It’s a post-Christmas-spending-frenzy time, it’s a life-goal-and-resolution-setting time and – if those aren’t tricky enough on their own – it also happens to be the time when every possible project and deadline at work becomes a matter of utmost urgency.
With that in mind (where I was definitely dealing with pressures associated with all of the above), I couldn’t help but scan my mind for something a lot more positive to lift me out of my January dreariness.
It wasn’t long before I remembered a particular moment when I had found motivation in a rather unexpected place. And, like all my favourite stories, this one happened while I was travelling.
Since February is just around the corner now, I reckon that sharing this little happy tale here is the perfect way to end a challenging January!
I was in Chiang Mai.
After flying in from Bangkok that morning, I had quickly located my accommodation, dropped off my bulky backpack and, guidebook in hand, set off to explore my new location.
Not too many days ago, I had arrived in Thailand on my very first long-haul solo holiday. I wish that I could say that I was a natural to this from the get-go, but that would be a lie.
Before my plane touched down in Bangkok, I was filled with a sudden bout of dread: what if I didn’t meet anyone to hang out with? What if I was going to be absolutely alone for the next three weeks? WHAT WAS I DOING?
But, having made friends within the first five minutes of arriving at my Bangkok hostel, it had, at first, appeared that my fears were unfounded. I had spent three days visiting sites with fellow solo travellers, which stretched into dinners and memorable nights out.
Having left those friends and being in a new place on my own again, I now felt that former dread sneak up on me again.
Determined to ignore those questions forming in my mind, I decided to distract myself by making a beeline for the temple I was most looking forward to seeing. It was a hot day, easily the warmest of my trip so far, yet I dutifully wrapped myself in the scarves and sarongs that formed the basis of my templewear.
When it comes to making a strong first impression, Wat Phra Singh is 100% sorted.
|Wihan Luang, Wat Phra Singh.|
|Incredible detail on the temple buildings.|
As my book informed me, Wat Phra Singh is Chiang Mai’s most-visited temple, and, while I was there, I found many factors that contribute to this status.
There are several buildings that make up Wat Phra Singh; once inside the largest, Wihan Luang, it took me a little while to take in the grandeur before me. Apart from the golden Buddhas before me, including one to the side that appeared to be covered in flaking gold-leaf, the room was filled with many other portraits and items that drew the eye.
I took my time to work my way around the room, trying to take it all in – in a vain attempt to not forget the finest details later.
|A postcard-perfect view through the temple window.|
|A gold-leaf Buddha.|
I loved discovering the temples in Thailand. At first, I wouldn’t know quite what to do while inside. I’d take a quick look around, get paranoid that I was being disrespectful in some way and then dash out. Later on, I started to relax and joined everyone kneeling on the temple floor. I learned to love these moments of quiet, which is something that I continued to seek out for the rest of my trip.
Wat Phra Singh is also home to a widely revered Buddha image called Phra Singh (Lion Buddha). This statue, which began its residency at Wat Phra Singh back in the 1360s, is housed in the smaller Wihan Lai Kham within the temple grounds.
While visiting the temple buildings and seeing the treasures within had done much to lift my spirits, I found my biggest surge of motivation while strolling in the colourful gardens.
|The gardens of Wat Phra Singh.|
Fixed to trees throughout the grounds of Wat Phra Singh are plaques bearing sayings. Some of these sayings are well known, while others may be entirely new. Their purpose is the same: to cause you to ponder.
It may sound way too simple, but these plaques, which reminded me of motivational posters you might find in an office somewhere, somehow made me feel better. The words, which made me think beyond my own temporary situation, seemed to be amplified by their peaceful garden setting.
For a place that’s supposed to be the busiest temple in the city, I was completely on my own in the gardens and, most importantly, I was enjoying the peace that accompanied that moment.
Of course, later that night, as with much of my trip, I made new friends and had a wonderful evening out in Chiang Mai. But, to my surprise, I also started to thoroughly enjoy the time spent alone in my own company, where I was left to my own thoughts and to get excited about my dreams for the future. I was travelling, and I was beginning to love every moment of it.
By the end of my three-week stay in Thailand, I daresay that I had begun to feel like I could just pass for a natural when it came to making the most of solo travel.