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Thailand Revisited

- Another Amazing Experience
IVU News - Issue 3 - 1998

Panel of speakers at the annual general
meeting of Thai Vegetarian Society.
In “A Thai Welcome”, IVU News issue Nº 1, I wrote about preliminary arrangements for the 33rd World Vegetarian Congress and the social aspects of my first visit to Thailand. The purpose of my second trip, just nine months before the scheduled date of the congress, was to meet and co-ordinate with the new Thai organising team all necessary details to finalise the programme and to overcome administrative delays likely to hinder the success of our most important international vegetarian event.

buddhas I was welcomed back to Thailand by Sumalee Naksuk, managing director of Nutrition House Co. Ltd., a vegetarian company which manufactures textured vegetable protein, whose president Teeranard Chokwatana runs two vegetarian restaurants in Bangkok: the Vegetarian Cottage and the Vegeta, a basically vegan restaurant where I met Teeranard at a lunch with members of the Thai Vegetarian Union.

During my stay in the capital I attended a meeting of the Bangkok Vegetarian Club held at the Vegetarian International Institute of Sathya Sai Education — whose main aim is to establish character and human excellence in all schools, colleges and universities — as well as the annual general meeting of the Vegetarian Society held at the Office of the World Peace Envoy, where I spoke about the unifying aspects of vegetarianism and invited all members of the audience to attend the world congress in Chiang Mai. Dr. Phichai Tovivich, General Secretary of the Office of the Peace Envoy, showed me around an exhibition on the twelve religions represented at the centre. buddha

veggies as art Thanks to my worderful guides, Sumalee and her colleague Dana, I was able to join in the lively weekend atmosphere at Red Cross Park, where I enjoyed some delicious durian fruit and my favourite coconuts. Another memorable visit was to the Floating Market, where one can enjoy a pleasant boat ride along the quaint canals while sampling the irresistible fruits offered by floating vendors everywhere. A comparison of the aesthetically pleasing fruit and vegetables, gratifying the senses with their aroma, with the filth and artificiality that humans dare to call food would strongly suggest that our mythical exclusion from paradise must have been entirely self-inflicted. For those seeking paradise regained, the fruit fairs held from the beginning of March in every Thai province are cultural and gastronomic heavens offering artistic exhibitions of beautifully carved floral fruit designs.

Despite the strong influence of Buddhism, whose teachings clearly oppose the killing and eating of animals, I was surprised to learn from Samana Naboon, a monk at Pathom Asoke temple, that the strict vegetarian principles applying at the seven Santi Asoke community centres throughout the country are actually notable exceptions. The healthy sense of purposeful activity, simplicity and equality that I observed in the community showed that, human failings apart, the true spirit of Buddhist preachers like Chu Hung and Chun Fang Ya of 16th century China — who helped butchers, fishermen and hunters to find alternative jobs while releasing and caring for liberated animals — is still alive and well. Santi Asoke monks and nuns practise what they preach and are strict vegetarians; they eat only once a day, walk barefoot, refuse to take money donations and lead a simple life in austere conditions while observing an ethic of hard work. They also encourage recycling and natural agricultural methods. elephant



Other interesting visits and excursions out of Bangkok and Chiang Mai that I thoroughly enjoyed included a pleasant four- hour boat ride along the 365 km Chaopraya river — where 125 years ago Queen Lucksami Tave, wife of King Rama V, was left to drown because her subjects were not allowed to touch her on pain of death — on the way to the Krang temple, housing more than 300 rescued dogs who are sheltered and fed with vegetarian dog food thanks to Teeranard; the Wat Srimah Apho temple where there is a reclining Buddha and also a 14 metre high statue of the Buddha; a training camp in Pattaya for homeless children whose vegetarian meals are provided by Nutrition House Co.; the Lampang Elephant Hospital near Chiang Mai, run by its founder Soraida Salwala whom I interviewed on video for Care for the Wild, who plan to air the film on British television; the dazzling Doi Suthep temple overlooking Chiang Mai; the Elephant Nature Park run by Sangduen Chaillert; plus another pleasant boat ride along Chiang Mai’s Mae Ping river.

I thank Katharina Bless, who runs the Oasis vegetarian restaurant, for taking me around town and inspecting with me the facilities of the congress hotel, the Lotus Pang Suan Kaew. I also thank Dr. Maitree Suttajit and all who helped to make my stay in Chiang Mai and Bangkok so pleasant. Having agreed to handle the congress reservations on behalf of IVU, I look forward to everyone’s participation in the 33rd World Vegetarian Congress and await your early bookings.

-- Francisco Martín, IVU General Secretary

doi suthep-temple

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