All posts by mikaylaviny

Our ride through Sukhothai

Among the most impressive and grandiose historical sites in Thailand can be found in Sukhothai. So after having a luxurious night in the Le Charme Resort, we set out to explore the ancient city of the Sukhothai empire. The fastest–and most enjoyable–way to see the park is to bike. The Sukhothai Historical Park is home to the remains of several temples, the most impressive being Wat Mahathat, which stands at the center of the kingdom’s ruins. The sites exhibit rich architectural forms and styles.

Immeadiately, the first thing that I noticed was the incredible trees that line the pathways. Scraggly and beautiful, the probably centry old trees were an unexpected bonus to whole experience.

The first part of the park that we explored was the famous Wat Mahathat. One of the most noticeable architectural designs was the use of bell-shaped stupas, as seen as in the image below. Influenced by the split from the Khmer Empire of Angkorian architecture, Sukhothai is unique in design. Most of the temples outer wood structures were burned and destroyed with the fall of the Sukhothai empire around the 1400’s, but the strong stone and artistry remains.

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Wat Mahathat in the Central Region

 

The ruins that I personally found the most interesting was Wat Si Chum. The site is quite popular with visitors and for good reason. As you approach you can see PhraArchana (“He who is not frightened”), the largest Buddha image in Sukhothai through a small slit between two pillars. It stands at almost 11 meters high and was restored in the later half of the 20th century. You can see the large and incredibly detailed (golden fingers, decorated chest, seated position, etc) Buddha image fully.

another sukhothai picture
PhraAchana

 

The meaning behind the name Sukhothai now makes sense. Translating roughly to “dawn of happiness”, the park itself reminded us all of a beautiful sunrise. Even though we did not see the empire in all its glory, being able to catch this glimpse of its splendor was an incredible experience. All in all, we had a wonderful day full of breathtaking sights and a lovely bike ride through history.

~ Emily Moyer and Teagan Feeley ~

Chiang Mai Impressions

May 25, 2018

                We arrived in Chiang Mai and we were happy to see how nice the Suirwongse hotel was, especially after the homestays in Kalasin. Since we had never been to Chiang Mai, we were not sure what to expect. Other people had told us nothing but good things about the city, but we had to see it for ourselves to fully understand why it is such a loved destination in Thailand.

                Once we got settled in our hotel rooms, we headed straight to the night bazaar. We immediately noticed the differences between Chiang Mai and Bangkok. Even though there was a lot happening at the night bazaar, Chiang Mai felt less overwhelming than Bangkok. There’s plenty of things to do in the night bazaar, such as getting a traditional Thai massages, eating street food, and dancing at the local clubs. As for us, we saw a fish pedicure station and had to do that as our first activity in Chiang Mai. Following that, we got street food (some were braver than others and ate a scorpion) and then finished off the night at a club in the center of the bazaar.

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May 26, 2018

                After an entertaining first night in Chiang Mai, we woke up early the next day and headed to the Hmong Village, which is in the mountains above the city. We were told to take Dramamine and expect a windy road, but we had no idea how bad it was actually going to be. There were many students who experienced getting carsick for the first time that day. However, it was worth the drive because of the culture we got to be immersed in. The views from the village were breathtakingly beautiful, including many colorful flowers and a waterfall. Some students decided to spend time shopping, while others continued to explore the area. It was a unique experience to be able to see another aspect of the city that we had not yet seen.

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                After this, we traveled down the mountain to a popular temple, Wat Prathat Doi Suthep. This temple was different compared to the other temples we had visited in the past. It was much more crowded with tourists, but also the level of detail in the temple was greater. There was a lot of gold coloring and intricate art used throughout the entire area. We were amazed at the view of Chiang Mai from the top of the temple as well.

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                To wrap up the first part of our Chiang Mai visit, many of us decided to go to the Saturday Night Market. It had a much different atmosphere than the Night Bazaar. Since it is only put on one night a week, it seemed to be much more crowded than anything we had seen the night before. Everyone found a lot of gifts there to bring home (and maybe some stuff for themselves as well). In the middle of our shopping excursion it started to pour rain, so we headed over to Nimman, another part of the city, to get some yummy Kao Soy. This was a unique dish that none of us students had ever tried before, but we were sure happy that we did. This was a wonderful way to conclude our first couple nights in Chiang Mai.

Gender in Thailand

Mikayla Viny, Ava Binder

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The transgender community in Thailand varies greatly from that in the United States. In Thailand, they recognize a third gender, which is termed “Kathoey”. This term was originally used to describe gays or feminine males, but now it is widely used to specifically describe male-to-female (MTF) transgender people. Over the past decade, Kathoey has been recognized constitutionally in hopes that introducing an additional gender identity will help reduce discrimination throughout the country of Thailand. While there has been a raise in awareness about this topic, people in Thailand who identify as Kathoey still face many societal barriers that many transgender people in the United States also encounter on a normal basis.

In Thailand, there is an impression that the Kathoey are pretty well accepted. They are seen everywhere and seem to live just like anyone else in the society. Unlike the United States, there is not a lot of violence against the transgender community there. However, the Kathoey do have a difficult time when it comes to the professional workplace. “First of all in Thailand, we’re pretty well-accepted, we can walk in the street and we don’t have to fear that someone’s going to shoot you in the head. At the same time, the most difficult thing is at a professional level, that people don’t accept people like us,” said Jenisa Limpanilchart, a businessperson in Thailand, to CNN. No matter their educational level, background, or experience, many companies do not want to hire them and there is no legal procedure in place that deals with how to handle this type of discrimination. These type of issues also occur regularly in the US.

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Since 2015, there has been a lot of discussion about the third gender in Thailand in relation to political and social issues. The biggest controversy with this is Thailand’s army draft. Every year, Thai men who are 21 years old must either volunteer themselves to serve in Thailand’s army for six months or take their chances in a lottery. This lottery is when a man either gets a black ticket which allows them to go home, and if they get a red ticket, it means that they must serve for at least two years. This draft is particularly troublesome for transgender people because some kathoey believe that since they were born male, is it their duty to be a Thai soldier. Furthermore, people who identify as kathoey are put at risk of stress and humiliation during the draft itself. It becomes an issue of human rights more than anything else. Many transgender women who are drafted fear that they will be undressed, stared at, and publicly embarrassed, making the whole process far more difficult. As for the army draft, exemptions can be made under certain circumstances. These include when someone is physically or mentally incapable of serving in the army, or for transgender women, if they can prove that they are not identifying as female to be exempt from serving in Thailand’s army. This further explains how even though kathoey in Thailand are widely acknowledged, they still face typical transphobia and discrimination on a regular basis.

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While it does seem as if the Kathoey in Thailand are much more widely accepted than the transgender community in the United States, that is not always the case. While the Kathoey still live as normal members of the society and are tolerated, they face a fair amount of discrimination. It is difficult for them to get hired by companies, and even if they do get hired they still face many challenges in the workplace. On top of that, there are issues with the army draft system in Thailand. Some citizens believe that since the Kathoey were born male they should be forced to participate in the draft, but others believe that this causes too much humiliation and they should not be forced to potentially serve in the army. These are similar issues to the ones that the transgender community faces in the US.  Certainly none of these issues of discrimination are going to be solved overnight, but steps are being taken to do so, such as the push to include a third gender in the Thailand constitution and government documents.

Sources:

Lefevre, A. (2016). Thailand Makes HUGE Move For Its LGBT Community. Retrieved 2018, from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/15/thailand-third-gender-_n_6476582.html

Park, M., & Dhitavat, K. (2015). Thailand’s new constitution may recognize third gender. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2015/01/16/world/third-gender-thailand/index.html

Reuters. (2017). Nightmare looms for transgender women at Thailand’s army draft. Retrieved 2018, from https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/nightmare-looms-transgender-women-thailand-s-army-draft-n743921

Szreder, J. (2017). Ladyboys: The third gender in Thailand. Retrieved from https://www.theblondtravels.com/ladyboys-third-gender-thailand/
Winter, S. (2010). Why are there so many kathoey in Thailand? Retrieved 2018, from http://www.transgenderasia.org/paper_why_are_there_so_many_kathoey.htm