I found myself in Chiang Mai for New Years 2017. I was doing a Workaway placement at a hostel but the owners were away visiting family in the villages and since it was a very new hostel, there were no other guests.
This actually suited me perfectly, I felt like I could do with some alone time. I’m the sort of person that really needs their own space, I get all of my energy from being alone and doing things that make me feel calm and happy.
In general, I don’t like drinking when I travel by myself, and I didn’t really fancy alcohol anyway.
You see, despite all the wonderful travel I’ve managed to squeeze in, 2016 was also a very painful year and on a personal level, I would probably say the worst year of my life.
It didn’t feel right to me to celebrate this year by getting drunk. This year had totally changed me, my way of thinking, how I felt, how I viewed myself. I wanted to approach this coming year with thoughtfulness and clarity…
I was trying to think what I could do for New Year that would be quiet and calm and considered maybe a hike to see the sun rise.
I found out that although the Buddhist new year is technically in April, you can go to some of the temples for New Year and one that I had seen the day before struck me immediately as the right one for me.
Wat Phan Tao is a temple in the Old City made of teak that houses a golden Buddha statue.
Outside in the courtyard is a small river with a bank and under a large tree sits another Buddha (this scene is a very powerful image if you know the story of Buddha, how he was born and how he obtained enlightenment).
When I arrived just after 10pm, the sky of Chiang Mai was filled with hundred of lanterns glowing like fireflies
the bank was covered with candles and white paper lanterns glowed from the tree and the surrounding bamboo leaves.
The novice monks walked in single file in their saffron robes down a bamboo walkaway adjacent to the little river.
They sat under the tree as the elders chanted and we sat in meditation on the ground.
At midnight fireworks began to pop and burst in the distance. Above our heads was a network of strings and paper charms which you tie around you head for good luck.
One of the elder monks gave a talk about peace, kindness and controlling your mind and overriding fear, jealousy, and anger.
This resonated quite deeply with me and I listened intently to the crackly voice from the microphone.
I walked away from the temple at 1:30am as others were making their way from respective temples down the road.
There was an air of tranquility and sleepy happiness that I enjoyed as I was walked back humming “Auld Lang Syne” to myself (as it doesn’t feel like New Year to me without this song), that was, until a drunken tourist stumbled down the street, swigging a beer bottle which he then threw on the pavement to shatter at a young girls feet and make her cry. And people wonder why western tourists are quite often despised?
It made me happier that I’d chosen this way to spend my New Year. I gave my wishes to my family and friends and had the most wonderful sound sleep, and woke up without a wince of a headache which certainly made a nice change!
What did you do for New Year?
I hope you all had an amazing one however you spent it, and wish you all the best.
I have decided that 2017 will be a year of happiness and success for me, whatever it takes.