On Monday I started my class at Mahidol University. The teacher was American, interested in the subject he was teaching, and very nice. However, a large portion of the class of 50 didn't seem to care. They sat in the back and talked all class, some not even bothering to whisper. This was very surprising since many young Thai's seemed polite, as is the culture. When I asked my advisor, she told me that unless the teacher is very strict, many Thai students do not behave or pay attention. The idea of this is still odd for me because in most all of the classes I've had back home, students did not talk so loudly or act so rude during class.
Tuesday was my free day and since my roommate and the others in the program had their internships, I didn't want to wonder too far off. However, my friend Ping told me about Buddhamonthon, which is about 10 minutes away by bus. Though I missed my stop, some girls on the bus helped me get to where I wanted to go. The park was huge, and I walked 10 minutes along the side of it before I got to the entrance. The security at the gate waved me through and told me where the monument was. It turns out he didn't need to. There was a giant Buddha standing in what I think is the center of the park. It is not as tall as the Great Buddha but 15.9 meters tall and very detailed. The park was largely abandoned except for a school tour, the few individuals and monks walking around, and the crew that were tending to the landscape. After walking for 4, I still think I only really covered the middle of the park. I saw the Temple of Buddhamonthon, the standing Buddha, and a series of smaller wooden monuments before wondering around. Surrounding the standing Buddha are four commemorating sites. You cannot see them from the center so I had to walk into the trees that spread in every direction. I saw the stone monuments that were each placed on their own island; Lord Buddha's Birth, The Enlightenment, The First Preaching Sermon, and Nirvana. The park also contains a large number of ponds, an auditorium, museum library and the residential buildings (most of which I never truly found. There was also the Marble Temple, which was amazing. The roof is a bright blue and the rest of the outer temple is marble pillars, save the golden crowns rising from the top. Once you enter the building, all I saw was stone slab after stone slab with gold writing on each one. The pillars created a maze, and above this maze was a large series of paintings depicting the Buddha and his monks. When I moved to the center courtyard, where the Buddha was place, I realized that all for surrounding entry ways were the same as the one I came through. Each size created a labyrinth out of stone slabs with beautiful curved writing. Unfortunately I never found out what the writing was. When I finally decide to leave (without seeing many of the buildings such as the house of the grand patriarch or any of the gardens) it was already getting late and I wanted to be sure I'd be able to get home. The park is 2500 rai (about 1.544 square miles) and I think I saw maybe a half of it. Either way, the people there were amazing and nice. When I couldn't find a place or even just walking around, everyone smiled and did their best to help me, including random people on the bus.
Also, Jim Jum is a delicious meal in Thailand. You are brought an assortment of raw meats and vegetables that you cook over hot coals. It is with this that I had what I believe was chicken intestine and liver. Both were rather chewy but the intestine tasted like sausage.
Thursday I had my second day of internship, which took place in the continuity clinic. Once again I sat and watched doctors speak to patients. The continuity clinic deals mainly with infants, I was told that delayed speech, anemia, and obesity are common issues seen at the clinic. I found the information about anemia to be very interesting. It is common apparently due to a genetic disorder prevalent in South East Asia and 90% of the cases never recover. The two cases I observed were very different. The first was a three year old boy who was slow on his speech development. The doctors went through a long process, becoming personal with the patient and evaluating his development in all areas. The four areas focused on for child development are fine motor, gross motor, linguistic, and social. There is a chart for each patient showing approximately what each age group should be able to do, given a large range within the average starting and ending period of the skill. This boy was unable to point to a fish and call it a fish, something he was supposed to be able to do at his age. However, though his linguistics were slow his fine motor skills were advanced. At his age he should have been able to stack six blocks.
While bored he was making towers with various sizes that stood at least twelve bricks tall, including counter balancing them. The second child was an interesting case. He was in the clinic because his skull is larger than an average child's for his body size. It was impossible to evaluate his development because the four year old refused to do anything but sit there, he wouldn't pick up a crayon, say a word, or even smile. I was told that during the last year he seemed to have developed a complex where he views himself as the center of the world at won’t do anything asked of him.
My roommate and I decided to attempt to find an old hole in the wall bar on Friday. Unfortunately it started pouring rain after we got off of the sky train and we were unable to determine where we were in terms of street names and finding the bar. After hiding in a 7/11, a woman asked where we were trying to go. She then called an information number for us to try to find the address of the small bar. When that didn't work she went back to her office, stationed in the building behind the 7/11, and looked up the address for us. She came back down 20 minutes later with maps and the print out of the bar and told us where to go in extreme detail. This woman has been one of the many people in Thailand who seem to have gone out of there way to help us. Just earlier that day we had tried to find a part of a mall and asked of a man in uniform for direction. The police office, which was high ranking according to his jacket, actually walked us to an information counter and asked for us before pointing us in the right direction. Everywhere I go in Thailand; the Thai people seem more than willing to help.
The bar ended up being a nice little place with few people, making it easy to start an interesting conversation with an at the bar. If you are looking for small places off the traditional tourist roads, Wong's Place is a great stop. However, it doesn't open until about 10 pm. To pass the time, we went a short ways away to a boxing stadium. Entrance for the outer ring was free and we were able to watch the last few rounds of the final match. Surprisingly, the Mai Thai fighters were children, just like on Koh Samed. They fought hard and it was highly interesting and entertaining, though I'd love to watch a full competition.
The next day, we visited the La-Ching Floating Market. My Thai friend told me this was one of the smaller boat markets in the area. Regardless, it was beautiful with lots of flowers and all the boats serving delicious food, most of which contained fresh sea food. The JJ weekend market was also a stop that day, though you need more than one day to walk through the giant maze. Lines and lines of stands cover the parking lot that turns into one of the busiest market places I have ever been in on the weekends. Anything can be found here, food, clothes, tourist goods, Buddhist goods, low and high class jewelry from all over the world. Anything you can think of is most likely there if you're willing to wonder long enough to find it. Though it is cheap in comparison to the US dollar, my Thai friend told me that prices have definitely risen just in the last year and the stands have become more tourist focused instead of selling traditional Thai goods.
We were picked up to go to Ayutthaya Sunday morning. The ancient Thai capital covered a huge expanse of ground, of which we saw only a portion. We started at the museum, which was funded by the Japanese government as a gift to the King on his sixtieth birthday and because there is a Japan town within Ayutthaya. The museum had various maps and gave an example of what life in Ayutthaya would have been like, showing a walled city where most traveling and trade was done by small boats, making the floating markets a continuation of this culture. We were then taken to a beautiful temple string of temples. The first and third temples were similar to the temples we had seen in Bangkok with shining walls and designs that sparkled in blues, greens, and gold. Individuals were praying in each temple and the detail on each of the many Buddha's was amazing. One of these was Wihan Phramongkhon Bophit in Ayutthaya, the home of one of the largest bronze Buddha's found in Thailand. The second and last temples were more like large areas with ruins with architecture that was beautifully detailed despite the chunks of cement that had fallen from the structures, leaving bright red brick in their place. These are the traditional ruins of Ayutthaya that were renovated once before they became protected. The first set of crumbling ruins was Wat Phra Si San Phet, the Ancient Palace. Though steps are being taken to preserve them, they will not be renovated again. The structures, including pillars and towers, are each made of brick that is then covered by a layer of cement. There are scorch marks littered on the structures as a reminder of the fire that destroyed Ayutthaya and was started by the Burmese during on of the many Thai Burmese wars. The three towers in the middle contained the ashes of the King, his son, and his nephew. The last temple, Wat Chaiwatthanaram, was damaged due to the fire as well. As one point there were many Buddha's sitting along the inner paths. Now, they stand from the waist down, if they are even present. In each corner was a small room containing two Buddha images. Across the river was the Queens palace, where she stays when in Ayutthaya for work. This was by far the most amazing of the temples in Ayutthaya. The structure, shape, and damage done to the temples made them beautiful.