In between the Rotary humanitarian projects, our hosts arranged a 3 day 2 night tour of this northern Thailand area. First, we saw beautiful handicrafts of wood carving and other Thai handicrafts. A Thai dinner with a traditional dance show ended our day. The second day we saw Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, first established in 1383 as a shrine for a Buddist relic. The relic was mounted on the back of a white elephant who wandered until he found the chosen spot where he laid down and died on the chosen wat space. Our meals throughout the three days were northern Thai dishes with a variety of combinations of rice, pork,chicken, shrimp. Some dishes were very spicy and others more bland. Thais eat with a spoon and fork using the fork to push food into the spoon.
Displays of current Thai craft and artisian industrians gave ample opportunities for purchasing beautiful silks, jewelry, and wood products. Both nights were spent at a resort with far reaching views of the mountains. Petting tigers, riding elephants, and visiting a longneck Karen hill-tribe village filled the final day. The Karen women put heavy brass rings on their necks starting in childhood. Like other ethnic hill-tribes, they are more linked to geographic areas than national borders. Hence, their access to any governmental help in almost none existent.
Another major highlight of the exchange was visting the Rotary Club of Chiang Mai South on Wednesday night. Both the Thai and American clubs gave translated presentations on our own clubs. The fact that this club of 20 members is continually doing outreach and service is amazing. Their service is outstanding, and we hope both districts can jointly write an RI grant to help fund hill tribe schools. A major eye glass project for hundreds of elderly poor Thais in rural areas who have no other way to receive help is the other current and ongoing service project of this club. For two years, the Chiang Mai South Club has been buying supplies making and fitting eye glasses. Unfortunately, right now there is no funding to help with glasses for children as the club had to start with one age group or the other. We will spend our last two days working to make and fit glasses for patients guided by our Thai Rotarians.
Harriett Hilton for the Friendship Exchange