Archive | August, 2011

Meditation in Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai

25 Aug

For the next 6 days we’re going to be meditating in the ancient Doi Suthep temple in the mountains surrounding Chiang Mai. We’re not allowed to use computers, listen to music, read, or eat any solid food after 12 noon, and all our clothing has to be white.  I even bought some ‘sexy’ white underwear (see picture).

The daily routine:

4:30am- The day begins
5:00am- Morning practice
6:30am- Breakfast
8:00am- Short Dhamma Talk
11:00am- Lunch
3:00pm- Daily meeting with a teacher
7:00pm- Dhamma Talk
10:00pm- The day ends

http://www.fivethousandyears.org/new/index.php

Mopeds, waterfalls and lakes

25 Aug

2 Days ago we hired a moped. It took a long time to debate whether we should but in the end we decided it was the best way to explore some places not easily accessible by foot (i.e. a good 15km walk from where we were staying).

Waterfall Playground

Waterfall Playground

So we set off on our little automatic 110cc bike toward a waterfall that the bike rental place had recommended (it was free and less touristy compared with the main bigger waterfall around here). After a short while we ended driving up a pretty well paved mountain road, reaching what looked like a lookout spot we got off to explore. We explored round and down a very worn ‘path’ that lead to an amazing lookout of Chiang Mai.

On the way back we noticed 3 locals sitting on the opposite side of the river/waterfall. After waving and various silly posed photo’s they beckoned us to come over. One of them met us half way and we slowly inched our way across the top of a slippy, fast flowing shallow. One of the plunge pools after a fall had a line across with tires attached, it looked pretty solid so using the power of no words I asked the locals if it was ok to swim. He replied saying “Tarzan ahhhhheiiiiiiiiahhheiiiiiiiahhhhh” and beating his chest and giving the thumbs up. That was enough for me, I slowly edge along the rope letting the current pull me from the rope, it felt incredible.

After a short time I had gained confidence and was jumping straight in, which seemed to invite the locals to show their daring side. After showing me how you could swim behind the falls using a back current they played the ‘this is how WE do it’ game. This involved sitting at the top of the falls and riding it down like a slide and then climbing to the top of a nearby tree and jumping right into the deep plunge pool. It felt as if we had stumbled upon the local ‘watering hole’.

After our extended good-byes we took off on the bike again, this time headed for a nearby lake. Arriving there (having to pay 20 baht each) we had a quick bite to eat at one of the small straw shacks by the waterfront. The lake was more like a giant pond and felt more like swimming in a far warmer version of the ponds on Hamstead Heath.

We drove around the 10km edge stopping briefly at a statue of a standing Buddha and finally headed back to Chaing Mai. We used the bike in the evening to drive to a “Contemporary Vegetarian Restaurant”, which Clare had a spicy Thai salad that was too hot to eat more that 2 mouthfuls and I had a coconut drink that was disgusting. My food was nice (a tofu sweet n sour chicken) and Clare’s Sweet herbal tea was nice, so between we had one inedible meal and one fantastic meal.

Next up, meditation for 6 days in a Buddhist mountain temple. No, really (How do I get talked into these things?).

Blind massage in Chiang Mai

24 Aug

Had quite an intense traditional Thai massage in Chiang Mai this morning. Went to the Thai Massage Conservation Club where they only employ blind masseuses. The lady who massaged me pummeled, poked and stretched every inch of my body from the top of my head, to my finger tips and toes. As much as I love a hard massage, I think this one pushed me to almost my limit.

Eating insects in Chiang Mai

22 Aug

I’ve always wanted to try eating a  cooked beetle  and yesterday I got to do it. There was a market in the old town part of Chiang Mai, and a woman behind one of the stalls was selling fried insects.

I bought a mixed bag of crickets, silk worms, whirligigs, beetles, grass hoppers, and cicadas for 20 baht (the equivalent of 40p).

The black beetle was smooth and salty to suck, crunchy, and soft on the inside. However the silk worms were the most interesting, despite the tray of them looking like dried up maggots. After I took a bite, tangy cicada juice spurted out into my mouth but once I started chewing, it kind of reminded me of prawns with a metal after taste.

Unfortunately I didn’t manage to finish the whole bag and Dom hated them but mixed in with a nice salad I reckon they’d be really tasty.

Night train to Chiang Mai

22 Aug

Me and Clare in the bar on the night train

Me and Clare took the 7:30pm night train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. Each train compartment had 2 sets of bunk beds, I had the lower Clare had the top, though there was basically no difference. The train was air-conditioned, but i’d rather it not have been as I woke up the following day feeling terrible.

The train did have one strange saving grace, the restaurant/bar carriage. This was more like a moving party carriage, it had flashing christmas lights, coloured ceiling lights, music and plenty of slightly overpiced beer. We danced to too many 90’s songs with tourists and thai’s.

We’re now staying at “The Good Will Guesthouse” which is only 250 Baht for both us a night (roughly 5 pounds a night). The room is very basic with only a fan and shower/toilet, but the staff are so friendly (with the cutest little dog) it really makes up for it.

More photos added here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/treesareweird/

Pattaya Walking Street

20 Aug

Imagine the under city of any sci-fi future; sex, bright lights and shells of tourists. This is Pattaya’s Walking Street.

Neon glowing lights, loud music coming from every angle, clubs with girls dressed in odd costumes looking barely legal, Thai men coming up to you thrusting laminates of “Private girl shows” with such things on the menu as “Girl and Boy fucking show” or “Pussy Balloon show”. Now fill this space with 60+ year old tourists milling around looking confused/drunk/zombie/amazed, but also make this space as safe as a movie set, with pretty much no crime except for the occational brawl which the police deal with pretty quickly (so i’m told but we didn’t see any trouble at all).

It was such an odd/overwhelming place. I’m not sure if I like the spectacle of it all, but it was certainly a sight to be seen.

All this after spending the day time being shown round an amazingly well maintained/staffed school for disabled children. It felt like a leap from two extremes.

Now onward to the north of Thailand. Clare seems to have booked us into a meditation temple in 6 days time.

Mood: Nervous.

Monsoon Season in Bangkok

17 Aug

Everyday at around 4:30 the rain starts pouring down and continues throughout the night. Not sure I’ve ever been so wet and wrinkly from the rain before. Also think we amused the local Thai people as they kept smiling and laughing when we walked past.

Clare