Archive for the ‘Thailand’ Category

   Our pilgrimage took us all kinds of places in all kinds of ways . . .


OK, so we didn’t actually travel by elephant or fruit cart, but intrepid travelers that we are, we made our way through the Orient by all means possible, and completed our journey safely.  Thank you, Guardian Angels!

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Banged up Bangkok

Friday, 12 December 2008                                                        Bangkok, Thailand


         While cities hold the great commercial and cultural treasures of a society, I think their basic premise is anti-life.  Nowhere does the veneer of pretty civilization run thinner than in Third World cities.


         In Bangkok, traffic is a snarl.  Our tuk-tuk driver turned his engine off 3 times as we inched down one block.  He, like many people, wore a gauze mask, given that the air pollution is so thick , you can see it looking down the avenue.  James and I both got sore throats.


         Thankfully, the waterways which crisscross the city do not smell of sewage, though all manner of garbage floats in them. 


         Cities most certainly take a human toll.  I love the little bowing ritual that accompanies saying “thank you”;  here, however, is the first I’ve experienced some people not meeting my eyes.  The first time it happened, it shocked me.  What does the city do to the soul that makes one turn away from another human being?


         The Buddhist temples offer a sanctuary from the din and struggle of the metropolis.  Inside their large grounds, not only do the temple buildings and meditation halls provide quiet, but the grounds of big trees, flowers, large artificial waterfalls, pools, and statuary allow the city-weary populace to rest.  And the people use them – they’re full of children playing or studying, old people sitting, people strolling.  In Thailand every male must put some time in as a monk – from one day to a lifetime – and many teenage boys do a year.  The orange and saffron-robed monks are everywhere and universally revered; in fact, since they can have but minimal possessions, they move through the world on the good graces and donations of others.  And wherever they are, they are busy – teaching, healing, officiating.  Without their work, it seems to me that Bangkok – and Thai society – could break down.


         Bangkok makes me think about the basic nonsustainability of huge cities.  New urbanism with walkable lifestyles offers a solution.  Mass transit, park spaces and greenbelts, and converting suburbs into village formats would all help.  What if we shifted from a monetary economy to a resource-based economy, and people could do what they love instead of selling their souls here in this pit of steel  and asphalt?  What if cities took direction from The Venus Project?  [no relation!]


         Our first night in Bangkok this trip, we took a taxi from the train station to our hotel (a fancy high rise happy to give us half-price rooms coz of the drop in tourism).  As we drove through the city, I watched the urbanscape from my back seat window.  I saw a dark, small man passed out, his face planted on the cold sidewalk.  Drunk, I suppose.  But the image haunted me.  A man of the hill tribes, squashed under the death-dealing weight of anti-life urbanism.  Perhaps it was the only rational response possible for an Earth-centered person, to drink himself into oblivion, for certainly all his signposts of reality had been knocked down and paved over in the concrete jungle.  Most everybody else adapts, of course.  But when we’re at the point of wearing face masks to be able to breathe, how sane is that?


         One thing I know for sure:  fossil fuels belong in the ground.  When we moved them into the air and the water, we began committing slow suicide.  I hope that the new, cleaner technologies get established before we complete our kamikaze dive with petroleum.

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Thai HI



Tuesday, 9 December                                    Chiang Mai, Thailand


For James and me, the tropics feel so much like home; therefore, much of being in Thailand feels familiar.  We recognize the trees, know how to prepare the foods, have a sense of how the weather unfolds through the day.   The fact that we’re in Northern Thailand, surrounded by its jungle mountains and immersed in its gentle Buddhist culture, as well as its earthy Hill Tribe people, make it the perfect landing place as we transition from all hustle and bustle of our departure and prepare for our pilgrimage in India.  We splurged and got a package at a resort on a lake for 2 days (thanks for the birthday $$, Jacqui & Gene!). [Even so, such a splurge in the US wouldn’t even buy a room at a Motel 6].   There we began to feel just how tired we were – how much pain James had been suffering, and our pressures of packing up – and we let them go into the lake, the swimming pool, the quiet of the trees.


         Here when you say thank you [“kapkunkaa” (fem) “kapkunkap” (masc)] to a person, you both bow, hands meeting in a prayerful gesture, and your eyes meet.  I love that.  You feel like you’re really connecting with the other person.  The Buddhist culture is gentle and kind… we feel welcomed here.

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