I and lots of people from my church went to Thailand last week. Our church has a new missions operation starting in north Thailand, near the city of Chiang Rai. Three of our people recently moved there to become missionaries. They’re going to start a school in the area for local village kids. Also, and not completely unrelatedly, an old member of our church named Beau who is Thai got married in Bangkok at the end of the week.
See below for some photos of the affair.
A traditional Thai house we recently purchased and are calling the Global Thai Education Center. It needs some renovations that should start in a couple of months.
Jinhee along with the missionaries, Mr. and Mrs. Song and Yoon
The back yard of GTEC, where we may build more in the future.
Nearby we checked out this famous temple.
You can purchase a key for hanging here, and in return a monk prays for your wish, or something like that.
At the temple with Jinhee and Yoon
We stayed in Yoon's lovely house. The next morning she treated us to a fruit-filled breakfast of guacamole, bananas, tangerines, and toast with vibrant strawberry jam.
We went to the Chiang Rai city center, where this golden clock tower is the main landmark.
The coffee sold in this shop is grown by the nearby Akha tribespeople, known for the elaborate headresses worn by their women. As you can see Jinhee signed a modeling contract for them on the spot.
Nearby in the countryside they are building a gigantic Buddha. It seems like there is lots of spirituality in Thailand.
A temple on the same site as the giant Buddha
"Can we see elephants?" I had asked. Oh, could we!
The elephants were so happy. They would nuzzle one another affectionately or stretch out to be touched like here. When we got off ours I really think he saltuted us.
The elephant ride goes through the river before circling back through the village. It's bumpy.
This poor man was swallowed whole by the elephant moments after I took this photograph.
The view from the elephant of the village on the way back. Note the Christian church in the distance; many villages in the area are Christian thanks to the efforts of a missionary in the 20th century.
Back at Yoon's house. What a great hostess!
On day 3 we took a 3-hour bus ride to Chiang Mai, an old city and major tourist draw. We were picked up at the bus station by Apple, a Thai woman we know from Korea because she is the president of the fan club of a Korean singer and has stayed in our guesthouse.
We found our guesthouse on AirBNB. It had sort of an Indian feel to it and we really liked it.
We rented bikes for the 24 hours we would be there. The city is a confined within the square boundaries of 700-year-old moats, and is rather bikeable.
After traveling and getting our feet wet on the bikes we found it necessary to take an extended breather at this coffee shop.
We found a beautiful park where the famed Chiang Mai chill was on full display.
Foreigners of all stripes were doing all sorts of recreation, from aerobics to yoga to photography to just lounging.
This seems to be the sort of thing people come to Chiang Mai for and stay for a while.
There are lots of temples in Chiang Mai.
This temple is the main landmark. We caught it exactly as day became night. With the indigo sky and the moon shining and the first star coming out it was just gorgeous. We felt a lot of kinship with the builders and their search for God. But then it was jarring to see in the middle just a big Buddha.
Thursday was mostly just a travel day, then on Friday Jinhee and I set out to explore Bangkok. The best way to do this is by river taxi, which is a sort of public transit that connects right with the subway!
The view from the boat
We went for tea at the Mandarin Oriental, a hotel that's as historic as it is fancy.
This pad thai stand on Khao San Road was the best. Note the McDonalds in back; they operate entirely on a little strip of sidewalk in front.
Walking back to the ferry we were surprised to find ourselves amidst schoolchildren just let out. This and the next building there face one another.
I took Jinhee's picture as she took mine.
We had been hot and crowded with foreigners, so it was surprising to suddenly be in a cooler, quiter, greener place.
Lest we think that in a short day we could understand a city as great as Bangkok.
We arrived at the Royal Palace and main temple just a bit too late to be admitted to their gates.
Architecture in the city center was like this, sort of European.
Just a quaint alley that beckoned with possibility as we strolled past
On Sunday Jinhee and I went to this church, which we really appreciated along with its American pastor.
At the wedding those of us from our church sat together toward the front right. They had a translator for us who spoke into a microphone picked up by earpieces they gave us. We really appreciated that.
The last of the guests, like our friend Artemy here, had just flown into Bangkok the night before.
Beau's dad walked her down the aisle. He's a Buddhist, and we surmised that sitting through his daughter's Christian wedding ceremony from a special chair honoring him in the front may have been difficult for him.
Pastor Choi performed the wedding ceremony, while Beau's Thai pastor gave the homily. Beau became a Christian while attending our church while a graduate student in Seoul. She met her husband Tong years ago and they were good friends for a long while before becoming a couple more recently.
Two of our women wore traditional Korean hanbok to the wedding. Also, two of our youth came and performed a special song, which was very beautiful.
The whole gang from ICOS
Jinhee and Beau
The wedding reception was a really impressive affair. Held in a nice hotel and flanked with lavish and varied buffets, the bride and groom stayed on stage the whole time.
I've never seen a more impressive cake-cutting. The big cake wasn't real though; slices of actual cake were just handed out by the staff.
We won! (Just pretending.)
Beau and Tong were able to make some time to meet with us the next day. Given how many people came to their wedding this felt really special.