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Independence Day – a dream, a reality and a celebration

A CMU tradition - hiking up Doi Suthep

 

Independence Day – a dream, a reality and a celebration

 

A CMU tradition - hiking up Doi Suthep

CMU Freshmen, pictured on the dreaded curve just before the temple,
yelling, dancing and having a lot of fun!

Gaelle Linard
It’s tradition. Every year, early in July, you will see them. Even the first public appearance of the panda cub at the Chiang Mai Zoo didn’t stop them – it just slightly disturbed their usual schedule.
Them? The Chiang Mai University students, first to fourth year included. One Saturday, about one month after the start of university, everyone gathers at CMU’s main gate. Faculties stick together in this event, aiming at strengthening links between students and ‘patriotic’ feelings towards their department. How do they do that? By suffering together.
First, there is the parade. A grand display of faculties, uniforms, drums, traditional costumes, banana-leaf folding dexterity and even dances. The procession leaves from the main gate and slowly walks up to the statue of Phra Kruba Sriwichai. There, high heels, palanquins and Lanna costumes are discarded: it’s time to wear sneakers!
The second part of this special day is, indeed, a hike. To be more exact, a 14-kilometre walk up the mountain, right up to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. Freshmen, usually holding hands in groups of threes or fours, wear the uniform of their faculty. Sophomores, wearing the uniform of their department, are here to encourage their juniors – either by walking hand-in-hand with them or by some slight hazing. Third year students are fewer. They usually play the ‘staff’ part, organising the traffic, giving spirit to the freshmen and taking care of problems. Fourth year students? They are usually comfortably sitting in a pick-up truck with beers in hands, watching the younger ones walking slowly up the road. But, don’t worry, they’ll have to do their share as well. Indeed, the tradition is that freshmen have to climb up the mountain… while fourth year students have to climb down. You’ll usually see them walking back from the temple in the afternoon.
The highlight of the hike is the last dreaded curve before Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. At that very spot, students stop. Freshmen scream their war cry and dance a kind of haka. And then run up to the temple, in a last burst of energy, cheered by everyone.
There is no doubt that, at the end of this annual event, everyone was pretty worn out but also proud at having taken up the challenge. They may even be looking forward to doing it again next year!