The aim of this activity is not only to welcome CMU freshmen but also to foster a relationship between the seniors and the newcomers. Walking up and along the 11 kilometers of the winding path from the foothills, the students from all departments perform in their class parade, chant and sing class specific songs, and help each other along the hot and exhausting trek. This ceremony is a great experience that all CMU students will never forget http://www.cmu.ac.th/cmu_life_eng.php?menu=1
We started this morning at 8 a.m. and walked from our condo to CMU which is about 3 km away. We did not expect what was coming next. This event was something that made us relive our Tongariro Crossing Trek in New Zealand, but in 90+ degree heat this time.
We met up with our Thai CMU alumni friends Dew, Piano and Paul. Once we found a parking spot we headed for the road that would lead us up into the blast furnace, better known as Doi Suthep mountain.
As we moved up the mountain and past many groups of walkers from the different college departments, it became quite apparent that this day was going to be long and brutal. Piano and Paul quickly turned around and said they would get the car and drive up to the summit, while Dew, Lori and I continued our march upward. It was a little disconcerting to see ambulances returning from somewhere above us and to see students stopped along the way in various states of physical distress.
Finally, about halfway up Dew saw her friends in the back of a songtheaw (red pick-up truck taxi) and yelled at them to stop and wait for us. More than a little relieved, we jumped on board for remainder of the ride upward on steep, winding roads.
As we slowly snaked our way up the mountain (lots of songtheaws with tired students aboard) we heard the chorus of cheering college freshmen trying to motivate themselves onward. There were volunteer groups that handed out free water and food to all those who took part in the journey.
Once at the top, each group waited for their turn to traverse yet another couple of hundred steps to reach the temple and receive sacred blessings from the monks. The temple grounds were very beautiful and had a great, albeit hazy,view of Chiang Mai.
As our time at the top drew to a close, we needed to get back for Lori's play rehearsal, so we opted out of walking down with the students and took that wonderful little red pick-up to the bottom of the mountain.
Overall, our impression of this annual event was that it was a great way to build class unity through pain, suffering, joy and jubilation. We wish many successes for this class of freshmen as they embark upon their journey to knowledge at Chiang Mai University.
Short video of the trek done by CMU.