Now that school is on break I finally have some time to do some traveling. Last weekend I was able to go with my family up to Petchaburi, where my Mae (mother) grew up, to visit her mother. Petchaburi is beautiful province about 5 hours north of where I live. When I first met my 'Yaai' (grandma) it was amazing to believe she was my Mae's mother. Their faces look so alike, both with red stained lips from the maak (betel-nut) they enjoy chewing throughout the day but with smiles that will brighten anyone's day. My Mae has a huge family, with 8 brothers and sisters. (8 if you include herself. In Thailand you always include yourself when talking about how many siblings you have. This causes a lot of confusion for my students when they are learning about family…) Her youngest sister is only in her mid-30's, young enough to be my 59 year old Mae's daughter. She lives at home with her husband and daughter to take care of her mother, as is traditionally done. In Thailand its customary for the husband to move in with the wife and her family.
The first day we were there, after driving five hours, we dropped our stuff off and wasted no time getting back in the car to travel another hour to a potato farm called “chang hua man.” At first I was not overly thrilled to spend more time in the car just to see a potato farm, but my family was very excited to see it since it is one of the King's Projects. In 2009 the King of Thailand personally purchased 100 acres of land to help improve working conditions of farmers in Petchaburi and neighboring provinces. The crops are all chemical-free and there are windmills to promote wind power as an alternative source of energy. This is just one of the many projects that is under the King's initiative in Thailand. (http://thailand.prd.go.th/view_news.php?id=7166&a=1 to read more about it)
After biking through the gardens we took an unexpected detour, as usually is the case, to see a sheep farm, before returning home. The next day we went to a temple that is only about 10 minutes away from my Yaai's house, called Tam Kho Yoy (ถ้ำเขาย้อย). This was one of those places that reminds you what a mysterious and mystical country you are in, and the beauty of both the landscape and culture are incredible. It is one of the many temples in Thailand that is build inside a large cave. Surrounding the temple are hundreds of monkeys, running about and staring at the humans invading their territory. The inside of the cave has a number of buddha images like all temples, but they seem to have a special quality when they are sitting under a suspended stalagmite. Next to the temple area there is a huge set of steps that you can climb. I thought we were going to go up to get a view of the landscape but after a while the steps felt like they were never ending. I didn't know how much longer we could hike since we had our own little monkey with us, my “nephew” Nong Oak, who is only four. But before I knew it we came to a huge opening that looked down upon a huge Buddha statue sitting in a cavern. The golden gleam of the statue's robes and the enchanting smile on the images face against the jagged, aged, rocks of the cavern was one of the most powerful places I've been to in this country.
This was one of my favorite trips so far in Thailand, not just because I was able to see such beautiful sites, but to be able to meet more of the family I am now a part of. I realized how comfortable I feel with them now, not even thinking twice when asked if I would be okay sleeping on the floor side by side the entire family. Spending time with them as a family was the best part of the trip.