Around the time of every New Year, it is a local tradition to make a pilgrimage to the top of Doi Pha Ngaem, to the highest shrine in Thailand, led by Phra Ajahn Wi, the abbot of Wat Tam Doi Tone monastery. This is the first year that eight of us packed into the truck and went to pay homage to the shrine at the top of the mountain. After three hours of hiking, the views were even more majestic: we could see down into the valley to tiny dot of where we’d started our hike. It was awe-inspiring.
Three hours up, two hours down was the motto of the morning, and it was a very early morning. We woke up at four to drive to the monastery, where a team of skilful, efficient cooks were preparing our picnic lunches while a crowd of dozens breakfasted on mushroom soup and hot coffee. Everything–including two enormous pots of soup for later and their heating rigs–were packed into pick-up trucks for the hour-long drive up to the base of the mountain. Nok stayed with Baby Serena to supervise her various engagements with all of the people who wanted to photograph her.
Shortly after eight, a hundred of us walked the road up to the base of the mountain, up through vast fields of cabbage and carnations, and finally into a dense forest with impressive, loamy soil (when baby Serena is a grandmama, the soil at Mae Mut Garden will be just like this, hopefully). The path was narrow, occasionally slippery, and always quite steep, but with the help of walking sticks borrowed from the cabbage patch, everyone made their way up the slope and nobody fell into the cushiony blankets of clouds, which were well below us.