver.

Beautiful Chiang Mai Skål Thailand’s most Northern outpost

by Andrew J Wood
General Manager, Chaophya Park Hotel & Resorts and Skål International Councillor-Thailand Photos courtesy of Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi

Skๅl’s International Councillor for Thailand reports as he travelled north as guest of Skål International-Chiang Mai and Northern Thailand.
My visit to Chiang Mai was the first for a number of years, regrettably it was to be a short visit, but fortunately much had been pre-arranged in advance, to take full advantage of my time.

Andrew Wood proposes the Skål toast.

Having taken an afternoon flight from Bangkok with THAI, I arrived in Chiang Mai mid-afternoon. I was whisked from the airport within minutes of landing, by Khun Nee, who has to be the prettiest taxi driver in the world! An impressive start of my journey to the ‘Flower of the North’, whose reputation for beauty is well known.
My first port of call was a courtesy visit to the Chiangmai Mail office and to offer my personal ‘welcome’ to it’s new Managing Editor, Murray Dickson.
urray and I spent a while catching up and I had the opportunity to present him with a special puang malai khor muer (wrist garland), made that morning by the Chaophya Park Hotel’s skilled florists in Bangkok, in readiness for my visit North.

Murray kindly introduced me to all his able team and then it was off to my next appointment at Bann Tazala, as guest of Khun Sun Suebsaeng, President of Skål Int’l Chiang Mai and Northern Thailand (SICNT) and Managing Director of Dhara Dhevi Hotel Co Ltd.
Having checked into this most beautiful residence, one had to admire the specialty suites (one of only eight in the entire residence), stunningly decorated and teaming with antiques, the rooms were clearly built by local master craftsmen.
With a few minutes to catch one’s breath I remarked to the staff how tranquil and soothing the atmosphere appeared, as all around were private villas and pools, brimming with Chinese carp.
We had arranged a meeting with the SICNT Executive Committee in the dining room of Bann Tazala. After an hour’s discussion, embracing a number of topics we mainly focused on membership development and issues relevant to the local and regional situation.
Next on the agenda meant a change of venue, to Khun Sun’s sister property, the gorgeous Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi Hotel for a cocktail reception and the regular monthly get-together of Skålleagues and friends. The meeting was hosted by the local club and Mark Bradford, the hotel’s convivial General Manager and Khun Savas Rattakunjara, the hotel’s expert Resident Manager.

Lilli Saxer, Impulse Travel and Shane Beary, Track of the Tiger enjoy each other’s company.

As the relatively new International Councillor (IC) it was a great honour and privilege to meet so many of the Chiang Mai’s travel and tourism professionals. I was very warmly received amongst them and the club went out of its way to make everyone feel welcome.
Having inspected the unusual and intimate ‘Horn Bar’ it was then off to the Akaligo Italian/Mediterranean Restaurant for dinner and speeches.
During dinner I was very kindly asked to make a short address. Choosing as my topic, the work of an International Councillor and the opportunities that Skål provides to ‘Do Business Amongst Friends’. I also touched on the responsibility of all Skålleagues to help the club grow and develop including the opportunity of member-get-member. A brief mention of the regional Skål Asian Area conference, which took place in Mauritius last month and the upcoming World Congress, which is due to take place in Pattaya 15th-20th October 2006. In closing I reminded all present to use the International Councillor as the link between the Club, the Thailand National Committee and the Executive Committee of Skål International.

Khun Nee, the prettiest taxi driver in the world.

There followed a truly great buffet dinner, with antipasti galore, home made soups and salads, the most wonderful freshly made ‘Risotto Parmigiano’ and pasta and entrees. The desserts were to ‘too good’ as we all tucked into mouthfuls of delicious sweets and goodies from the pastry kitchens. Watch out, this restaurant is set to become a leading star in the local culinary world!
With presentations to SICNT President Khun Sun of Pattaya’s World Congress promotional Skål t-shirts and then group photos, the MC finished the serious work by making special mention of the generous sponsorship of the evening’s wines by Italasia.
It was a great evening of Skål, with much good humour and friendship.
With an early 5 a.m. start for the return trip to Bangkok, I reflected, as I made my way back to Bann Tazala, of the great evening we had and of the hotel that was truly world-class.
Chiang Mai is definitely a place to visit. It might come as no surprise that HRH Prince Andrew of England, during his recent visit to Thailand, stopped over in Chiang Mai, staying at the Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi. From all reports he enjoyed his visit enormously, I certainly did!

Sun Suebsaeng, President, Skål International Chiangmai & Northern Thailand, Andrew Wood, Skål International Councilor for Thailand and David Hardcastle keeping the Skål spirit alive.

Marc Dumur, Meritus Chiangmai, Mark Bradford, Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi, Murray Dickson, Chiangmai Mail and Yutakit Krainara, Wind & Fire look to the brighter future.

Annette Kunigagon. Eagle House, Anchalee Kalmapijit, Mae Sa Elephant Camp, Supap Pluempreedee, Compass /Guidelines, Manuel Raymondin, Sheraton Chiangmai, Wanna Thomas, Wanna Tours make for a lovely picture.

Roy Blom and Karina Vestergaard living it up with other Skålleagues.

Skålleagues are thrilled with the gigantic Skål World Congress T-Shirt and promotional brochures that Andrew Wood brought along. Next stop, Pattaya.