Road Trip to Chiang Rai – The White Temple เชียงราย – วัดร่องขุ่น

Road Trip to Chiang Rai – The White Temple เชียงราย – วัดร่องขุ่น

Four-day weekends are not common in Thailand, but are a perfect reason for a road trip. Why not Chiang Rai?

Chiang Mai is hot this time of year, so it was a good time to get away.

Chiang Mai is hot this time of year, so it was a good time to get away.

We were headed to the White Temple or วัดร่องขุ่น, but would stop along the way if we saw something interesting…

We were quite surprised to see Chiangraiwinery.

… and to our surprise stumbled upon Chiangraiwinery. Yes, one word. There aren’t spaces between Thai words. We couldn’t have a tour, but we did have a tasting.

It looks like red and white wine...

It looks like red and white wine…

...but is actually made from lychee, pomegranate, mangosteen, and some Thai herb.

…but is actually made from lychee, pomegranate, mangosteen, and some Thai herbs.

Not being a fan of sweet wines, they weren't for me, though they were better than I thought they'd be.

Not being a fan of sweet wines, they weren’t for me, though they were better than I thought they’d be. Yuki liked the sweet Thai herbal one, Marco preferred the lychee, I enjoyed the mangosteen, and Kozue was driving so didn’t try any.

It's in a picturesque spot, and well worth the stop.

Chiang Rai Winery is in a picturesque spot, and well worth the stop.

Next stop…

Next stop, the White Temple

The White Temple

Chalermchai Kositpipat or เฉลิมชัย โฆษิตพิพัฒน์ is the extremely prolific designer of the White Temple.

While Buddhist imagery is the main theme...

While Buddhist imagery is the main theme…

...there is also imagery dealing with death.

…there is also imagery dealing with death.

Part of the temple was damaged in an eathquake that struck last in May 2014.

Part of the temple was damaged in an earthquake that struck in May 2014, though most is still completely intact.

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Thai astrological animals

Thai astrological animals

Tree of offerings

Tree of offerings

While most of its imagery is white and tiny mirrors...

While most of the buildings are white and silver with tiny mirrors…

...some is gold, like this wishing well

…some parts are gold, like this wishing well…

...and the elaborate golden building for the toilets.

…and the elaborate golden building for the toilets.

Yuki and Marco as "Woman and Man"

Yuki and Marco as “Woman and Man”

Hollywood?

Hollywood?

Life

Life

Death

Death

A bit of both

Both

Chalermchai Kositpipat and Marco

Life sized Chalermchai Kositpipat and Marco

Kozue and bell

Kozue and bell

Yuki and reminders of death

Yuki and reminders of death

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My favourite anti-smoking sculpture...

I loved the anti-smoking sculpture

scary

scary

Wat style no smoking sign

Thai wat style no smoking sign

Not sure why umbrellas aren't allowed

Not sure why umbrellas aren’t allowed

Although the outside was truly amazing, I also thoroughly enjoyed seeing Chalermchai Kositpipat’s art in the museum on the grounds. No cameras are allowed, so here are a few pictures of post cards of the paintings:

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Glad we visitied

Glad we visited

See you later sparkly White Temple

See you later sparkly White Temple

See you later sparkly White Temple

 

 

Athens, Greece. Bhaktapur, Nepal. Goddesses and Perseverance of Spirit

Athens, Greece. Bhaktapur, Nepal. Goddesses and Perseverance of Spirit

Having just visited Greece, people asked if it was noticeable that the country is in a financial crisis. On the islands and in the villages life appeared to be the same as it has probably been for hundreds of years, but in Athens things were different.

Athens was named after the goddess Athena. Civilizations have lived there for more than 3000 years. Here shows some of Athens’ ancient past and how it’s survived:

The Parthenon, in the Acropolis

The Parthenon, in the Acropolis

Detail at the Acropolis

Detail of goddesses at the Acropolis

The Theatre of Dionysus at the Acropolis

The Theatre of Dionysus at the Acropolis

Ancient Greek

Ancient Greek inscribed in marble

The Acropolis was built in honor of Athena when Ancient Greece was a thriving civilization. Greece has gone through its ups and downs for several thousand years. As recently as 2004, Athens hosted the Olympics. Now Greece is deep in debt and can’t afford to pay it back. Despite having marble curbs on the street, and some nice neighborhoods like Plaka, Athens has other areas full of abandoned buildings. The thing that struck me most was the graffiti everywhere.

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At least some of it has a sense of humor

At least some graffiti has a sense of humor

That said, daily life in Athens goes on and looked more like this:

Olives at a local markt

Olives at a local market

Inside a Greek Orthodox church

Inside a Greek Orthodox church

Ancient buildings in a modern city

Ancient buildings in a modern city

Changing of the guard

Changing of the guard

The Acropolis up on the hillside

The under construction restoration of the Acropolis up on the hillside

Interesting graffiti

Interesting graffiti

Monastiraki Square

Monastiraki Square with the Acropolis looking down upon it

Street musicians at Monastiraki Square

Street musicians at Monastiraki Square

More graffiti

More graffiti in an abandoned building

Roasted peppers, pita, taramotsalata, salad, saganaki, souvlaki, Fix beer, and a little bit of lemon

Roasted peppers, pita, taramotsalata, salad, saganaki, souvlaki, Fix beer, and some lemon

Sheep heads.  10 year old Julian said he didn't want to eat these because he didn't want to think like a sheep.

Roasted sheep heads.
10 year old Julian said he didn’t want to eat these because he didn’t want to think like a sheep. I don’t blame him. I didn’t want to either.

Airing out the tanks on a rainy Greek Independence Day - March 25, 2015.

Airing out the tanks on a rainy Greek Independence Day – March 25, 2015.

On the way up to the Acropolis I noticed these caterpillars.

On the way up to the Acropolis I noticed these caterpillars doing something interesting…

They formed together for safety and made themselves look like a snake.

They formed together and made themselves look like a snake to fool would be predators

Athena is the goddess of wisdom, courage, inspiration, civilization, law and justice, strength, and the arts. In spite of the current financial crisis in Greece, with the aforementioned goddess power at its back, and 3000+ years of history, the beautiful country and its hospitable people will survive.

 

Flying over the Himalayas

Flying over the Himalayas

On my recent flight from Chiang Mai to Athens, I took in this view of the Himalayas and was reminded of my trip to Nepal 15 years ago.

In October 2000, I landed in Kathmandu at midnight and was met at the airport by my dear friends Megan and Jeremy (the same friends who I was just with in Greece). We headed directly to Bhaktapur where we stayed for a week before going to Pokhara for our trek on the Annapurna Circuit.

In Bhaktapur, I have the distinct memory of waking up the morning after I arrived and looking out my guest house window. It felt like being in a living museum. The women were doing their morning puja in vibrant saris, amongst the ancient temples – it was awe inspiring.

Bhaktapur is an ancient city, that was founded in the 1200s, and is full of beautiful old temples. The three of us wandered around that small city and ate ‘king curd’ at the rooftop cafes in Durbar Square, while watching the local people prepare for the Dashain Festival.

The Dashain festival is celebrated for 15 days in September-October all over Nepal to honor the goddess Durga. She is worshiped with offerings, pujas, and many animal sacrifices – from which the blood bathes her statues everywhere. Durga has many manifestations, and her name can be translated as ‘the one who eliminates sufferings’. 

My pictures from that time were taken with film, not a digital camera, so I cannot show you the vibrant images that are forever etched in my mind. Bhaktapur, Nepal is a UNESCO World Heritage site, so there are loads of pictures online. It is one of my favourite places I’ve ever visited.

This is more or less how I remember Bhaktapur. Image from google images.

This is more or less how I remember Bhaktapur. Image from google images.

On April 25, 2015 Nepal was struck by a 7.9 earthquake.

And now...

And now…this is some of the damage in the Kathmandu Valley.

According to the BBC, “In Bhaktapur, which had been the country’s best preserved old city, initial reports claim half of all buildings have been destroyed and 80% of temples damaged.”

Thousands of people have died, or are homeless. It’s unimaginably tragic. Then I read that in 1934 there had been an earthquake there that had destroyed a third of the temples. Bhaktapur was still incredible in 2000, perhaps all is not lost.

Nepal has the goddesses Durga ‘the one who eliminates sufferings’, and Annapurna, which means ‘full of food’ in Sanskrit, watching over her. Nepal and its kindhearted people will survive, but now they need help. 

I thought about those caterpillars that formed together to make themselves appear to be a snake for protection. When people, or animals, group together, they can gain strength, support, and safety. Now is the time to join together and support Nepal.

Click to find organizations of where to donate. Click Charity Navigator: Your Guide to Intelligent Giving to check out those organizations.

I will be forever grateful to the kindness of strangers I have met on my travels around the globe. It’s time for me to take action and give back to the country whose acrostic is:

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Ending

Peace

And

Love

Itty Bitty Frogs and Toads

Itty Bitty Frogs and Toads

After the smoky and hot season in Chiang Mai comes to an end each year, starts the magic of the rainy season. While those who ride motorbikes might find it slightly inconvenient, we all love how it cools things down. That said, my favourite part is that the frogs and toads begin their nighttime serenade.

This is my backyard:

backyard from the second floor porch

View of the backyard from the second floor porch

View of the backyard from the guest room

View of the backyard from the guest room

Right outside the kitchen lies...

Right outside the kitchen lies…

...the fish pond

…the fish pond. I mean, the fish and tadpole pond

This fish pond is actually home to hundreds, possibly thousands, of tadpoles. This time of year they start turning into the tiniest frogs and toads imaginable.

Here is a frog next to a one baht coin. This coin is somewhere between the size of a penny and dime or  about the size of a two cent Euro coin. This means it's small...

Here is a frog next to a one baht coin. This coin is somewhere between the size of a penny and dime, or about the size of a two cent Euro coin. This means it’s small. Very very small.

...so that gives you an idea how very miniature these little toads are.

That gives you an idea how very miniature these little toads are.

When I water the plants in my garden, I fear stepping on them as they are smaller than houseflies. Usually, they let me know they’re there and hop away. I’m pretty sure they are prey for the fish in my pond.

It’s funny to say it, especially after living in Portland, Oregon, but I welcome the rain. Ahh, cooler temperatures (this means going from highs being around 40C {104F} to highs around 34C {93F}. It also means seeing and hearing the baby frogs and toads.

Today, while I was at school, one of my students showed me a frog hanging out in a drain. She knew I would appreciate it. Anyone who grew up with me could tell you that frogs are one of my very favourite animals. I’m so glad I get to see and hear them on a daily basis.

The delights of living in the tropics. The wind is starting to blow and I hear some thunder in the distance right now…singing frogs are not far behind.

Ios – 50 Shades of Blue

Ios – 50 Shades of Blue

We said goodbye to Naxos...

We said goodbye to Naxos…

...and hello to Ios

…and hello to Ios

Main town in Ios

Main town in Ios

We hadn’t planned on going to Ios, but with so much shut in the low season, and it being between Naxos and Santorini, we thought we’d stop by. I’d heard it was a party island…

...it was more like this in the low season.

…it was more like this during the low season.

Once again, being early April, we found ourselves on an island with most places still shut and being some of the only tourists there. Heavenly! We nearly had the island to ourselves.

It was obvious that in the high season the bars would be packed with young'uns. Remember 'Stay Under 17'

It was obvious that in the high season the bars would be packed with young’uns. Remember ‘Stay Under 17′

Rock mosaics everywhere

Rock mosaics everywhere

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Hiking along the coast

Jeremy hiking along the coast

Megan and Julian

Megan and Julian

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Amazing sky

Amazing sky

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Can you spot Julian?

Can you spot Julian?

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Another sign indicating that this could be a a place for crazy parties

Another sign indicating that this could be a a place for crazy parties

Julian found this

Julian found this Urchin…

and put it back...it was still alive

and put it back. It was still alive!

It's all Greek to me

It’s all Greek to me

This cat embodies the amount of activity  on the island

This cat embodies the amount of activity on the island

In the late afternoon, awash with golden light, we hiked amongst ancient stone walls and fields in Skarkos.

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This is Skarkos

This is Skarkos

Hello sheep

Hello sheep

succulents

succulents

lichen

lichen

Jeremy and me

Jeremy and I bundled up as the sun went down

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fig silhouette art

fig silhouette art

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Baby figs! Are they called figlets?

Baby figs! Are they called figlets?

Church and moon tiime

Church and moon time

Julian and the biggest portion of food that I've seen since I left the US

Julian and the biggest portion of food that I’ve seen since I left the US

Odd spacing of words

Odd spacing of words

Megan and I leaving our mark

Megan and I leaving our mark

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Last meal on the island - picnic style

Last meal on the island – picnic style

Bye bye Ios

Bye bye Ios. Glad we saw you in the low season.

Timeless Naxos

Timeless Naxos

If you want to find a traditional Greek island, complete with mountains, beaches, ancient villages, and friendly people, Naxos is an excellent choice. We spent a week on Apollon beach in the end of March and immediately knew it would be fantastic, even by the rental car man who said, “If you have any problem call me, and I am next to you.”

Welcome to Naxos

Yassas! Welcome to Naxos. In the end of March it was cloudy and quite cool, but still stunning. Being this early in the season, some places are still closed, but that also means very few tourists.

This former opera singer, now restaurateur, delighted us with his heavily Greek accented stories.

This former opera singer, now restaurateur clad in track suit, delighted us with his heavily Greek accented stories. Inside the restaurant it smelled of fish and ouzo, just as it should.

The Greek accents are just incredible. They take me back to parts of my youth I forgot all about: flaming saganaki at the Greek Islands in Greek Town in Chicago and some of Dad’s characters in his Binyon’s Restaurant life. It’s very cold here, but right now the sun is trying to break through a cloudy sky.

The beach in Apollon just before the rain.

The beach in Apollon just before the rain. We were the only tourists here with the winds of Africa blowing in the red dust, and waves crashing on the shore.

Old stone walls dividing the land.

Terraced stone walls dividing the land.

We loved meandering through the labyrinthine stone walkways.

We loved meandering through the labyrinthine stone walkways.

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A reeking fish monger blaring Greek music

A reeking fish monger blaring Greek music

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Cheese glorious cheese!

Cheese glorious cheese!

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Halki

Halki

I know these as 'Shiva Eyes', but here they're known as 'The Eye of Naxos'.

In Thailand these are known as ‘Shiva Eyes’, but here they’re known as ‘The Eye of Naxos’.

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Cafe and Ouzeri - Whoo hoo! I can read Greek!...Um...at least those words.

Cafe and Ouzeri – Whoo hoo! I can read Greek!…Um…at least those words.

Exploring the port town of Hora, Naxos

Exploring the port town of Hora, Naxos

Ancient ruins

Ancient ruins

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Fresh octopus hanging outside a restaurant

Fresh octopus hanging outside a restaurant

'Sunburned fish'

‘Sunburnt fish’

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Fun with filters in Hora

Fun with filters in Hora

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The real artisan cheese

Real artisan cheese

Salt cured olives and extra long cinnamon

Salt cured olives and extra long cinnamon sticks

Now that looks like a bag pipe

Now that looks like a bag pipe!

Vineyard

Vineyards scattered throughout the island

We drove through a swamp as we attempted to go to the Dionysus temple, which like many things was closed, but Julian found an adorable brown dog who was thrilled that a visitor stopped by. Our detour gave us another opportunity for a hilarious adventure.

Next we wound our way through a little town with Jeremy fearlessly driving listening to Greek music on full volume. We were funneled down narrower and narrower streets until we reached an amiable standoff of a Greek man on a motorbike and a smiling guy in a car. Jeremy had to back up down the narrow winding road so he could pass. 

This little guy was adorable. For more https://mariposatree.wordpress.com/2015/03/29/the-day-we-tried-to-be-grecian-mountain-goats/

This little guy was adorable. He’s got his own post here

Wind power

Wind power

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The dog on the wall who wouldn't let Megan go

The dog on the wall who wouldn’t let Megan go

Lovely Lionas

Lovely Lionas

We were the only ones on this beach

We were the only ones on Lionas beach, and the sun made an appearance!

A rock skipper's paradise

A rock skipper’s paradise

Or a perfect place for a little mandala

Or a perfect place for a little mandala

Luckily,this restaurant was open. Amazing homemade dishes were served with genuine Greek hospitality.

Luckily, this restaurant in Lionas was open. Amazing homemade dishes were served with genuine Greek hospitality.

Bells back in Apollon

Back in Apollon, Megan and I were invited to a goat roast party.

Wolf, the new, and only other, tourist in town

Wolf, the new arrival and only other tourist in town, and I attempted to go to the goat roast party. We found neither a goat roast, nor party, but just a few Greek people having a drink at their friend’s house.

Fried Winced Balls

Fried Winced Balls

Sheep traffic jam

Sheep traffic jam

“What are you looking at?”

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The castle of the Duke of Naxos

The castle of the Duke of Naxos

A secret pathway in the castle

A secret pathway in the castle

The ceiling was layers of seaweed (which can't burn) and sand.

The ceiling was made of layers of seaweed (which can’t burn) and sand.

What a wonderful place to watch a concert!

What a wonderful place to watch a concert!

The Duke of Naxos and Jeremy. What a story teller!

The Duke of Naxos and Jeremy. Living history.

Paper table cloths were put over the fabric table cloths in most ever restaurant.

Paper table cloths were put over the fabric table cloths in most every restaurant.

My name in Greek

My name in Greek

Hora town

Hora town

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Ladybug or paschalitsa  salad

Ladybug or paschalitsa salad

Stamatis, the kind owner of the Adonis Hotel in Apollon, and enormous lemons...

We were treated like family by Stamatis, the kind owner of the Adonis Hotel in Apollon. Each time he brought us something – a cup of coffee, a basket of bread, or a fresh squeezed lemon juice – in a merry sing song voice he’d say, “Enjoy it.” We always did. And the enormous lemons…

...from these trees right outside. The divine scent of lemon blossoms wafted by our noses each time we went to our rooms

…came from these trees right outside. The divine scent of lemon blossoms wafted by our noses each time we went to our rooms.

Julian was more excited about this dog than the Temple of Dionysus

We returned to the Dionysus Temple, which was now open. Happy dog, happy boy

Cat mid-meow

Cat mid-meow

Exploring the Hora with Wolf

Exploring Hora with Wolf

Back to the port

Back to the port

The enormous ferries with escalators inside

Time to board the huge ferry with escalators inside

Yassas Naxos. Efharisto!

Yassas Naxos. Efharisto! We really did enjoy it!

The Day We Tried to Be Grecian Mountain Goats

The Day We Tried to Be Grecian Mountain Goats

If you picture Greek islands to be sunny with sandy beaches below hillsides of blue and white painted buildings, I’m sure you are correct somewhere. Here on the island of Naxos it is staggeringly mountainous. While we were there in late March, it was unseasonably rainy and cold. Nonetheless, it didn’t stop us from hiking. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe started up the hillside that had no trail.

Megan, Julian, and Jeremy taking a water break

Megan, Julian, and Jeremy taking a ‘vista break’.

It continued to be a steep uphill climb. 10 year old Julian led the way.

It continued to be a steep uphill climb. 10 year old Julian led the way.

We were literally climbing up the steep mountainside like goats, all the while hearing goat bells in the distance.

Julian and Jeremy at a landmark we could see from the beach

Julian and Jeremy at a landmark we could see from the beach

Megan and I on the mountainside while waves break below us.

On the mountainside while waves broke below us

With the wind blowing, and the clouds rolling in, it was sure to rain momentarily.

With the wind blowing and the clouds rolling in, it was sure to rain momentarily.

The clouds descended upon us and we were rained on. Luckily, just then, we found a shepherd (goatherd?) shelter made from stone. We took refuge there until the pouring rain passed.

Jeremy said during the rain storm, “The good news is that it will be nice and slippery on the way down.”

Jeremy said on the way up as it started to rain, “The good news is that it will be nice and slippery on the way down.” We got fairly soaked.

We got fairly soaked. Coming from hot Thailand, I was wearing all the layers I had.

As we hiked it smelled of goat poop and the occasional hint of sage.

Goat poop was everywhere

Goat poop was everywhere

Slippery, rocky, bushy, and thorny outcrops

Slippery, rocky, bushy, and thorny outcrops. While slipping, I got a few of these stuck in my hand.

The great thing about hiking with a 10 year old is discovering things that I wouldn’t notice as an adult – bouncy bushes.

I was surprised to see euphorbia, the alien looking plants I knew from Portland. I wondered about the name, so I looked it up. Euphorbia was named after Euphorbus, a Greek physician who supposedly discovered the plant in the 1st century AD.

I was surprised to see euphorbia – the alien looking plants I knew from Portland. I wondered about the name, so I looked it up and found Euphorbia was named after Euphorbus, a Greek physician who supposedly discovered the plant in the 1st century AD.

Megan when we reached the wall at the top

Megan at the wall on top of the mountain

Our nearly vertical descent

Our nearly vertical descent

although we could hear the sound of goats everywhere, they gamboled away from us and seemed to be very camera shy

Although we could hear the sound of goats everywhere, they gamboled away from us and seemed to be very camera shy

Julian, being the most agile of the four of us, scampered down the mountainside in no time. We lost sight of him for a while, but weren’t worried. We made up stories that he was out fishing on the beach. No, he’d caught two fish and was back drinking ouzo and playing backgammon with the locals while learning the Greek alphabet.

As we were nearly at the bottom of our descent, we had a wonderful surprise…

As we were nearly at the bottom of our descent we had a wonderful surprise - a baby goat, not even a kid yet.

…a baby goat, not even a kid yet.

Aww, he's so little.

Aww, he’s so little.

I was surprised how light he was. He was about the weight of a small cat.

I was surprised how light he was – about the weight of a small cat.

Needless to say, I loved this

Needless to say, I loved this.

So did Megan

So did Megan

He sounded almost like a baby and didn't want to leave our sides.

He sounded almost like a baby and didn’t want to leave our sides.

Although we were trying to leave him, we realized he was scared. We tried to keep walking him down the mountain toward other goats. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEventually, he seemed less afraid and there were other goats nearby. See you later baby goat.

Although we made up stories about what Julian was doing during the time it took us to get down the mountain, when we arrived on the beach we found he really had done something impressive.

Julian and his rock sculpture

Julian and his rock sculpture

Mom is impressed with her son.

Mom is proud of her son.

Bye bye baby goat camouflaged somewhere up there on the mountain. Thanks for making our day.

Bye bye baby goat camouflaged somewhere up there on the mountain. Thanks for making our day.

Don’t Touch the Cobra

Don’t Touch the Cobra

This was the advice I received from the Buddhist nun, Ajarn Sundara, who visited our school. It was in response to my question about how to deal with a recurring thought.

‘Thoughts are like cobras in the mind. If you don’t touch them, they won’t hurt you.’ As odd as this might sound, it actually did make me feel better. Now when the thought comes, I don’t ignore it, but tell it kindly that I know what it is, and that I have no use for the thought anymore. To keep investigating it is like poking at a cobra. If I don’t bother with it, it will go away eventually. I have poked and prodded this serpentine nagging in my mind for too long now. 

I sense that the cobra is in the process of slowly slithering away. Without the cobra plaguing my mind, things are becoming clearer again. It feels like there is more spaciousness and more freedom to just be.

thumbs_IMG_5327Offering rice to Ajarn Sundara on Makha Bucha Day at Panyaden School.

 

The Whole Family Visits Thailand

The Whole Family Visits Thailand

I am a lucky lady indeed because for my Christmas present, my whole family visited me in Thailand! Thankfully, everyone absolutely loved it.

Here are some highlights: After everyone had a day to combat their jet lag with a Thai massage, some delicious Thai food, and the city sites of Chiang Mai, a place we all were happy to visit was Elephant Nature Park.

Hal IV, Dad, Beth, Dory and Wendy at Elephant Nature Park.

Hal IV, Dad, Beth, Dory and Wendy at Elephant Nature Park.

Hal loves the elephants.

Hal loves the elephants.

Dory loves the elephants.

Dory loves the elephants.

I love the elephants.

I love the elephants.

The elephants love each other.

The elephants love each other.

Having fun giving the elephants a bath.

Wendy, Hal and Dory having fun giving the elephants a bath.

Playing Songkran with elephants.

Playing Songkran with elephants

Elephant Nature Park is a fabulous sanctuary for elephants in Chiang Mai Province where they are allowed to roam freely, and are never chained up. There is ‘no show and no ride’ as they told me on the phone, but one can enjoy spending time feeding and bathing the elephants.

After a delightful day with the elephants, we spent the night in Chiang Dao.

Chiang Dao

Chiang Dao

Walking back tot the room at Yang Tone Farmstay.

Walking back to the room at Yang Tone Farm Stay

The wat up on the mountain in Chiang Dao.

The wat up on the mountain in Chiang Dao.

When we returned back to Chiang Mai, we headed to Sunday Walking Street for a little bit of shopping and eating.

Having pizza for a slight change from Thai food at Girasole

Having pizza for a slight change from Thai food at Girasole

We had to visit Panyaden School, where I work. It wasn't quite the same without the students there.

We visited Panyaden School, where I work. It wasn’t quite the same without the students there.

The next day we hopped on a plane to Krabi and took a minibus straight to Klong Nin beach on Ko Lanta. Wendy and Dory were pretty excited to arrive, so Wendy composed a little song. FYI: chang is the Thai word for elephant.

We enjoyed the sign in our hotel...

We enjoyed the sign in our hotel…

...and were glad to have already gotten pedicures in Chiang Mai

…and were glad to have already gotten pedicures in Chiang Mai

Dory sends off her first komloy to ring in the new year

Dory sends off her first komloy to ring in the new year

Then Dory orders a 'bucket' not realizing how big, sickly sweet, and alcoholic they are

Then Dory orders a ‘New Year’s Eve bucket’ not realizing how big, sickly sweet, and alcoholic they are…

...but we had to laugh about it anyway

…but we had to laugh about it anyway

On New Year's Day 2015 we took a boat trip with thousands of other tourists. It was the most touristy thing I've ever done in Thailand. We swam through a cave to an emerald beach with boatloads of other people.

On New Year’s Day 2015, we took a boat trip with thousands of other tourists. We swam through a cave to an emerald beach with literally boatloads of other people. It was the most touristy thing I’ve ever done in Thailand.

Dory and Wendy on an amazing beach off Ko Lanta.

Dory and Wendy on an amazing beach off Ko Lanta.

Selfie fail

Selfie partial fail

Wendy had better luck with her longer arms

Wendy had better luck with her longer arms

Lovely

Lovely lady and beach

Dory and a new four-legged friend

Dory and a new four-legged friend

Piña colada happy hour with Dad at Peace Paradise Beach Resort.

Piña colada happy hour with Dad and Wendy back at Peace Paradise Beach Resort.

Khun Pa was the best. We ate at his restaurant everyday.

Khun Pa was the best! We ate at his restaurant everyday.

Sadly, it was time to say farewell…but not without one last hearty laugh at the airport: Presenting Wendy in ‘Discovering the Blackpuccino’ at Black Canyon Coffee.

“Hmm, what should I order?”

Blackpuccino!

Blackpuccino? Blackpuccino!

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“A Blackpuccino! That’s it!”

“Hooray!”

“I love my Blackpuccino!”

“That Blackpuccino.”

I have never laughed so hard in an airport.

As is obvious from the photos, a great time was had by all.

I am so very grateful that my family came to visit me.

I am so very grateful that my family came to visit me.

Rice Farmer in a Past Life?

Rice Farmer in a Past Life?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIs it possible that I was a Thai rice farmer in a past life? There is no way to know for sure. For some reason the sight of rice fields both delight and a remind me of something from long ago. I never tire of the verdant waves in their paddies: from the young pale green stalks, to the darker and taller plants, the whole growing season is gorgeous. Even when the rice is a hay-like colour at harvest time, it’s still absolutely beautiful.

Not only do I like to look at the rice, but planting it is also a joy. Stepping in the muddy water and feeling the squishy soil between my toes is remarkably soothing. It’s slippery, messy and fun.

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About two weeks ago at Panyaden School we planted rice for Mother’s Day (August 12 – the Queen’s birthday). It will be harvested on Father’s Day (December 5 – the King’s birthday).

The process involves taking a few stalks of rice seedlings and plugging them in the mushy mud. After a while with the sun beating down, stooping over, and being covered in mud could get very uncomfortable. As for me, our hour-long planting session wasn’t nearly enough time.

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Surprisingly, way up north in Chiang Mai far away from the sea, the rice paddies make homes for fish, frogs, and even crabs. We noticed fish and tadpoles swimming, and watched a few frogs jump to safety away from our feet.

There must be something about being muddy. I have always adored ceramics, and while in Colombia, the mud volcano topped the list of attractions of the senses.

Ahh, the visually captivating rice fields of Northern Thailand fill me with reverie. Planting rice feels so natural and a perfect way to be connected with the land, the people, and the culture. I’ll stay here with my daily doses of rice field views in the place that feels like home.

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Honoring Teachers in Thailand – พิธีไหว้ครู ๒๕๕๗

Honoring Teachers in Thailand – พิธีไหว้ครู ๒๕๕๗

An assortment of wai kru flowers on phan พาน made by the students.

An assortment of Wai Kru flowers on phan พาน made by the students.

This morning I arose with the sunrise, before the sounds of traffic, even before the monks chanting, only the sounds of the occasional gecko and dog accompanied me. Again I felt overcome with gratitude for Thailand, especially since today was Wai Kru Day พิธีไหว้ครู. Wai Kru is the day to honor teachers. Students bring in flowers symbolizing respect, wit, humility, and perseverance to present to their teachers.

Students with their wai kru flower arrangements they made.

Students at Panyaden with their Wai Kru flower arrangements they made.

The same day our class was preparing the flowers for Wai Kru, there was a shooting at Reynolds High School in Troutdale, Oregon where a teacher was shot and another student was killed. That’s about 5 minutes away from where I taught elementary school for 5 years. My heart sank. Kids that I used to teach are in high school now, maybe some are even there. I found the juxtaposition of this and Wai Kru staggering. Don’t get me wrong, I still love Portland. It is still my favorite place in the whole US to live, but what is with the senseless killing? The thing that really made my stomach turn is how it’s become so common that no one pays that much attention anymore. Sigh.

It’s true, right now Thailand is in a military coup d’ état. What does that mean on a daily basis? Military presence around Chiang Mai, and there was midnight curfew around the country that was just lifted. Otherwise, things seem to be the same. 

Wai kru flowers

Beautiful Wai Kru flowers (and eggplant) for teachers

Wai Kru is a lovely ceremony and is just one more reason I think I’ll stay for a while longer. Sure, the driving is harrowing, it’s hot, there is pollution, snakes, spiders, and mosquitoes are abundant, but each day I am reminded of why I love it here. Today, is a fantastic day to be a teacher in Thailand.

Teachers with their wai kru flowers

Teachers with their Wai Kru flowers