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Weekend Adventures - Written by Victoria Hume

Our weekend journeys can be described as adventurous and a beneficial learning experience. On Saturday we left early in the morning to the temple "Wat Thung Setti", which we learned was actually a series of beautiful temples and shrines. When I saw the grand watt (or Temple) at Watt Thung Setti, I was in disbelief that I was really standing 1000 feet away from it. It seemed like a palace straight out of a Disney movie. The beautiful gold, blue, and white colors reflected off the water and lillypads surrounding the watt. Monks arrived to enter the Grand Temple and we greeted them with a traditional wai and "sa-wad-dee-ka." The whole environment of Watt Thung Setti was so peaceful and quiet, with happy looking dogs strutting around everywhere. A friendly native showed us along the road which lead to other temples, and I felt at ease as the wind ruffled the leaves of the palm trees that dotted the horizon.

When we finished our time at Watt Thung Setti we took a taxi to Central plaza, a mall that all our Thai teachers have raved about, and ate lunch. Then we explored around the Khon Kaen University campus, stopping first at The Natural Art and Culture Museum. My favorite museum was the Natural History Museum which had a lot of interactive exhibits and dinosaurs, a popular symbol of Khon Kaen. We wanted to go to the KKU complex, so we asked a museum worker how to get there and she kindly drew a map of where to go. I've found that it's amazing how kind and caring people here are towards us; everyone seems willing to help us despite any language barrier. After shopping for souvenirs and cold drinks at the KKU complex we walked back to our dorms and rested. In the evening we headed out to the KKU night market, despite the heavy monsoon rain. However when we got there much of it was rained out but some venders were still there and the glowing street lanterns welcomed us in the rain.

On Sunday we headed out to this city in the northern part of Thailand close to Loas, called Nong Khai, which was three hours away from the university. We took various forms of transportation in which drivers spoke the bare amount of English. This made navigation a little difficult, but I think we all learned to trust and adapt to our surroundings more. Once in Nong Khai we went to a ancient sculpture garden. The striking greenery against the tall detailed marble Buddha statues were captivating. There were several stores selling good luck trinkets and other souvenirs. I asked a shop keeper in English with a mixture of Thai about the charms and she happily answered, giving me a free good luck bracelet out of kindness.

We then ventured to the temple Phra Aram Luang Wat Pho Chai, navigating by foot using the tip of the watt that we could see from the horizon. Walking through the gates of the Watt it seemed quiet, with only a distant sound of a women speaking Thai in the background. We took off our shoes and walked up the yellow steps of the watt. Looking up it had a red shingled roof with intricate designed religious statues in gold and blue. Once we walked inside the watt we found a lot of people worshipping and praying. Monks sat on cushions and people talked to them, perhaps asking for advice. A large golden statue of a Buddha with surrounding paintings of religious stories covered the walls of the watt. After exploring inside the watt we traveled down the steep steps to the venders who were selling flowers to offer the gods and cold drinks. My friends and I had cold coffee and fruit drinks, and sat in the shade accompanied by a few street dogs and people. I didn't want to leave Nong Khai as there was so much more to see and the people made me feel so welcome, but we had to travel back to make curfew.

In reflection of this weekend: I know we grew as a group to be a strong team no matter what obstacle we faced, and I feel so privileged with all the beautiful new experiences I encountered.