After arriving at the airport and being whisked away to our living quarters, all of the study abroad students met one another and we sat through a brief orientation on do's and do not's of Thailand. This short overview in particular covered proper conduct at temples, of which Thailand has many! I learned that modesty was best at temples, and covering your legs and shoulders is necessary to show respect. Women should never touch monks, and when being bless by them, shuffle in on your knees to show respect for their statues. Before entering a temple, always take your shoes off, you can pray if you like or just sit and admire the ornate Buddhas on display, just always remember to keep your feet pointed away from the Buddha, since the feet are the lowest part of the body.
The next day we went to arguably the most famous temple in Chiang Mai, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, or simply known as Doi Suthep. The temple is located quite far up a twisty climb the mountain Doi Suthep. The legend goes that a white elephant took a piece of a relic up the mountain, trumpeted three times, and then collapsed and died. King Nu Naone saw this as a omen and built a temple in the spot where the elephant died, which is where it still stands today.
It was an array of new experiences, climbing the mountain, talking and being blessed by monks, and learning more about Buddhist traditional practices through sitting and observing.