I took another early morning walk, but this time in another city, and the sights were different. The Galare Guest House sits on the bank of the Ping River (Mae Ping, or Mother Ping, as the Thai call it). The river is swollen with rain, for the rains have not stopped during this dry season. You can see the silt that is being carried down river that makes the valley so fertile. Across the river is the Old First Church, the one I worshiped in as a child. The old building is now preserved by the Thai as an historic landmark. The new church, where I preached in 2008, is just to the left of this picture, on the other side of road that goes across the bridge where I am standing. The four-story building you see is Chiangmai Christian School, a Thai Christian school belonging to the Church of Christ in Thailand and one of the schools that is waiting for a volunteer from the program I am now coordinating.
One sight you cannot miss, wherever you travel in Thailand, is the sight of the king’s face on billboards throughout the kingdom. His Majesty, King Bhumibol Adulyadej or Rama IX, is the longest reigning monarch of the Chakri Dynasty, which was established in 1782. The present king ascended to the throne on June 6, 1946, and is currently the longest reigning monarch in the world. He is revered by the people and the evidence of that is everywhere. On my walk, I saw many billboards and signs that celebrated his monarchy and long reign.
Thailand is a very diverse country with several ethnic groups living together in harmony. One of the largest ethnic minorities is Chinese, making up more than ten percent of the total population. Just as the ‘freedom of religion’ in Thailand allows Christians to worship openly, that same freedom is extended to other religious groups as well. You can find mosques, Hindu temples, and shrines sitting beside Buddhist temples and Christian churches in almost every part of the country. This temple sits next to the flower market in Chiangmai and is a colorful example of the art of China.
Other snapshots taken on my walk: