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Meditations around the world My 8-month Trip to Southeast Asia.

Quarter year updates from Thailand

THAILAND | Monday, 25 December 2006 | Views [2224] | Comments [1]

9/21/2006

Well, as some of you know, I have made the journey to Thailand.  Of course, I turned on the news as I was leaving for the airport to see tanks rolling through Bangkok.  GREAT!!!  But, no worries and the coup has little affected my journey as of yet.  The town is out of control and dizzying, especially the Khao San Road area.  I'm planning on heading down south to the islands and beaches either this evening or tomorrow.  The exhaust on the street is choking and there is little escape from the frantic energy of this city!  Heavy rains last night lasted through morning and here I am bracing myself for all the new experiences to come.  Hello to all and please feel free to write if you care to as I wander alone the exotic shores of this fascinating country.

9/28/2006

Hello from the gulf of Thailand!  I've been on Koh Tao Island for this week -I guess I left on Sunday and traveled through the night.  I arrived on the island a bit before 11am.   I went to a remote corner of the Island with a few others I met and am sharing a cliff-side bungalow over the ocean with a Finish guy I met in Bangkok.  For two and a half bucks a night each, its not too bad!  Very nice place with a balcony and even our own bathroom and fan!  Today I have hiked about 6 km to get to this Internet access and plan to walk around most of the island by nightfall.  I will probably head to the nearby island of koh pha ngan on Sunday.  I hear that there is a nice beach there and nice atmosphere.  Not much else to report as of now.  The weather has been mostly cloudy with intermittent storms, the water has been rough and choppy, but now and again the sun shines through.  Weather is humid and not too bad with the breeze though sometimes can be a little stifling in the room.  Time has been spent reading, watching the waves, snoozing, eating good Thai food, chatting with travelers and exploring the island.  Hope all is well out there and as always....

more to come!

10/29/2006

Hey there friends and followers!  Well, yes its been a little while.... where was I my last note?  Hmmm... Koh Tao?  Koh Phangan?  Well, there was a week at the former and 10 days at the latter in a little bungalow on the beach secluded from the cities and roads of man.  A pristine beach in a cove surrounded by mountains.  Beautiful, and I made some good friends while I was there.
 
Relaxed and tan, I journeyed to the city of Nikhon si Thammarat with a couple I knew from the beach, Tom and Gemma, and we explored the city and went on a day tour of the Khao Luang National Park, a real rain forest jungle...tour.  We went on a long hike to a 7 tiered waterfall then off to some white water rafting... followed by an amazing downpour of rain and a soak in natural hot springs!
 
After the stay in Nikhon, I traveled overland to the west coast to meet another friend from Koh Phangan, a Norweigian fellow named Joeran, on Railey beach, where all the famous rock formations and blue waters live.  I did some rock climbing after meeting up with some people having gear and intention. 
 
From Railey, Joeran (Yoran) and I spent a night in Krabi where I ran into yet another couple from our little family on Koh Phangan!  The next morning we journeyed down to Malaysia to the Island of Penang and the famous city Georgetown.  I'm not sure why its famous but it sounds more stunning to say that.  Here we got new Visas for Thailand and saw really none of the tourist sights.  We had fun nonetheless walking around the city.  Oh.... and who should we chance to run into but our friends Tom and Gemma from, you guessed it, Koh Phangan!
 
After Penang, Joeran and I took a bus down to Cameron Highlands, a wet and very green mountainous area hosting loads of tea plantations cut out of the dense jungle.  We relaxed here for a while in the cooler temperatures watching the daily torrential rainstorms.  And yes, you probably already guessed.... Tom and Gemma were already staying at the same guesthouse.  We did venture out to the mountainous jungle for a trek... Tom, Joeran and I... as men are wont to do.  No map, no water, no food, and only a slight clue as to where we should end up.  Jungle was beautiful and trail was very steep.  Wonderful unused trails as dennoted by the many complex cobwebs I began to wear like a smock.  We found our way many kilometers south however at a lovely tea plantation in time to sit under an umbrella and drink fresh hot tea as the daily downpour began.  Very nice day.  Each night we were entertained by some chinese techno temple playing very loud techno music every night.  A bit strange and the worst part was that it was really BAD techno music! 
 
Joeran and I, after a week of lounging around the cool green wet climate, journeyed again to the heat of the lowlands and headed on a bus for 6 hrs, hopped on a train for another 10hrs and landed back here in thailand in a small city of Surat Thani.  Here we looked for a pair of long pants for Joeran, which was quite a task given he is a northern norweigian giant of 6'5", and looking for pants of that size in Asia is akin to looking for a McDonalds in Cambodia.  So tomorrow we will head to a famous monastery for a 10 day meditation retreat and after that will assumedly be fully liberated and have transcended to Buddha levels of consciousness.  So that will be good to have out of the way and we'll have that going for us.
 
So, hello to all and thanks for your notes.  I'll keep you posted in a few weeks of the new events of life, hopefully!

12/23/2006

First, let me make two apologies.  One, I already spent three hours writing this email and  while I was uploading mass pictures for your viewing pleasure, my email timed out and I lost the whole thing.   So, this is coming out a little later than planned.
 
Second, my apologies to those of you who have not gotten recent emails.  I noticed that not everyone was set up correctly on my email address book, so in order to correct this I am sending to everyone in my address book.  As on my Costa Rica trip, if you don’t want it, don’t read it!  Just delete, no worries.
 
Third, I want to wish each of you the merriest and happiest Christmas filled with the joy of the season and peace and freedom outside of the marketing and materialism now associated with the season.  Speaking with people from the UK I have found out that the stores are not allowed to be open on the 26th and sales not allowed until until almost mid-january in order for people to truly celebrate the season and to relax without the innundation of the marketing community and the manipulation to enhance greed during this season which ironically represents the opposite values.  In addition, may your new year be filled with great joy, love, friendship and peace.
 
Fourth, please see my pictures at this website: http://journals.worldnomads.com/thedukeoearl/
 
I guess a third apology -sorry this is so long!
 
Okay…I am now over three months into my trip…I think I left off when I was about to go to the retreat center for my ten day retreat.
 
First impressions as I got to the retreat center…rain, heat, mosquitoes.  Second impression…cement bed with 1cm thick bamboo mat and a wooden pillow.  The monks kept laughing about the wooden pillow.  I think it’s a cruel joke.  Cruel monks?  I must be mistaken.  The retreat was silent, so no talking for 10 days, and geared for English speaking westerners (fah-rangs).  Up at 4am, meditation until 5:15, yoga and thai chi for one and a half hours.  Dhamma talk for an hour, breakfast at 8am (always the same rice soup), free time, Dhamma talk at 10am, meditation (sitting and walking) for a few hours, then spicy thai food for lunch at half noon (12:30).  That ends the eating for the day.  Afternoon was meditation and dhamma talks, evening chanting and more sitting and walking meditation.  To bed (cement) at nine to enjoy the angry buzz of the mosquitoes upset about the boundaries of the mosquito netting.  Showers were a scoop and a big container of water.  Comfort was minimal but the retreat proved very relaxing and educational.  Main thing learned…give the mind a home by watching the breath and staying in the present moment.  Trouble comes when the mind is allowed to escalate a situation through negative or clinging thoughts attaching more meaning and value (positive or negative) to any given stimulation than is needed.  The meditation technique taught us how to do this (basically just stay in the present moment of watching the breath).  The technique is wonderful and I believe would enhance anyone’s spirituality and life success no matter what their religion.  For example, watch the mind when you start thinking envious thoughts.  They start out honest enough….”that’s a nice something.”  Then watch the mind escalate to “I want that” and continue to “must have that” and the greed begins and we either use our resources to get that something or perhaps, if we are not mindful, may engage some mild or questionable ethics through self rationalization to obtain said object of desire.  The practice is to watch this happen and to understand how the mind is working.  It is not saying don’t get this thing, just watch and be mindful and maintain morality.
 
So, after the ten days, I spent one more night at the monastery and then four nights in the nearby town of Chaiya exploring the streets and continuing my own meditation practice.  After this I took a train a few hours north to the small city of Prachuap Khiri Khan, very off the tourist/traveler farang circuit.  Here I was waiting for news on another 10 day retreat.  After the 4th day I found it was full.  I enjoyed this small town and hotel, very quiet, $4.50/night and across from a night market where I could eat for about half a dollar a dish.  South of town was a wonderfully empty thai tourist beach on an airforce base a 10 minute ride away (the only airforce planes I saw looked like cessnas) and in town was a little mountain with a temple on top of it and 396 stairs leading up to it –completely swarmed with beggard monkeys.  North of town the road went up the coast (empty tree-lined beach all of it) to a few caves with enormous Buddha statues within.  I ended up spending 12 nights in Prachuap, meeting a few other travelers as they passed through, a few of which who quickly became good friends.
 
After my time in Prachuap, I headed north on the train to the European and Thai tourist beach town of  Hua Hin.  I immediately regretted it!  The city had no planning and building upon building was build up so much it took me hours just to figure out how to get to the beach!  Darkly fried overweight geriatric Speedo wearing Europeans populated this beach and the water was not anything of the crystal green-blue waters of other areas.  I met some travelers at the guest house and had a fair time, but decided to take up an offer of a friend who was in the north of Thailand and had been practicing meditation for a while in the Tham Phachoem monastery.  I emailed her and told her I was on the way, hopped on the train to Bangkok (6hrs), waited 5 hrs for the night train, and got on that at 10pm -3rd class with tight small bench seating for another 15 hot and breezy dirty hours north to the city of Chaing Mai.  Here I got a room and checked my email.  My friend had flown to Bangkok on a spur of the moment need and was going from there to India!  She encouraged me to go on to the monastery anyhow and practice meditation there without her.  The next day I got a bus 6hrs north to the northern most city of Mae Sai and arrived at the temple monastery finally at 8pm.  Looking around I finally found a Buddhist nun and quickly found out that there were no English speaking people at the monastery.  I tried to relay my story and why I was there, but they kept telling me “Caroline go to India”.  Never getting the communication right, I finally found the phrase in my Thai Phrasebook Who do I ask to stay here?.  Finally, I was guided by a male layperson staying at the monastery to a place on the wooden floor in his room.  I slept well, but the bell rang at 3:30am and I dragged myself to morning chanting and meditation.  Then 2 hrs of chores and finally some breakfast.  A hike up the mountain revealed a small military compound the likes of which you might expect during our revolutionary war era with a mountaintop overlooking Burma (Myanmar).  After a few days of this morning schedule a retreat group came up and I met a wonderful maternal thai woman who was an English teacher.  Before I knew what was happening, I was signed up for the retreat and she became my personal tutor and translator and ultimately a friend.  The retreat was five days long and afterwards I took a lovely trip with my friend and another woman who had a car up to the Golden Triangle where the borders of Laos, Thailand and Cambodia meet.
 
In the evening, the ladies put me on a bus bound for Bangkok and at 7am in the morning I arrived and took a taxi to a hotel in the city fully expecting to meet my girlfriend Leslie who was to have arrived the previous night.  Checking with the front desk I found out that she had not yet checked in.  Concerned I got the room and checked email.  Thanks to modern technology, I found out that she had been delayed in Beijing overnight and would arrive in the afternoon.  She did and we spent two days in Bangkok both resting from our journeys and visiting Khao San Road and the overwhelming stimulation there.  Running away from the madness, we hoped a ride to the southeastern island of Ko Samet for a few days of beach, sun and waves. 
 
 
A night boat completed our trip to the island and we shopped for a room for a bit, and found one that was clean and available.  The next two days we slept, relaxed beachside, walked to different beaches, lounged on pillows and mats in the sand dining by candlelight while listening to the waves crash in front of us as golden lit khoom fay hot air fire lanterns rose up into the heavens becoming part of the starry night sky.  After two nights we decided to move down to the next beach where we could have our own bungalow up the hill behind a more favorable beach.  Waiting for the room to be prepared for us, we ate lunch at the restaurant attached to the lodging.  In the evening after ordering dinner, Leslie became a bit unsettled feeling and excusing herself, went on to become violently ill in various ways.  Making an unsettling and uncomfortable long story short, she kept down the medication I got her the next day at the single clinic on the island and kept it down long enough for it to take effect.  She still could only eat a few bites of rice that night, but the following noon we were able to be back on the beach with her not fully well but recovered enough to enjoy some rays and sand.  We had a plate of papaya for lunch and 6 hrs later I had come down with the same illness, though it hit me much harder than it did Leslie and I was rapidly loosing much more liquid that she had, and was unable to keep down any of the liquids I tried to drink.  Feeling my muscles go numb and painfully beginning to do some serious cramping and shivering uncontrollably, I finally admitted I needed a doctor due to dehydration.  It was after 10pm and the clinic was closed and there was no doctor to be found.  A speedboat was called and I was helped to the beach, on the boat for a 20 minute ride to a cab for a 25 minute ride to the hospital where I was admitted and stuck with iv and antibiotics.  Leslie and I stayed in my private hospital room for two nights all the while wishing I had gotten some travel insurance.  Feeling better but not yet peachy, Leslie and I paid the almost $22,000Bhat bill ~$600) and headed for the town of Chanthaburi where we spent two uneventful nights.  Moving on, we headed to Trat and found a wonderful area of the city with quaint little guesthouses and met up with a couple of other travelers.  A cheery and relaxing few days in Trat gave us courage to shed our Thailand residency and head on a long day’s travel to the neighboring country of Cambodia , the economically poorest country in SE Asia , and perhaps the world.  A 5:20 pickup immediatedly became the normal Thailand shuffle as we switched to a crappier bus for the ride to the border.  Here we were picked up in a Mercedes van and feeling very comfy for about 10 minutes, when dropped off and shuffled vans again to an old crappy van that they wanted to fit about 20 people into.  Mind you these are MINI-vans, not large passenger vans.  We busted out with laughter when we were passed by a van that had succeeded this head count!  Filled with farang, we were stolidly united enough to each have our own seat, the back one of which was broken.  Our tickets said A/C Mini-van but we soon found out there was no A/C, and no paved roads.  Well, few paved roads anyhow.  They are working on it though.  They are working on the bridges too and we had four river crossings that we had to stop and wait to be ferried across the river.  12 hrs total journey later we arrived in busy and mind swooning Phnom Pen, where Leslie and I and the two traveler’s we met in Trat got a tuk tuk to a guesthouse.  So now the journey has switched a bit and survival is a bit more prevalent on the docket.  This communist country has sure seen its tragedies and I am interested to see the sociological affects this history has had on the people and culture here.  The average wage here is $273US a YEAR!  Doctors make $30 a month here in this city.  This gives you an idea of what kind of poverty we are talking about!  Corruption runs rampant and I am sure that I will be in a position of acquiescing to a policeman’s need of greased palms before I leave here. 
 
So there it is!  You may now wake up and carry on!  Again, happy christmas and hugs and warm wishes to you all.

Tags: bangkok, bungalow, georgetown, koh pha ngan, koh tao, malaysia, nikhon si thammarat, penang, thailand, waterfall

 

Comments

1

Yoga is a way of life, a conscious act, not a set or series of learning principles. The dexterity, grace, and poise you cultivate, as a matter of course, is the natural outcome of regular practice. You require no major effort. In fact trying hard will turn your practices into a humdrum, painful, even injurious routine and will eventually slow down your progress. Subsequently, and interestingly, the therapeutic effect of Yoga is the direct result of involving the mind totally in inspiring (breathing) the body to awaken. Yoga is probably the only form of physical activity that massages each and every one of the body’s glands and organs. This includes the prostate, a gland that seldom, if ever, gets externally stimulated in one’s whole life
www.coomararunodaya.com

  williams smith Jan 12, 2010 9:34 PM

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