A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: auby

Songkran in Chaing Mai

water fights, thai whisky, home home home....

I am now in Chiang Mai as I write this. I have to rightfully say that I love the South if you want to party hard and I love the North if you want to keep your wallet in reasonable shape. I missed the 30 baht ($1.50) meals at road side stalls, 100 baht ($4) rooms and majority locals population. And now I am getting to experience it again! I would have to say that overall Chiang Mai is my favority Thailand city that I have seen. It reminds me alot fo Victoria in population size and large beautiful trees.
It was Songkran festival for my first four days here. It is baisically a huge city wide water fight and no one at all escapes the buckets of water being thrown around for four days. There is a large man made square moat that takes about an hour and a half to walk around that most people get their water from. I met a German named Jan who was staying at my guest house and we decided to go out and throw water around. The action is focused around the moat, so you stand at the moat side, throw your bucket into the water, haul it up with the attached yarn and throw it at other moat people or motorbikes, cars and tuk tuks driving by. As the say goes on it gets more and more crazy and the moat road gets jam packed with people. Jan and I eventualy hoped into the back of one of the many trucks full of drunked Thais. We drove around and experienced it from the cars point of view and eventualy changed trucks, joining more drunked Thais in the Buddhist New Years celebration. The water fight ends at night fall, so we went back, changed and walked to the night bazzar. Along the way we ran into Jan friend Sam who was on acid so we hung out with him until 1:30 or so, drinking beer and eating bbqed meats and sticky rice. I had just taken two over night busses in a row and had almost two weeks of hard partying in Ko Pangan so I was extreemly exhausted to say the least by the end of the night. The next day we went out again for songkran. I got seperated from my friends around four due to a failed meet up plan so I walked around the moat, chucking water on people and being drenched. As night began to fall I got a tinny bit worried because I could not remember where my guest house was, the name if it or anything about it. I decided to sit down and dry off my feet and put on my foot bandages again (bad shoes). As I was sitting there, two hammered Thai women came up to help me. It was ones 25th birthdayand the other was her 52 year old mom. They invited me to drink whisky with them in celebration of Songkran and her birthday. I sat with them behind a road side food stall and drank whisky. The birthday girl could not speak english but she got her mother to translate into english for me that she was my friend, thatshe has a good heart, that she loves me, to not worry...about 10 times within the first ten minutes of sitting with them. The mother had her arm over my shoulders and was saying to me'your my baby...dont worry about anyhitng...I'm your mom...your my baby" over and over...at which point I decided that I needed to slam my whisky on rocks drink to fully apreciate the drunk love vibes! I eventually left after a few hours, when it was 9 pm. I walked down the road hoping to run into something I recognized and I came across a temple where people were doing religous things. I was interested, thinking about my 10 day meditation retreat in a few days, so I entered the temple, quite drunk from the Thai whisky. I did the prostration three times on my knees to the Buddha and sat there after looking around me drunkenly. When I left the inside of the temple I came across a woman that traps little birds in little wicker cages and gets people to pay her to set them free. I think this is cruel so I bought some birds and set them free. I came across the night market and thankfully ran into a few people who I knew. They were quite amused at my drunk lost self so they took pitty on my and helped me find my hostel after hanging out for a while.
The next day I went out, ate bad food and got food poisening and a stomache bug to boot. I puked and now a few days later I am feeling better after taking some medications.
On the 20th (now it is the night of the 17th) I am going to go up to Wat Dio Suthep to do my to day advanced meditation course. It will be at the same temple as my three week course so I will get to practise with the same teacher. When I am out of there I will catch the night bus to BKK and then the next evening I will be on my FLIGHT HOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I am so estatic to be home so soon that I have had to buy sleeping pills (non adictive ones!) because I can't stop thinking about being home finally! I have really loved my time here in Thailand but I will be so so glad to get back home where Dave, my sister, mom and friends are! People look at me like I am crazy when I say how exited Ima to be home so soon but maybe they just dont have something so good to go back to like I do.
In the mean time before I go to my retreat in a few day I am going to indugle in what I love to do so much: read and eat cheese cake. I am curently working on three books so I have lots to do!
I am very greatful to have come to Thailand and experience some of the world. I have learned heaps of invaluable things by being out here in the world traveling solo. I have gotten to make my own choices of where to go, what to do and when to do it. To tell the truth, I have predictably caught the travel bug. I may be prone to getting sick, scar easily from bug bites and have a terbile sense of technical direction but my heart is definalty in for and made for traveling. I have created so many special memories for myself here that I will get to keep for a life time and I will always look fondly on my first experience traveling in the world. I am very glad I kept a travel blog, so other people can know what I have been up to, but mostly so I can look back on it too. Sort of like a word photoalbum.
HOME SOON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I will need those sleeping pills.

Posted by auby 05:48 Comments (0)

The South Islands

Ko Tao, Ko Pangdrunk, bindi dots, the full moon party....

I left off last on this blog with an hour before heading off to Ko Tao, on Kohsan raod.
My trip down to Ko Tao was the usual long sleepless bus ride but this time with a boat transfer. I finally landed at SBC Resort where I was t share a room with annd and jevan the next day at 10. As it was annas birthday, she was out getting a massage so it was jevans arms that i flew into when i arived. I was estatically happy to be there and see them, I almost wept! I swapted stories with jevan for an hour or so until Anna showed up and then we predictably screamed and jumped around hugging and kissing faces like mad women. That night we went out for annas birthday to a sushi bar and then to a 'Castle Party' with Cynthia and Megan, our school friends. The resturants in Ko Tao are all quite classy and beautiful and dam expensive too! As we sipped wine and ate sushi we recounted more stories and talked about home and friends. The castle party was a huge farang (forienger) party held in an outside multi-level club which played techno and remixed dance tunes. We got suitably smashed, sharring buckets of sangsong whisky on the dance floor until 2 AM. The next five days there it was delightfully scorching hott and we took up the routine of lying on the pristine white sand beaches durring the day, after getting some hung over breakfast. On the main beach, where we stayed, the water is shallow for a long time so the sun heats the water. We did intervals of scorching in the sun and wadding in the water, grabbing at the smooth wet sand. One night we went dancing at the Lotus bar which is on the beach and has a fire spinner to add to the ambiance. Another night it was the Lady Caboray, which is like a vegas dance show but with all lady boys! They are so enthusiastic and they stand at the 7 11 corner prior to the nightly show, all dressed up, to promote the show.
Soon we decided t head off to Ko Pangan, ariving April 1st. This island is insane, it is a party island all through the year, teeming with skankily dressed drunken farangs. The main beach is where the party usually is, with the beach side bars setting up mats for everyone to sit on. The Drop In Bar on the far right side attracted a corwd with its dancing vibe and platforms to dance on. As you leave Drop In and walk down the beach there is a row of thrity or so alchol bucket sellers. As you wakl by them, each of them yells "I LOVE YOU! YOUR BEAUTIFUL! COME HERE! CHEAP CHEAAAAAAAAAAP FOR YOU!!". Most of the have common western names on them like Jonny, Sally...and one had Anna! Most of them contain the word Fuck somewhere in their advertisments too. In fact on just said " Here Fuck Bucket" on the front of their stand. They all also give you a plastic ring with a rose made out of a straw and a flower necklace. Past the line of bucket sellers you soon reach Cactus Bar which also collect alot of people on their beach mats. Here they always have firespinners for you to become entranced with. At this bar they frequently played Kings of Leons Sex on Fire song. It is a great relaxed party mood song and everyone knows the words and I only become less impressed with the song after the 20th time it played. Up from the beach is the main road and Chicken Corner, which is a corner that people congregate at and three of the corners have the word chicken in their store name. The towns main area is not too impressive, mostly convienient with pharmacies, 7 11's, food and clothing stores.
We stayed at Leela Bungalows, on the sunset beach, which is a fifteen minute walk away from the main beach of Hadrin. The beach was calm an not over populated and the open air style resturant at the bungalows was tasty and reativly cheap. Anna, Jevan and I shared a tinny room with two beds and torn mosquito nets. It was cheap cheap and convienient.
We stayed until the morning of the 10th and the whole time was a complete drunken mess. On the first night we went to the main beach to Cactus bar and sat outside on the mats with their tinny tables for the partygoesers drinks. We watched the fore spinners in usual awe- they are so good at throwing flaming sticks around in an artful way all the while not burning themselves. We met our permanent bucket lady. We chose her because her stand said Anna on it and she gave the cheapest, yet nastiest tasting buckets around. She knew us by name and when we would be trying to find Megan and Cynthia she was our messenger.
One night we went to the Coral Bungalows Pool Party, a largly advertised and popular pool party at a hotel/resort. I can rightfully say that I have never ever been so drunk. I had a headache and took two extra strength tylonals just before we started to drink. I had forgoten that taking pain killers 'enhances' the effects of alchohol but boy oh boy did i find out. I did have a fantastic time while I was still aware fo what was going on, and I asume that I was having a good time during the times I draw a blank on. We were not planning on swimming in the pool because we assumed it would be grungy but around 1AM we decided to go in. It was quite fun to swim around in the pool and I seemed to not notice the urine, spilled drinks, dirt and cigarette ashs that I was later told definatly accumilate int he pool as the party gets intot he wee hours of the night. We went with two guy friends from our guest house, Marcel and James. Both of these men were older but acted young and Anna, Jevan and I had been trying to figure out how old they were. The question of their ages came up and apparently I was claiming you could tell how old they were by their thinning, greying and receeding hair. The next morning when I woke up my leg felt really itchy. I reach down to scratch it and discovered that my leg was in fact itchy because the length of the front of my calf was covered with long surface cuts! I greatly amused Anna and Jevan when I asked what happened and they explained to me what happened. Apparently we were walking home and were in a forested area walking down cement stairs without side railings. I was to the side of these stairs on the dirt path and simply fell head over heels and stopped after a role because Jevan grabbed leg and I landed head facing downhill, on my back. I must have dragged my leg through a bush. Then a few minutes later I needed to take of my wet bathing suit bottoms from under my dress so I or Anna ordered the guys to walk ahead. After I got them off successfully I fell right onto my face and got a bloody nose! I started screaming or crying and the guys looked back to my hands and face full of blood. Wow. They got TP and water from the nearest 7 11 and cleaned me up. Thankfully I didn't knock one of my teeth out! I certainly (and perhaps greatfully) didnt remeber any of these embarrasing incidents. Maybe alchohol is designed that way. When you get so drunk that it will be very painfully embarrasing to clearly rememebr, that is when the 'black outs' happen! The next day I went to the doctor because I wanted to make sure the cuts were OK. He gave me a tentnus shot, cleaned my cut and took a blood test. Apparently I had an infection from the cuts so I had to take antibiotics also. This all cost 4000 baht, about $150! Thankfully my insurance will cover it.
Another,er, memorable nights was the night we drank magic mushroom shakes. There is a place that is on the cliff on the farthest left side of Hadrin beach that sells magic mushroom shakes. Anna, Jevan, Jessica and I went to this place one night to endulge in these shakes. We got quite floored by them and decided to walk back to the crowd of people and trip out on the weird people after sitting around flying at the shroom shake place for a while. As soon as we started walking back and were on the beach, peaking on the shakes, a huge thuindering tropical rain storm over took us! At first it was just raining hard but then it started to really pick up and it was like buckets of water being thrown at you constatnly. Of course the shakes made this all quiet unreal; I was walking with Jevan and we were hysterically laughing and kept saying "is this really HAPPENING?! HAHA!" We knew it was infact happening but it is was too unreal for us at the time. I am laughing alot right now remebering how bizar it seemed. We managed to get to some auning cover on a side street ad stayed there until the rain let up. Poor Jessica, it was her first time on these magical shakes. We eventually slugged home in the flooded streets, getting rather lost a number of times.
The following nights I think we went out and drank and danced till late almost every night leading up to the full moon party on the 9th. As we continued to party and dance for so many night I grew tired of it so I took it easy the few nights before the full moon.
The full moon was a huge crazy party, as anyone would asume it would be. I heard there was 5000 people on the beach but I also heard anything up to 10,000. The beach was decked out with DJ's at every bar, stages and decorations. There was a masive set up with the words Full Moon Party created with cotton and then lit on fire. I would say that it was quite similar to the other nights of dancing on the beach other than the extras I mentioned above and that everyone was super pumped and there to egt down, dance and have a good time. It was raining early in the night as it had been for the majority of the other days and some nights. We, and everyone else there decided to say screw it and go out anyways and just get drenched. Anna and I wore bathing suits, me with a sarong skirt and anna with a purple fairy like skirt. Anna had bought bindi dots in India so we put them on our eyes, three on each side going outwards and two where the actual bindi goes, on the forehead. A few other people at the party had a bit of a costum going on too and lots of people wore bathing suits. The rain let up eventually and then it really got going. We were dancing with Cynthia, Megan, Dano, a Dutch and Marcel in a really packed area and Anna, Jevan and Marcel took off to get something. Some raging coke drunk guy got angry at Dano and started wailing on him and Megan and Cynthia tried to defend him. I though that the guy was going to hurt so I tried to pul them out of the the mess too but they didnt want to be pulled out so I got my slef out of the escalting situation. I wentto an elevated area to see if I could find my departed friend but no one was anywhere to be seen so I took off by myself and went to dance at my favorite place- a stage with enough room to move around. I love dancing on stages at parties like this, it enables you to see the crowd and you get a whole different view on everyone. So I danced on this stage without my friends, but of course I was not alone and quickly made firend with the other stage dancers. For a while I ignored all the people around me, paid attention only to the ocean and visable moon, wholly feeling the nature of the place. It was my most memorable and enjoyed 30 minutes of dancing in my dancing days so far, I can clearly remember what it felt like. I evetually left and thankfully, miraculously, ran into Anna, Jevan, Marcel and the Swiss gal. The night ended around 4:30 AM and we all happliy stumbled back to Leela Bungalows.
The next morning we caught the taxi to the ferry at 12 to head to the main land and bus it up to Bangkok, landing at 5 AM. I stayed there on Ko San for just that day and left for Chiang Mai, where I am now, that night.
(ps check out annas facebook account for pictures)

Posted by auby 00:58 Comments (0)

Baan Dada

children, sickness and Kaosan

I din't have time to spell proof this entry, wanted to get it out before I leave for Ko Tao in...45 minutes!
As of tomorrow I will have finished my two week stay at Baan Dada. My experience here has been a humbling one, enhancing my gratitude and widening my views on the world and its many conditions and forms.

About Baan Dada:
Baan Dada is an children's home on the boarder on Burma. It provides a safe home, love, food and much more for the children of the near by Karen hilltribe. It was founded by Dada #1, Richard, who is a member of the Enohumanism foundation, in 1991. It has grown from eight children and one building to 60 children and five buildings, plus two in the making since then. It is located a half hour drive from Sangklaburi in a small jungle surrounded village.

The working people:
There are many people who live and work here, helping the whole home run smoothly. The two main men are called Dadas, which means 'brother' in Sanskrit. There is Dada 1 who is like the backbone and heart of the whole foundation, working endlessly to maintain the well being of the children. He has a heart of gold and has been here since the start. He doesn't even claim his own room, as he could, and sleeps in the office instead. Dada 2 is also a member of the Enohumanism foundation and is here on a one year placement, six months into it now. He is a gentle man who holds a song signing and meditation session almost every night for the kids who want to join in. We regularly engage in discussing mystical topics such as the vibrations of objects and how people perceive the world in different ways. There are four 'Mothers' who take care of all of the cooking, laundry and the cleaning that is not done through the kids chores. Dada 1 has an assistant for the office work named Fon who also teaches Thai sometimes and a main Thai teacher named Kik. There are also three construction workers who labor away on the two building being built.

The other volunteers:[/i]
When I arrived there were six other volunteers. Debbie is the most busy, a 27 year old from Toronto, who helps out in the office endlessly and has been here for two months, staying a few more weeks. She also was stuck with a badly infected eye for several weeks! She is extremely friendly and kind, and I shared a room with her for the first half of my stay. There were two Aussie gals, Hellen and Clair, who are self described typical Aussies - loud and somewhat outrageous! They where contantly using Aussie phrases like 'look out!' (applies to anything that happens) and 'ourtrageous!' (also all-applicable). There is was Pauline, a quiet insomniac, a real beauty from France. She was a self taught photographer and had a wicked camera. There is also a couple (the only ones left besides Deb) named Jessica and Sander. Jessica is from Seattle (yes- we discussed the regions constant rainfall somewhat wistfully). She is the vegitarian-pagan type with a fantastic tatoo on her back that symbolized the interconnectedness of the world. Sander is from Estonia and was travelling in Australia when he met Jessica, also travelling, over a year ago. The volunteers play a vital role to Baan Dada, or their time and more vitally for their donations. The majority of the money Baan Dada uses is from volunteers in fact. There is one legendary volunteer who stayed here for 9 months named Bee, from Alberta (us Canadians!). She made a huge difference here and is greatly loved. She is returning to study international policy in Bangkok soon and plans to utilize her knowledge and degree to help the children of the home.

The grounds:
On the grounds there is a building for the boys to sleep in which is attached to the office and TV/computer/general room. That is where I am right now, typing as the kids lye on the floor watching endless Thai TV. There is a girls house, pink painted walls of course, which is beside the play ground and boys building. There is a weaving/medical room, a small round empty hut that is the class room, an open style eating area and a band room where the Baan Dada band practices music. A new girls room is being built as it is overcrowding and a building to hold proper classes in is also being built. Everything is made out of mud bricks. Up a path about five minutes form the main area is the volunteer house and there are also several small homes for the families that live and work here. Along the path towards the volunteer house there are newly planted rubber trees and a stable for goats. From the top of the path towards the guest house you can see the stunning sun sets every night. There is a tone of critters as it is surrounded by jungle. These friends of nature include abundant non shy spiders, giant gekos, flying beetles, mossies, millipedes and snakes. One day I saw a snake that is listed as a nearly deadly snake! ek!

The kids:
The children here are aged 2 to 19, most of them in the range of 7 to 12. They vary greatly in their approach to the volunteers. The youngest ones, there are about 5 or 7 who are younger than 4, attach to you right away and run up to you with their arms up, wanting to be picked up. The girls are all friendly right away, some of them shy and some not so much. The boys take longer to approach you and play with you, mostly playing among themselves. For the last few days they have been wanting to play with me, playing chasing games with make shift weapons. There are no older girls, the oldest is 13, the older ones here are the boys who have been here since the place opened. The most notable of the group are Harrish, Fa, Ali Baba, Nachie, Nadoo, Prickadee, Cheeripon, Eh dodo and of course Walawut. Harrish has been here since day one and is one of the oldest. He taught most the mothers to cook and has naturally taken on the role of an older brother, letting the kids know when they are out of line or need to do something. Fa is a four year old girl, Dada 1's favorite and has what you may lightly call a strong personality, willing things to go her way via yelling her head off. She is a sweet as can be and seems to find a way to match her cloths. Ali Baba is 3 or so, chubby as can be, always has snot running and never wears pants. You can tell he will grow up to be a manly man. Nachie and Nadoo are sisters and look identical to me, about four years old. I think they must have been very very bad off because they seem to love going threw the garbage and want anyhting you have in your hand for themselves, even a tinny piece of crumpled paper. Prickadee is three year old girl and immediately 'claimed' me, viciously hitting and pinching any other child who got my attention. Cheeripon is 7 or so and seemed to take a liking to me after I gave her a private English lesson. She had to have a spot on the top of her head shaved because of some skin mold. Eh dodo is a 7 year old girl and is so friendly, when she first saw me she came up to me, got me to pick her up and kissed my cheeks and forhead several times, hogged me and said 'i like you' a bunch of times! Walahut a boy and is...we are not sure. He is cross eyed and to me it seems like he has autisim...or hyper active disorder...or something. He loves the volunteers so much, he is always the one waiting for the truck to arive, and when i came, he leeped into my arms. He will throw himself at you, screech laught, leap around, dance hysterically and lye on the floor in odd shapes...that sort of thing. There are so many other great kids as well. They tend to hang out in groups of the youngest, the 7-12 year olds and the older ones, although they mix a lot too.

The situation of the children:
When I was thinking about coming here, I expected to feel sad for the kids here, with no parents to care for them. When I learned about the other option for the vast majority of them though, I realized it was a happy place and situation. Alot of the children here are from the local Karen hill tribes of Burma whose families have been marginalized by the Burmese government, forcing them into poverty with no way out and no resources available. Many of these poor hill tribe burmese people walked across the boarder and now live in Pilloke village. They are there illegally and thus it is hard for them to have any way to make money, so they live off the land as very poor farmers. Pilloke village became a further isolated place with little to no livelihood since a dam was built near by to provide hydro power to Bangkok. Most of the kids have no father in the picture due to various reason more or less caused by the government. They are left with just the mother and while this may be something of a trendy thing in the Western world, it spells c-a-t-a-s-t-r-o-p-h-e for these local mothers. With no way to afford their children's food, education or time needed, they turn to Baan Dada to provide their children with medical attention, love, healthy food, a place to sleep and hopefully an education. Without Baan Dada many of the children would be living in extreme poverty, always hungry, forced to move to a city and beg, have no medical attention and possibly homeless. So being here at the bustling and alive children's home is a true blessing for all of them, and they all seem to know it and be grateful. They do fight and argue like normal kids but they also look out for eachother and have a strong sense of community.
Some of the children have obtained Thai citizenship papers but many of them have not. When I asked Dada about how many of them didn't have their papers, he just said 'alot'. This is not such a big deal when they are children or teens, living at Baan Dada, but when they are adualts and it is time ot leave Baan Dada many of them will gave very little options in what to do with themselves. For the ones who are not citizens, they also do not recieve a formal education, just the Thai and English lessons from the Home that have no credability. So with no Thai citizenship papers available to get and no education, they will have no choice but to return to the poverty that sent them to Baan Dada in the first place. They will be forced to live in Piloki village and be an extremly poor farmer or a hilltribe and suffer the opresive and limiting laws of the Burmese government. It is a sad thing to think about happening to these bright wonderful children. As I mentioned earlier, Bee is studying International Law in Bangkok and is going to utilze her expertise and passion for the kids to try and make changes in the laws which restrict them to poverty and opression. It is people like her that make the world a better place! I commend her for being so selfless and deciding to dedicate so much of her life to helping these helpless people.

What happened during the day and what it was like:
A typical day of volunteering is rather relaxed. There is no set schedule to follow, just things that you can choose to do. I usually would wake up at 8 or so and go have a breakfast of rice, cooked veggies and tofu. For the first part of my stay here I would get up to be at the girls house for 6:30 ish to help the youngest ones bath. They stood on a large square brick while I pored cold water on them and soaped them up with soap. The mother that usually took care of this was away, so when she returned she resumed her position of morning bather.

After breakfast I would sometimes help out with the English class for the children who could not go to school because they didn't have their Thai citizenship papers or are too young. It was held in the tinny round mud brick room and was rather chaotic. After this it would be lunch so we would go and eat more of the delicious mother cooked food. For the afternoon in the first half of my stay here I would paint 5/6 meter poles in preparation for the new buildings. Some kids would always join me for some time, helping with the painting. Then I would take a break and read or play cards for a while at the volunteer house.

After the mid day break I would eat dinner and then play with the kids on the courtyard and park. In the evening they watch TV, about 40 of the crowding into the 4m by 10 m room, all lying on each other, arms and legs draped. I would join them for this, not to watch lame Thai TV but so that the kids could claim me to lye on and snuggle with. Every other night or so Dada 2 would hold a singing/meditation session for the willing kids. Everyone would sit on their bums cross legged on straw mats on the courtyard and sing along with Dada and his guitar to a thai song and another song that Dada made up. It says 'love is everything, love is everywhere' is thai over and over. The words sound something like 'baba na kay vala baba na, kay wa la'. I would always join in on this and have a kid sitting in my lap. The mediation followed for five minutes and I kept my eyes open the first time, noticing that most the kids had theirs open too and where not mediating! One night when one of the kids was not paying attention in the middle of love song, Dada ironically yelled 'get out noina! leave if you don't want to be here!'. I had to contain myself from laughing at his obvious contradiction!

Two times I went to the Thursday morning market, held by and for the villages people. Since the only foriengers who visit this village are volunteers for Baan Dada, all the locals knew why I was there and greated me with warm smiles. The first time I carried Fa around on my hip and looked for cookies to bring back to the other kids. I got Fa a toy cell phone filled with candy and made her eat it in private so that the other kids would not hound her down for it. The second time I carried Malaee, a three year old girl, with me. I bought the five of the girls who were walking with me hair accesories and ice with sugar syrup, which they loved. I also got grapes and cookies for all the other kids who came with us. It is kind to buy them treats because they very rarly recieve them from Baan Dada as it is not a priority at all for their tight budget! We rode back in the back of the truck, about fifteen of us crammed in there.

On three seperate occations in the late afternoon everyone went to the near by river, which was a blast! I waded in the shallow area tending to the younger kids who could not swim well, throwing them around and carrying as many as possible in my arms. They all swam naked, in their undies or pants. It was great fun and I nearly drowned with the kids clamoring on me, a few times needing to yell 'off! get off of me!'. i think it was the from handling sick Prikadee on the river that I got sick too...

About half way through my two week stay here I woke up with a stuffy nose and itchy throat. I got more and more sick, practically blowing my nose and horking 24/7. Lovely. I cut down my interaction with the children and reduced my activites to next to nothing, not wanting to stress out my system. It didn't work so well for getting better though and after several days I woke up in the night at 4:30 with a retched ear ache. I sought out the medical woman and she gave me some strong painkillers and mysterious pills to take for three days to make me better. It knocked me out till noon and when I woke up I spent the day with a painful ear and totally stuffed up head. I spent the next day treating my sinuses for hours with steam and Tea Tree oil, and my throat with hot lemon tea. I am still not that healthy, all stuffed up and I can't hear that well. Some water seems to have made my ear it home. I am not so worried about getting sick, it happens, it just sucked to be needing to rest and not being sure if I was resting too much and wasting my time here. I gave up resting a few days ago and now I am thankfully out and about playing with the kids again!

At the end:
For the last half of my time at Baan Dada I was sick and resting, as I mentioned above. For the last three days though I got so frustrated with the cold hanging on and wasting so much time not being with the kids and helping out. So I gave it up and decided to atleast help with some office things and play with the kids a bit, while obsesivly washing my hands after handling them. I was glad I did because now, at the time of wrtting a few days after leaving, I am still somewhat sick. I helped out in the office by packaging the hand made cards and on the last day I spent the whole afternoon writting the monthly newsletter.
To be honest I was extremly happy to be leaving at the end! I realy enjoyed my time there and learned alot and love the children and was very greatful to be able to volunteer while in Thailand...but I really really wanted to get out to the real world again! Just like when I did the mediation retreat, I was glad to have done it and glad to leave too (haha).
I left the morning of the 25th on the back of the motorbike at sunrise, Dada 2, the trippy one, driving me. The sunrise was amazing as we drove through the nature to get to the bus. One the bus ride to Bangkok I felt so sick and tired, having had three hours of sleep. The bus driver was compelled to blast Thai music, which I unfortunalty realy don't care for, for the first two or three hours. I aked him to turn it down, he turnedit off for twenty minutes and then desided to turn it on again, but louder this time! And then when the bus stopped for a break, I asked the Thai worker something in English that she didn't understand. She shook her head and shrugged to show she didn't understand a word of English and then the bus driving asshole said something realy loud in Thai at me and pointe dat me, laughing in the least friendly way you can laugh! He was a bonafide jerk, had completly greasy hair and skin and wore pink sunglasses. I gave him my best glare down and stormed away. I realized I was extremly tired and was probably over reacting so I let it go with some meditation haha. Still, the jerk.
I arived in Bangkok in the late afternoon and got a room just off of Kaosan road which resembles a prison cell. I realy didn't mind though, it was cheap and convienient. Like fast food, but I do mind fastfood. I napped and then went to check out Kaosan Road. It was evening by then and the raod was jam packed with backpackers, a motorbike could harly squeez through! The streets were lined with clothing stalls selling trendy travelers wear, food stalls selling fresh fruit and meat on sticks and music stalls bumping loud Western tunes such as King of Leon and Riana, competing to see who could out-loud who in music. There were a ton of crammed bars and a surprizingly high number of dread locking stalls, tatoo stalls and people doing hoy. It was totally overwelming and awesome at the same time. I walked the length of it many times, getting the fruit from either end and walking back while eating it. I eventually went back to the hott cell and passed out for a much needed sleep.
Today I walked around Kaosan again, got a dress, shorts (how have I had NO SHORTS in THAILAND until now???)some earing, my way over due hair cut and my purse repaired. I finally figured out that I wil be staying in Thailand until May 1st, thanks to Dave doing a very nice thing for me:). Now I can fully fantisize about being on the Southern Islands for a month with Anna and Jevan, two of the coolest dam people I know! It will be a trip to be with Jevan in Thailand as I first learned about what Thailand is like to backpack in from him some three or so years ago. I remember him telling me about scarfs for $2, Hilltribe people, treks and the full moon party and being totally in awe and intriged. I will arive the morining of Annas 19th birthday and I can't wait to be with her to as she is a bestfriend!
In an hour I will be catching the bus to Ko Tao. I probably won't have much to write about in the travel blog for this part of my trip. If I did it would say " I shared a bucket with annd and jevan, went swimming, tanned, slept, ate, drank..." . The full moon on April 9th will be deservant of an entry of course. So perhaps that wil be my last entry! I am so looking forward to going to the Southern Islands...and like everything else else I have done here so far, I am so glad I came, and I will be just as glad to come home, to Victoria, my mom, sister and friends. I wil be glad to talk to my Dad soon too as it is hard to get a hold of him too! I think he must wan to hear about what I have been up to out here in crazy Thailand.
Thanks for reading my blog this far, love and miss you all.

Posted by auby 07:29 Comments (0)

More Chiang Rai

whiskey, smoke, bamboo, future orphans...

It is very beautiful I would like to claim. It says mediation in thai and I played with the letters so much that it looks like an artful design, you can't really make the letters out unless I show them to you. I chose meditation for my word because my first meditation experiences are here in Thailand. Also, if I loose the power to meditate everyday, I will atleast be guilt motivated! haha. Perhaps that is the subconsious reason people get their lovers name tatooed onto their bodies. If they have a tendancy to cheat, their lovers name will be right on their body that they are using to cheat! HA! My tatoo incorperates the four elements of earth (with a leaf/flower), air with the spaces, water with some water looking part, fire with the heart. It has a flower and a heart but I promise it is not cheesy! It is dark blue and on my back between my shoulder blades, a bit bigger then the middle finger. I like that I designed it, considering I do art, it would be a shame to have not designed my own tatoo.
It was done with a bamboo stick rather than a machine. Ray used a bamboo stick that has three tinny needled taped to the end. He dips it in ink and then jabs the skin. The tatoo artist is an old timer friend of the owners and workers of the Chian House, my Thai friend Min told me about him. He did alot of the art in the chian house too. He had been a tatoo artist for 25 years. He came to the guest house and did it beside the pool. It was not very painful for me. I meditated, focusing almost completly on something else then the pain....maybe the two shots of whisky helped too? I can justify a double shot at 10 in the morning for that!

Looks like I am able to volunteer at the Baan Dada house, a place that holds 60 children, mostly orphaned, from the burma hill tribes who have been driven from their homes due to the Burma government and other reason. I would play with the kids, doing art crafts and things like that and help out with different projects around the sight that need to be finished before the rain season. I am so exited to do this! I plan to go in a few days and stay there until I go to Bangkok around March 17th to see my cousin, uncle, anna and jevan.

The skys are mostly a light grey these days. No, that is not a metaphor for my mental state. It is 'burning' season in Northern Thailand and its sorounding countries. All of the rice fields are being burnt down so that they are ready for harvest next season. It makes the air smell like smoke sometimes! Another reason to be exited to get to Baan Dada, which is not in the burning territories.

A short entry here...I have some spare time on my hands :)

Till next time- peace love and........listen to jack johnson.......soul soother.


Posted by auby 04:41 Comments (0)

Meditation Course at Wat Dio Suthep

meditation, monks, loving kindness, chian house again, swarms of beggars and my dismal account....

-17 °C

My meditation retreat at Wat Dio Suthep was a real learning experince! The Wat is one of the 2nd most visited wats in Thailand. It is on a mountian and can its golden chedi be seen from Chiang Mai. There are about 250 stairs with large nagas (serpent dragon buddist thing) on either side as the hand rails that lead up to it. The temple grounds are set up so that the chedi (a big pointed gold thing) and the sorounding statues and worshiping spots are raised by about 20 stairs, sourounded with walls but no roof- this is the 'wat'. There is a large stone tiled walking area around the wat with over 100 bells for the tourists to ring, a stunning view of Chiang Mai (only in the early morning or late night), small landscaped gardens and a million statues. Behind this whole area you take some stairs down to get to the area that holds the sleeping area for meditators, the eating area and kitchen, the meditation hall, a garden and the monks huts which are down a little bit further. My room was with a cluster of other rooms, had a tilled floor and a thin cot to sleep on.

The baisic set up of the day went like this:
Wake up time is 5 AM, and you are supost to do mediation until breakfast at 7 AM. The breakfast bell sounds and all of the meditation participents gather to eat a noodle soup and pet the pregnant grey cat who joined us at each meal. After breakfast at 8 o'clock the teacher monk holds a Dhama talk for an hour, may favorite part of the day. He would discuss topics such as forgiveness, loving-kindness, and how to deal with the major afflictive emotions of anger, worry, sadness, jelousy and hate. He would cover them in a way that was applicable to our group of modern semi plagued westerners. These talks provided me with much food for thought and I would usually think and write about them until lunch at 11. At the beginning of lunch everyone would chant in Thai from sheets, lead by the assistant monk. I had mixed thoughts about this ceremony. Sometimes I would feel like an idiot participating in a cult like practice of solem chanting and sometimes I was elated by the wholesome spirituality of it. Either way, the food was always delicious and plentiful. I would stuff my face (even thought in the requisit chanting I vowed to not over eat for pleasure) knowing that the next time solid food would pass my lips wouldn't be for another 20 hours! After lunch you meditate until 3, when you report to the teacher. I would usually write and read more at this point. At three I would report to the teacher about my meditation progress and ask him about anything that I needed clearing on. After this, it is open time to meditate until the end of the day at 9:30.
At the beginning of my 19 days I was full of enthusiasm for doing an intense daily of 5-6 hours of meditation. I did about that much for the first 5 days but then I started to climb up the wall! I realized that it was too intense to up keep for such a long time. So I started to read a ton of Buddhist books about life, think about what i had read, generate a ton of profound thoughts and write about it all. I also talked to people a lot more- I think that the no talking rule really didn't consider a females absolute need to talk to others! I reduced my meditation to about 2 sometimes 3 hours a day. At first I felt guilty about not meditating so much like I was meant to be doing. But then I realized that my time was certainly not being waisted as I was learning alot about myself and the world, much more than if I had just been meditating.

I learned many profound things, most of which I had at least already heard of but not put serious condsideration into. The next step and test will be to see how well I am able to implement them in my daily life, to see if I can walk the walk.
I believe the most important subject that I educated myself on and pondered on is the concept of loving-kindness. Loving-kindness starts with being loving and kind towards yourself, which entails being kind, loving, forgiving and lighthearted about every aspect of yourself, especially the parts that you are not highly fond of and in tough times. Next and simultaniously you extend loving-kindness towards your dearest loved ones, your normal friends, people you just know, people you dislike, and the whole world of people and then the planet as a whole. I have found, like many people I think, that I have not necessarily held this attitude towards myself at all times. The thing is is that when you do not feel this way for yourself, it shows in the way that you behave towards other people. You may not be directly unkind to them but there may be a lack of kindness in some form towards them, and people pick up on this vibe very easily, conciously or unconciously. So i decided that this is a very important quality to have and started to do a loving-kindness mediation/visualization every morning and most nights, encompassing myself and every person that I could think of no matter how small or big the connection, so if you are caring enough to read this, I most definatly included you in it! I found that this had tremendous effects on my mentality for the whole day. I felt lighter, happier, at ease, with less mental aggitation. It was especially helpful when I received a few emails with unpleasant content from people who are dear to me. I just focused on loving-kindness for myself and them and the situation and it made the whole thing tremendously easier to deal with. I am continuing to do this after each of my morning and night meditations and feel that it is an indispensable tool in life. I hope that anyone who has experienced unkindness from another person can have compassion for them, knowing that it their own inner issue and it is not your fault or problem! I also hope that everyone who has experienced being unkind towards themselves and others, or have experienced unkind treatment, is able to forgive and practice loving-kindness. It makes everything much rosier and easier in life. Life really is too short to spend it hating on anything- love love love!

I was supost to stay for 21 days but I left after 19. For the last 3 nights you are meant to participate in the 'determination'. What this entails in no talking to anyone, you can't leave your room in the day other than for the toilet and to get water (they deliver the food to your room), you can't shower and you can't....SLEEP! The idea is to put you in a really hard situation so you can cultivate determination. I happen to be a very strong believer in the idea that tough situations make you stronger but this seems just....well..... stupid to me! I figured though that I might as well give it a go, thinking that maybe I could reach some sort of higher state of being or something. haha. I had not slept for longer than 5 hours for the 2 nights leading up to this so I was already very tired. I usually sleep about 8 hours! So I stayed up until about 1 AM, burst into tears of exhaustion and went to sleep! Since I broke the no sleeping thing I was required to do a closing ceremony the next morning, which suited me, I was ready to break out into the world again and get into a tank top, having been conservativley dressed and secluded for almost three weeks!
My talking buddy Ryan did his closing ceremony at the same time, as did another guy named Eric who I hadn't talked yet. We all left, triumphantly accending the stairs with our packs, up to the temple grounds, the three released meditators, ready to breath on the chaos that is the Thailand cities. after taking some farewell photos of the temple, we hoped into a songtheaw (a truck with seats in back) and headed into Chiang Mai. Eric was off to Laos that night, so Ryan and I split a double room, we dropped our bags and headed out to eat some afternoon grub, something I had not done since my three week therories of life learning extravaganza. At lunch the guys talked about american political stuff and I threw in my comments and questions here and there, but I am no politcal buff or all to intrigued by it at this point. Perhaps one day I will be inclined to kick back with a cup of black coffee and read the politics section of the newspaper...but that is not a near day. when I am able to vote I will google 'what is the NDP's (or whoever) politcal stance?' but that will be the extent of it. hahaha
That night Ryan and I played pool at a bar that was empty other than us and the bar girls and a man with a sex for sale lady. Young children regularly come into the ope air bars holding flowers and beg for you to buy them. They ask you to buy them and if you refuse they give you the saddest looks ever, I swear they practice in the mirro at home before going out. Ryan bought ten off of one girl and we wore them and gave the other ones to the bar girls, including the hooker, who was very nice, I talked to her by the bathroom. I learned some very good pool techniques as Ryan taught them to me while we played. I actually won the last game of three after I got some experience in! I am exited to kick the guys butts at it when I get home, or atleast do decently well at it! We left to get some street vendor food and saw the little girl that we bought the flowers off of. We bought her some food, a bunch a shishkabobs and rice. She played with my hair, one side in a bun and the other side with five small braids. It looked tre-chic. When she was done she looks at me and says "20 baht"! I was like 'what?! I thought we were sharing a special moment of female hair doing?!" she laughed and didn't press it, had to ask though, a bonified hustler this 8 year old girl, out on the streets doing hair dos, selling flowers and getting food at one AM!
The next day I left for Chiang Rai in the evening because it was time for me to go to the Burma Thai boarder to renew my visa and Chiang Rai is close the the boarder town. I am staying at the Chian House again. For the first night I was in the same little cheap room but now they moved me to another room which is more expensive because it was available. Many of the same people are there and it is nice to have a group of people there to hang out with. At the boarder town, you pretty much just walk to the passport section, do some paper work things, walk through the gate and then your in Burma. I walked around the day market that was placed right at the boarder for the visa run people. As I was walking around a boy holding a large basket of cigarettes approached me, begging me to buy some -" buy for friend! very cheap! cheaper than thailand! 20 baht only for a carton!". He followed me for about 2 or 3 minutes and for his final sales pitch he held up a box and says "viagra! buy viagra!"!!! I burst out laughing and he was quite embarrased and left me alone! Viagra! I couldn't believe he was selling cigarettes and viagra together! How hilarious! when I left the market after being hastled to buy a deck of cards for 10 baht and eating some greasy food I headed to cross through the boarder. As I was walking towards it a dirty unhealthy looking 7 or so year old boy approached me, begging for money. I reached into my purse to take some change out for his, not looking ahead of me. He lead me into a group of about ten little children and they all swarmed me so that I could hardly walk, sticking their hands out at me and grabbing for the change that I had in my hands to give to the first little boy. I gave them some change but they wouldn't leave me alone and continued to swarm me, grabbing at me as I attempted to walk towards the boarder. They were grabbing my hands and arms but none of them were stupid enough to grab for my purse, I would not have had a problem knocking down the begging child if he did that! As I continued to walk with them swarming me a few of the slightly older boys pinched by butt and I turned around quickly, glared and pointed at them and said 'DONT do that', my look was fierce and I hoped they learned a lesson! One by one they left me alone and a Thai woman came up behind me and hit their hands away from me which I was greatful for! Even as I was sitting filling out the thai visa arival card a few boys were begging for change, right up in my face saying please over and over. I finally got to the other side of the boarder and caught a songtheaw to the bus station to head back to chiang rai.
Now I am in chiang Rai. I am deciding if I will get a tatoo from one of my local friends friend who is a tatoo artist. I have to head out in a few days to go to the next retreat. I learned that my cousin Ryan and uncle Mark will be in Bangkok because Ryan is giving a speech at a school and a conference on the 17th of March, they day that I was planning on being in Bangkok! So I will see them no doubt and also meet up with Anna and Jevan who will be flying into Bangkok the same day. I am also trying to figure out my return date and according to my dismal bank account balance it may be earlier than I have booked to return! However by travel agent said that there are no flights for the same price leaving at the beginning of april which is when I figured my money would go until. So looks like I will have to be camping and eating very little food to survive! woo hoo! hahahaha. we'll see how that goes. I may be to poor to use the computer to update everyone as I go! ....till next time...remember to have loving-kindness !:)

Posted by auby 22:33 Comments (0)

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