Last morning in Bangkok

I wonder how boring and relevant it is being a monk.

I’m at Wat Chana Songkhram at Khaosan Road. As locals come in to kneel at the shrine, clasping jasmine and incense, in the 4 school rooms on either side of the prayer hall novices are in class. The shady low stone buildings are exposed to the outside world by grills that function as windows and give the place the aura of prison. In each room sit 2 older monks at the front reading to the rows of younger monks who are sat behind dark wooden desks. Some are reading, some writing, some reciting, some face down and asleep. The whole atmosphere is rather dull, dry. I can only guess that these are Buddhist teachings. Dharma of Pali. To what ends? It’s all so obscure, mystical, yet commonplace.

There are. 3 younger ones, novices, sat outside around a table. Evidently trying to learn to recite something together. One looks very detached and bored. At the table is a large bottle of coca cola.

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Arrival in bkk

Marooned in Hualamphong railway station Bangkok

Chiangmai so-called express arrives at 9am.  I awake to sunrise over the flooded paddies of Ayutthya.

Train struggles into BKK through shanty towns, construction, into the sinuous mess of modern BKK, the underbelly clinging to its arteries.

I can’t get anywhere easily quickly or conveniently and find myself people watching over congee, the trains shedding themselves of locals pushing scooters or carrying sacks of food.

In the concourse I am caught between tannoy of adverts, station announcements and Thai MTV…I’ve described the type of video before…….

A monk-only cordoned off couple of rows of seats. All seats facing a classically framed painting of the king. A row of Muslim girls black head scarves. A young boy in blue shorts playing with his young pink dressed sister, chasing in and out of a diorama. Like me there are hundreds sitting around waiting waiting.

I’m waiting to get across the city to get a train to the west, but the rain outside is torrential. It’s dripping through the concourse roof, a blue smocked mopping woman diffuses the pooled water rather than soaking it up.

I leave 2 hours to get to Thonburi station to catch a train to Kanchanaburi. Underground then sky-train then Chao Phraya river express. Rusty lurching overloaded diesel workhorse plying its way through the coffee coloured swell and tangles of thick green duck weed. Past temples, processions of cement barges, decommissioned WW2 motor boats, under sweeping bridges and the partially constructed new extension for the sky-train. Rain pouring down, splattering the choppy river. Rain and splashing bow waves sprays passengers. The whistling pilot at the rear of the boat is drenched head to foot.

I know I’m scheduled to get off at stop number 11, which doesn’t exist. At stop 12 I ask the pilot for Thonburi and he waves his arm meaning further on. 20 minutes or more and further on we reach the end of the line, where the high rise hotels have given out to cement works and low suburb urban houses. The duckweed almost unnavigablly dense. Nonthaburi. The pilot says Thonburi. I’ve missed my stop and a girl kindly helps me establish that stop 11 is no longer in use and anyway, by the time I get back down river my train will have left.

I’m resigned to a day or more in BKK. This place traps you, sucks you in. You have to fight to get out.

I check into the Rambuttri Village Inn. The room is high up, has a view of the fort and the suspension bridge. It’s warm, dry, comfortable. I decide to count my blessings.the rain carries on, and persists into early evening. Would being elsewhere, especially in the outdoors be any better I’d I’m wet all the time? Anyway I don’t have great desire to do anything.

Khaosan Road is boring.

I heard it in CM sung in Thai, now hear it here in BKK played by children on dulcimer type instruments: Hotel bloody California…..

The massage chairs are here as well. I feel sorry for the masseurs. Farang customers are drinking beer and texting whilst being massaged. Doesnt look like a special or relaxing moment to them.

My dinner at the same old place is underwhelming, and my request for spicy goes unneeded. A hectic criss-crossing of waiters, barmen, owners. A rerun of Newcastle 4 Arsenal 4.

Early bed, deep sleep.

Breakfast at 12. Punctuated by roving lighter and crocodile wallet sellers.

Legless harmonica player, propelling himself by his hands between the chairs of the cafe on a skateboard like platform. What a tough life.

Thursday 5/ Friday 6 September

I let Eyrique call the shots.

He chooses to go to the herbal sauna

Sme cubicles on the roof of a massage shop full of heavy teak furniture

Shower,wrap around sarong. Attendant brings tea. In the cubicle there is a tap to control the steam.

We spend 1 hour

We meet a Canadian guy with perculiar pornographic tattoos and a long beard.

We go to have lunch at the khao soi bookshop restauarnt

Seems Eyrique has been taken for a ride, as his meeting is not happening……….

Internet bullshit…….

I drive him to the airport. We wander the small number of shops and have an expensive foot massage with some smiley fun women. The place run by an old made up Madame. Sabai, relax, my masseuse tells me. Why can t I?

Soaked to the skin riding back

Soaked again trying to check out the market.

Long deep sleep

Last day in cm, alone

Blat around on motorbike. Trade it for bike

Day 6 leaving chaing mai

The blog has taken a breathing space. It’s now 6 September, and is am now on the train at Chiangmai station waiting for departure. Chiangmai does weird things to me. The second time ive been here and the second time I’ve left feeling laid bare on one way or another. This time it is emotional. .

What was he trying to prove by anaylsing all my numbers. It tells him I’m very sensitive and also persistent. I would say I suffer because I’m on- committal.

I was learning about the world, but have found myself retreating back inside. I’ve lost my desire to eat. I’ve seen enough temples. I have had enough conversations. I feel like everything is collapsing inward. I can’t write this blog. I need an outlet through which to channel all this energy and tension.

A record for myself. The me who is fragmenting.

Visit Wat Chedi Luang: Largest chedi in CM, partially destroyed by earthquake 500 years ago.

Wat Chedi Luang (a.k.a. Jedi Luang) was built in 1391 during the reign of King Saen Muang Ma, 8th ruler of the Mengrai dynasty. He intended the structure to house the ashes of his father, Ku Na. Appropriately, the site was designated as a ‘ku luang’ instead of a chedi since it was not intended to house relics of the Buddha.
The massive reliquary was expanded over the centuries, until it reached its final form in 1475, when King Tilokaraj made it the home of the Emerald Buddha, the most important cultural treasure in Thailand. At one point the reliquary–which had come to be known as a chedi–was 144 feet wide and 282 feet tall. Unfortunately, the pagoda was heavily damaged in the 1545 earthquake during the reign of Queen Mahadevi. The Emerald Buddha remained here for about six years after the earthquake, whereupon it was brought to Luang Prabang (in today’s Laos) by King Setthathirat, who ruled Chiang Mai for a short period in the years following the earthquake.

Monk chat, but no monks.

Burmese restaurant for lunch

Wander the empty closed night market

Trying to work out what I want to do….

Nothing much

Night train to BKK Leaving at 5pm

Wednesday 4 sept, chiang mai

Motorbike to doi suthep.

Windy mountainous road.temple full of rituals. I dedicate some tiles, I sign the yellow scarf. I shake a stick. I am to have a baby boy according to my stick….

Stick a coin on the money wall

Stick shaking and pray

Inscribe the scarf to be wrapped around the chedi

Donate and inscribe a tile for the roof

Spooning oil on candles

Circle the chedi with lotus buds, incense and mantras

Taking photos

Have your picture taken by roving photographers holding garish samples: families smiling in front of chedi

Be blessed, holy water sprinkled, holy cotton tied round your wrist

Odd English signage..look:!

Group of army officers out for the afternoon

Ice cream shops

Trinket and cd stalls

Dragon flies

Hornet overpowering and devouring one.

Motorbike back, walk into the national park to a spot with pooling fast flowing water under an overhanging cliff. Eyrique does some yoga in the water. The light is beautiful.

Back into town and buffet at gap. No other customers.

Back at riverside, a lot of introspection.

An uncomfortable evening at the night market.

Tuesday 3 sept, chiang mai

Day 3 in chaing mai

Hectic search for hire bikes. The place next door is closed. We are up against it to get tp Kuhn chorn, but we make it.

We take the wrong road to wat u mong, and my memory cannot reconstruct where we should be. In fact we are at the wrong temple

Wat umomg, 14th century, tunnels. A monk giving lessons to some young adults in the tunnel. Nice calm atmosphere on the square with the chedi.

On top of a 14 th century cave temple. The flat hill is crowned by a 40 metre chedi a brick wall marks out a kind of sanctuary. In the shade of. A bell house, guarded by four nagas. And under a tamarind tree gently arching down,30 cm long seed pods hanging down, black squirrels scampering in the high branches. 2 cockerels stru across the grass. A choir of monks chants drifting clearly upward, accompanied by a chorus of cockerels and squawking of birds. Little reddish brown and grey ones with white chests and a huge white plume and black beaks. They swoop to the ground where they pogo and bounce across. Some bounce back into the lower branches of the tamarind tree. A bell is struck. A solitary monk sits cross legged on the wall reading. The monks stop chanting. The birds stop squawking, a cavalcade of barking dogs takes over. Eric sleeps on the steps of the bell house.

 

Evening

Cycle into town

To main temple

 

To wooden Lanna style one. Chanting and candles

2 kings square. Tribute open air concert.dead singer maybe? Candles and swirling lines of yellow jasmine flowers. A succession of folky acoustic songs, some wel known by the audience, sitting on. Rattan mats on the ground. Many cameras. Many intent live uploads. Eyrique videoing everything. Some puppeteers.

More meandering

Herbal sauna discovered

Food might market by moat

Mobile cocktail bar

Jd French tattoo artist. Travelling alone and spending his inheritance. A local alcoholic Saksi, not sexy, comes on to Eyrique. Eyrique is squirming. He tries bravel Thai whiskey.

 

Monday 2 sept, chiang mai

Day 2 in chiang mai

Breakfast, Eyrique arrives. Move room

Rest for a while then walk……

Oven like heat of the afternoon. W meet analysis ex Muay Thai boxer who now lives in Australia. He attempts to persuade us to go trekking, buy a suit, go to a fight….

 

 

Temples temples

 

Taste of heaven veggie restauarnt: Poor service, Off off off, Bill is wrong….it gets a bad review from me on happy cows

More temples and chat in wat…..

Massageat a mother temple I’m so stiff. Buy some herbal remedies. Buy some conventional remedies, cos I’m getting a cold. In boots! Full of far ants with motorbike injuries and Thai women buying western cosmetics!

Over the street a aguy is training fighting beetles…i summise

 

 

Night market is snot a good plqce for food….in fact the food we have is poor and not at all spicy.again…..I’m disappointed

We check out the Gay bar, same old tired scene. Middle aged well to do faring with a boy each side. Quiet, low key, not very inspiring

Eyrique is disappointed.

 

W go to the outdoor Bus. Bar next to the iron bridge by the guest house. the coloured lighting morphs from red to green to blue to purple. this is a spot where young thais gather at night to take photos of each other. the bar plays Guns n roses, for goodness sake…. We’re charged 20 baht for a bowl of ice…..

I load myself up with pills to sleep off my cold…….

 

Exploring Chiang Mai

Wat Phan Tao, Chiang Mai

Wat Phan Tao (built 1846 onward)

Wat Phan Tao means “The Monastery of a Thousand Kilns”. According to the noted scholar Michael Freeman, this is probably due to the fact that the site was used for the casting of Buddha images intended for Wat Chedi Luang, which is adjacent to the monastery. The building was originally constructed not as a monastery, but as a royal palace building (ho kham) for the ruler of Chiang Mai, Chao Mahawong, who used the structure from 1846 to 1854. It originally stood on stilts, but these were removed when the building was refurbished as a monastery in 1876. Some traces of Chao Mahawong’s habitation can still be seen; for example, the front gable end is decorated with the image of a peacock standing over a sleeping dog. The dog is the zodiac symbol of Chao Mahawong’s birth year. The dog image is also present in the pediment of the left window on the front facade, though it is absent on the right side.

http://www.orientalarchitecture.com/thailand/chiangmai/wat-phan-tao.php