Chiang Mai - Tak - Mae Sot: Delightful Part 2

April 5, 2010

From Chiang Mai I took the bus to Tak.  The guidebooks barely mention this city, but I went anyway.  And once again, in Tak, my travel philosophy is reconfirmed: “No matter where I go, there is always something interesting, even fascinating, to see, to discover.”   
I wandered out of the Wiang Tak Hotel into the searing afternoon heat.  Along the tree-shaded lanes I found old teak homes and a proud city hall.  I stopped for lunch at a food shop and ordered som tam – the traditional searing-hot green papaya salad.  I requested “nueng plick” - only one red chili pepper for me, please.  The som tam lady smiled.  The recipe calls for a handful.

Then came the music.  First, from a convoy of cars and pick-up trucks.  In the back of one of the trucks was a young man, head shaved, wearing a white gown.  He was on his way, along with his celebrating family, to the temple for the Buat Nak – the Monk initiation ceremony.     
Then, more music.  I followed the sound to the Wat Sitalaram temple complex and another Buat Nak.  This one was for thirty young boys – teenagers, pre-teens, skinny young kids, and a few chubby-husky types who looked like young round-in-the-belly Buddhas – all dressed in saffron robes.  I joined the festivities.
Happy relatives surrounded the main temple and greeted the not-so-smiling boys as they filed out of the temple and down the steps, each carrying a large silver bowl.  Family and friends (and I) dropped coins and bills, food and small presents into the bowls. After the boys dispersed, the families sat on the floor of the temple and counted out the “take.”
Tak sits on the east bank of the Ping River.  I had a great view of the river from my hotel window.  So in the relative cool of the late afternoon, I strolled along the riverfront, past the food stalls and gift arcade towards the Bangkok Bicentennial Bridge (1982).
The suspension bridge is no GW or Golden Gate.  Yet it is a pleasing, narrow, wood-planked walkway that sways ever so gently over the broad and shallow river below.  Just like the George Washington, the cables, pillars and towers are illuminated at nightfall - a cool evening hangout for local teens.
End of Part 2.

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