Thursday, December 26, 2013

Time travelers

So we're back in the US of A. At this point, I've been up for over 30 hours. Now I can't sleep. I'm exhausted but I'm wired.

Monday morning, headed to the Bangkok airport.

Time travelers. We arrived in Medford 45 minutes before we left. The last leg of the flight from San Francisco to Southern Oregon was in a tiny, prop engine plane with one stewardess. The engines were so loud and so full of vibration it seemed the plane might shake apart in the air. M. Lee slept through it all.

Time traveler

I read an article during the flight about Revive and Restore, a research project focused on developing genetic rescues for endangered, and even extinct, species like the passenger pigeon and dodo bird. I so hope they succeed.

Swami enjoyed it all

I will always remember the sadness I felt when, as a child, I read that the exotic, sweet-natured, defenseless Dodo bird was extinct and that humans were the cause. Now perhaps, wiser humans will be able to bring them back.

Back from the past?

In a few days, we'll drive to Portland. We've got a babysitting job there on New Year's Eve.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Hong Kong Xmas Eve


photo by asha

Came upon these giant coils of burning incense

photo by asha

while walking down an alley in Hong Kong tonight.

photo by asha

They were hung in a open air alter. No one was in attendance.

photo by asha

This is what I love about the world.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Buddha's lizards

photo by asha
Buddha and his lizards

We leave for Hong Kong in the morning and, on the 26th, fly from there to the US, arriving in Oregon 40 minutes later. I'm going to miss Thailand and all the lovely Buddhas here but it's time to go, at least for now.

photo by asha
Buddha and his lizards

Lately, I've been in a kind of emotional undertow. Sensory overload, I suppose. We've been traveling for the last nine months and, though I'm not all that excited about returning "home" I think, for a while anyway, it's where I need to be.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Winter Solstice, 2013

photo by asha
If you meet the Buddha on the road, he's probably hitchhiking.

Happy Winter Solstice

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Place holder

Sukhothai is wonderful. Having a motorbike to get around the site was perfect. The inner city alone covers 30 sq. miles. And there are temples in the outer ring as well. All in all, it's a huge area. As always, I took lots of photos but have no time to post them. Today we will go to Si Satchanalai which is also a World Heritage Site. Again, we'll use a motorbike. It will be about 100 miles round trip by the time the day is done. I like noodling around but hate navigating the city streets. Sukhothai is way more mellow than Chiang Mai but it's still chaos. Okay That's it for now. Gotta go.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Footnote to the day

We're leaving in the morning for Sukhothai. It's a five hour bus trip from Chiang Mai. As usual, I have been unable to keep up with things here. We did a Wat crawl a couple of days ago. I took lots of photos but haven't had a second to organize them. The next day we did a 70 mile loop on the motorbike. I haven't really made peace with motorbikes yet but it was nice to get out of town. We saw some elephants along the road carrying tourists on their back but didn't stop. I didn't even photograph them. I love elephants but have no interest in seeing them in this context. And last night we had dinner with a friend who told us he used to be a practitioner of black magic. That was interesting.

I did add a few photos to my Facebook page but that's it. It all takes time but first thing every morning, we are up and out. The only time I have for any of this is at night but, like now, it's after 10 and I'm tired. Besides, the thoughts and impressions of the day are long gone.

Tonight some fucktards have turned on their fucking TV and it's blasting out over the courtyard. I'd close the big window but there isn't any glass in it. Yes. I'm complaining. Like JudyBlueSky says, sue me.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Biking Chiang Mai

photo by asha
Minutes before the accident

I don't feel like writing about it but it's what I do here, note the passing days. We had a minor motorbike accident today. No big deal, unless my hand ends up getting infected but it probably won't. I always worry about things like that. I was on the back. We were needling through Chiang Mai traffic and, in order to avoid rear-ending a truck, M. Lee laid it down. My left hand ended up at the bottom of the pile, palm up, scrapped and bleeding and he banged up both knees and his chin. And my phone got smashed. I had it open to Google maps at the time as I was being the navigator. I will say this, I held it all the way down but the gorilla glass shattered anyway.

photo by asha
Biking in Chiang Mai

Thai people learn to drive a motorbike before they can walk. It's second nature. It gets so you expect to see moms on motorbikes nursing one baby and holding another or whole families sharing a bike, including the dog. And all the vehicles on the road, whether motorcycles, cars, bikes, hand-drawn carts, trucks, tuk tuks or taxis flow together and around each other like corpuscles in an artery. It's mindless and intuitive. Pure zen. And there are people in the mix. Pedestrians thread their way across traffic like fish navigating a stream. And it's nothing to see someone sweeping the street in the middle of traffic while vehicles flow by like a river around a sandbar. No one is perturbed. No one honks. And about a dozen people die a day in motorbike accidents, although the number is under-reported, or so my friends tell me.

photo by asha
Chiang Mai graffiti

Our confidence is a bit shaken. We were following a friend who has lived in Thailand for years and is experienced with this kind of thing. He zipped through an opening which closed just as we made the move. It could have been worse so okay. And that's life. People on the street were very helpful. A fellow took me into his shop and helped my clean up my hand. And our friend bought a round of ice cream bars, because ice cream always makes things better. So we stood and ate them on the sidewalk before heading home where M. Lee watched a couple of episodes of Walking Dead and I curled into a ball and slept.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Time out in Chiang Mai

King Bhumibol Adulyadej's birthday is being celebrated this week

We've been in Chiang Mai for five days now. I really like it here. It's both very mellow and very surreal. The historic part of town where we're staying is crammed with colorful centuries old Buddhist temples, restaurants, food carts, shops and open air markets. And there are lots of expats, which at this point provides a much welcomed break from the language barrier.

photo by asha
Dogs chilling at Wat Chiang Man

Originally, we intended to save Chiang Mai for last but we were so wrung out from Angkor Wat the M. Lee found a nice room for $9 a night and here we are. We're staying at the Sindy Guest House located near Wat Chiang Man, a very cool temple that shelters street dogs and has lots of very excellent elephant sculptures. The dogs there lead a very peaceful life except when free roaming dogs pass by on their evening jaunt. That requires some serious barking through the fence until the intruders are out of sight.

Our room at the Sindy House

Our room isn't as dark as it looks in this photo. Actually, it has quite a lot of light. The young guy who runs the place is nice, it's quiet and the internet is great so, other than the fact that there's no kitchen, it's just fine.

Swami likes it here
but then Swami likes it everywhere

Chiang Mai has a lot of vegetarian restaurants and they are very affordable. Brown Rice Organic Bistro is one of our favorite places. It's all vegetarian and the owner/gourmet chef is really friendly. Another place we like is Number 9 Restaurant on 207 Soi 9, R.Muang. They are not all vegetarian but tofu is an option for every dish and the food is good.

Thai for vegetarian (L7)
pronounced "J" aka "J Pad Thai"

Also, there's a vegetarian food cart at the Wui Lai Night Market but I don't remember their name. I'll post it later. They're great. And the fruit cart across the street will whip up a mango shake for sixty-six cents. As for the meal itself, at any one of these places it ranges from one to three dollars.

Wat Chiang Man temple dog

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Swami, Dalai and the Tulku

I started this post in the Siem Reap airport this morning while waiting for our flight back to Bangkok. Seven days in Cambodia was more than enough. For all the beauty, nice people and stunning ancient ruins, it's a dark hard place to be. I even dreamt I was blown up by a landmine. Trust me. That wakes you up with a start.

photo by asha
Swami contemplating Ta Keo,
the cursed temple

We went back to Ta Keo three more times but the girl who said she'd keep looking for Swami was never there. So sadly, whether lost or stolen, Swami is gone and now we must move on. If one of the girls selling souvenirs at Angkor Thommanon took him, I hope he brings her much happiness. His smile truly is irresistible.

photo by asha
Swami contemplating Swami

I will say this. I had an ominous feeling about Ta Keo the minute I saw the place. Swami felt it too. I have since read that during its construction, the High Priest declared the presence of an evil omen, halted the work and the temple has remained unfinished to this very day. That was a thousand years ago. Recently the Chinese adopted Ta Keo as a pet restoration project and are hard at it, putting what remains back together. Good luck.

photo by asha
Swami leaving Angkor Wat

But here's the thing. We have decided to think of Swami as a low level Tulku. To put that in perspective, the Dalai Lama is a top level Tulku. Top level Tulkus have to leave their bodies (die) before they can reincarnate in a new body. It's much easier for low level Tulkus. They aren't incarnations. They are "incarnate emanations" which means that the original doesn't have to die for a new emanation to manifest. Get it? Copies can exist simultaneously. Slick, eh? And emanations can be just about anything, human beings, deities, rivers, bridges, medicinal plants, animals, trees, birds, art, crafts etc. I suppose even puppets and dolls. Confused yet? The Dalai Lama goes into lots of detail here but put simply, Swami is back!

photo by asha
Swami and the Big Buddha of Ko Kood

He's there, wherever there is, and he's here with us. For now he's in a strange little body made of coral, a piece I picked up on a lonely stretch of beach on Ko Kood. It had such an odd shape I couldn't resist. Okay. It called to me. And I just happened to have it with me in Angkor Wat when Swami disappeared. Of course, we will look for a little yellow guy with a big red smile. M. Lee has already begun searching online for a doll maker who has experience replicating them. Reconstructing Swami will be our winter project. As they say, life goes on.

photo by asha
Swami contemplating the full moon.
Ko Kood

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Looking for Swami

photo by asha
Girl at Ta Keo helping us look for Swami

This little girl represents the last small chance that we may yet find Swami. She was at Ta Keo the day we lost him and helped when we went back the next day to look for him. I mentioned a cash reward and she shot up the temple's steep, narrow stairs and scoured the third level before I even got to the second. No luck, but we'll check with her one more time before we leave. If he's there, she'll find him. She's a smart kid.

photo by asha
Looking down the stone
stairs from Ta Keo's top level.

Of course my "problem" is inane. This child, who should be in school or off playing with her friends, is forced by extreme poverty to be a tout. It's terrible. It should be illegal to put kids on the street like this but there they are and the second you arrive at a site, they swarm and cojole you to buy something.

photo by asha

You have to ignore them, because, if you don't, if you say "no thank you", if you even glance at someone, if you do anything that in any way acknowledges their existence, they suck in closer and stick longer. They are well trained.

photo by asha
Touts working the tourists at Angkor Wat

So you learn to totally ignore them but they are kids, for god's sake. Why is this happening? Same as always, graft, cronyism. Increasing millions of tourist dollars flow into Angkor Wat yet the temples are not properly protected and Cambodians remain the poorest people in Asia. It sucks all around.