Tag Archives: temple

Hong Kong day 2 part 2

After reaching the road at pok fu lam we dither about the next step, and owing to time we decide to head back clockwise around the island to soho on the bus. A little walk down some steps takes us past and diverted into a couple of broc a brac shops, the second being rammed with cameras, projectors, old games consoles, memorabilia such as presentation plaques from various defunct regiments and place departments, old prints of yesteryear including crazy shots of airliners approaching the old hk airport through a canyon of sky scrapers. The usual approach route I believe. There are some old news articles from 1989 from the hk press with photos of the build up to what became the tragedy of tianenmen. Would be good to show my Chinese students this. 

We find the man mo temple dedicated to the God of literature. The wooden beams are hung with smoking coils of incense. I remark on how calming the place is. If you tune into the atmosphere of the temple the constant city noise outside disappears. We talk about smells and my nose seems to have been stimulated by incense, KK notices a smell of cement that evokes his primary school. For a few minutes almost at each step I notice a new and different smell.

I get excited on spying mangosteens, my favourite fruit. The first one is rotten. KK turns down the offer when he sees the mess my hands get into. There are 3 veggie restaurants here. One near to the old west market, an Edwardian market hall now converted into boutique food stalls. The first promises all you can eat but turns out to charge by weight and is rather cold and unfriendly. We end up in a place which serves ” members only ” but they let us in. All the tables are reserved and we have a window of 1 hour to eat. Service is forgetful and slow. KK remarks again on the friendliness standard, and isn’t overly impressed with the food. I find the braised fungi quite interesting, fleshy and fibrous. KK has issues with food textures and some mushrooms and later I introduce him to the word umami. I walk KK to bus bus stop then get the tram back to base.

Confuscious temple

I don’t understand the selfie or the rituals people enact when they go places. Is visiting a place such as a temple like putting yourself on a stage in a new theatre to perform to your camera. Only this is a closed loop. Theatres have an audience. The selfie audience is yourself, and hence it provokes narcissism of the highest order. From photo opportunity site to photo opportunity site. Everyone does the same preening, posing and gesturing. This is me, I’m here. Actually the here doesn’t matter too much. The this is me, and oh aren’t I happy and isn’t my life full of the craziest moments is what is happening here. Jumping through some little gate at the confuscious temple, pulling the v-sign. Those stupid plastic green antenna that girls are wearing in their hair.

Maybe I should be less cynical. Is there anything actually intrinsically that interesting in this place. The codes of confuscious ism are dead. The structure is pretty, but it doesn’t have a lot of relevance beyond a pleasant place to visit and spend time away from the mundanity of everyday life. So why not perform some act to remind yourself you are still alive and that things are not so bad after all.

Beijing day 3

It’s all quite confusing here still. Learning a little Chinese doesn’t really prepare you for a place where you can read nothing and nobody speaks any English….and this is the capital city. I believe that Chinese kids learn English from the age of 8 or so. Well the TV show about the “Chinese way of education” obviously was a red herring. From my experiences at my work and what I have seen here the facts are that their way of learning languages definitely doesn’t work. Not that I’m counting on being helped, and have tried, but I don’t know enough to negotiate a deal on a SIM card, and can’t read the signs in the station to find out where to pick up my ticket.

Many prejudices have been confirmed. It is a poor place and my students represent a very small section of Chinese society, a section I haven’t even encounters here. The society I have seen live in the hutong. These are grey brick and cement alleys with houses arranged around wiggly courtyards, some behind heavy teed doors. Inside each of these pasted to the walls are, I believe housing committee orders. The yards are often piled up with old pieces of furniture, broken bicycles and strung with drying laundry. It’s a hot and dusty place, with a grimy layer of grey dust adhered to everything, even the statues at the temples. I guess this is pollution. The air feels superheated and sticky, this must be the greenhouse effect. Old guys sit on boxes outside their gates, often shirtless or with their t-shirts pulled up to expose them. A crude way to keep cool. Some of them pass the time playing Chinese chess, the women sit with their poodles, smoking and playing cards opposite their shops. It’s not as loud as I imagined. People don’t shout, and travel around on electric motorbikes ( how can this be?). Bikes are a plenty, so are motor tricycles. It’s not a hostile or suspicious en place, but people don’t smile back and rarely return my “ni hao”. I’m not sure if they are aware of me, a rare white devil in these parts, or that they choose to ignore me. There is no calling out or efforts to sell me anything. Such a contrast with elsewhere in Asia.

I’ve been to some temples. The confuscious one was disappointing, and more a museum to a dead way of thinking. That’s certainly how it was described in the adjoining museum. Mao put the final nail in its coffin I guess, but no mention of this in the museum of course. What I thought would be a tranquil visit was annoyingly soundtracked by Chinese guides jabbering on headset mics. Do they really need to be this loud, and why do they seem to be following me?

The lama temple was a more religious experience, with people burning incense sticks and bowing, though even this didn’t feel too spiritual. Across the road at night time people burn piles of fake money and prayers as sacrifices.

Tiananmen Square was unreachable, with a heavy military and police presence cutting off pedestrian access on the eve of the parade to commemorate the end of ww2. Many of these uniforms look very young, like school boys with their happiness extracted and replaced with a cold empty communist stare of contempt and surveillance state. The presence of control can be felt all over the place. Every subway station has a scanner for bags, in front of each exit on a platform stand pairs of green garbed, large capped soldiers. Each platform has a guard on a set of steps marshalling passengers. On the enormous square in front of Beijing west railway station police stand under special police parasols, pairs of soldiers dotted around. Here people seem to have been waiting for trains forever, or they live here. Thousands of families, peasants with sacks stuffed full of god knows what lie, sleep, sit, squat as throngs of passengers pass through this colossal communist edifice. It’s an intimidating and confusing place and makes very little sense. Absolutely no comparison with a British station. I didn’t once see a platform or train. I guess they are here somewhere. In spite of this heavy surveillance, it all seems very benign. Nobody gets hassled, I’m not stopped from taking pictures. I think the presence is so normal, that everybody is used to it, and therefore won’t step out of line, or whatever they are not supposed to do here. I did see them rush into action close to tiananamen when a woman started shouting hysterically at some guy. 4 or 5 uniforms rushed over, but actually were more interested in stopping people from gathering and watching. I reckon that they are more fearful of crowds assembling than some crazy woman. They never did sot out her problem. I have to say this was so unusual, as the Chinese don’t ever draw attention to themselves.

The internet is the other thing that reeks of over zealousness. I can access very few of the sites I want to, including blogs, file share sites and social media. It really makes you aware of how little information is available here.

I tried to get a bus earlier and ran into a number of problems. First the timetable. It made no sense, plus of course I couldn’t read it. I did ask a guy to help and he explained patiently, but I couldn’t understand very much at all. Then I realised that tickets can’t be bought on the bus. So where? I should have bought a travel card, but didn’t due to poor advice. When the bus finally did come, it was rammed packed, so I aborted my mission.




Prachuap Khiri Khan day 2

I get up reasonably early to a cool breeze.


I feel invigorated and spend a relaxing and enjoyable few hours climbing then hanging out on the mountain on the northern side, khao chong Krajok. There is another temple here, a scruffy group of buildings, a gold stupa, colourful bushes and a lot of monkeys. The steps and trees are full of them, and I feel like I'm invading their territory. Some are scabby and mangy. Their principle past-time seems to be picking fleas off each other. They are not exactly aggressive but a bit intimidating. I see a young boy with a bag of corn, bought from an old man with no teeth. Suddenly he is shrieking as scores of the beasts are at his feet, jumping up, all around him.



I have found a great and chilled out vegetarian restaurant, which also does a wonderful chocolate smoothie. Everywhere else sells seafood, so this place has already become my regular haunt.

Back at om's peter is having tea. I join him and JJ brings me some sticky rice which is cooked by steaming it inside bamboo cane. The Austrian next door seems to have lost it..or has decided to piss everyone off today. He is playing a cd of Christmas songs done in a kitschy oomp pah Austrian style. Frosty the bloody snowman in a tropical climate. It's beyond irritating….


Nakhon si Thammarat day 2

Nearly any rain, at least not until nighttime.

I spent today with Ning, an old student from Regency, and her old school friend and husband who are both university teachers. The deal is I teach a lesson with them tomorrow, and they drive me around the city today and lavish me with lunch, tea and dinner. It's a really nice day and I get to learn and appreciate things I wouldn't be able to do as a solo farang with no thai language. We make merit at the temple, which is considers the most important in southern Thailand. The white stupa allegedly contains yet another of the buddha's teeth. The gilded spire obviously isn't golden as corrosion stains drip on the white plaster work. Unfortunately the walkway around the stupa is closed, but we burn joss sticks (3 for the Buddha; 9 for the God, which we do at the city shrine later) and candles which get snuffed out by the breeze before we have time to kneel and plant them in the ash trough in the boat alter. We have little scraps of gilding, which we transfer to the Buddha effigies. Mine blow away, rather then cling. My merit is hard to. Achieve. Out of the sudden rain, we walk a cloister like passage where there is a large gong. None of us succeed in making it resonate. This is done by caressing 2 raised knobs. One woman coaxes a tremendous ringing tone from it. Wow.

We visit the city museum, which has some rather amusing dioramas, including one of a thai school room with a projected animate school teacher. There is a a big freize on which is written the 60 commandments that school children must learn these days. It's a bit much. Ning comments that the first commandment which is basically “do good things” suffices.

Afterwards we go to the city shrine for more merit making, and then to the remains of the city wall. On the city park nearby old and young, slim and not so slim alike exercise on the open-air communal gym-type equipment, though it feels more like a dangerous kids playground. On the field groups of men are playing a kind of keepy-uppy game involving a hollow rattan ball and bare feet.

A shared meal together is great: when you eat alone you can't possibly order so many dishes. Equally being with Thais, they are able to specify exactly what they want cooked. We have egg and bitter cucumber, a Chinese mushroom soup, broad beans and green beans in a spicy sauce, and a very hot tofu in yellow bean curry paste.







Day 3 in Sangkhlaburi…..Religion

At sunrise their are groups of monks on the bridge heads. Locals are flocking down the hills to make merit by offering food then being blessed. There is so much food that they will end up not eating it all, for sure.

I negotiate a trip across the reservoir to the partially submerged remains of the old temple. The original village was drowned when the valet was dammed. The present settlement being newer and on higher ground. The temple must have been on a small hill. You are able to disembark and wander into and around the structure. Local mon women are arriving on long tail boats to prepare bunches of jasmine. The offer these to the subsequent passengers on the next couple of boats to land. Locals, I suppose, who have come to pray at the shrine inside the temple. This seems to be an auspicious day.

There is an aura of religion throughout the day. In the evening on the mon bridge I bump into the Taiwanese girl who i chauffeured from the bus station in kanchanaburi. As we watch the increasing number of monks a man in a simple white cotton smock and trousers informs us that there will be a large gathering of monks who will be chanting on the bridge soon. About 80 or so assemble and sit on mats facing the now dimming dusk sky. They have little bottles of energy drink. En masse at 6pm they begin to chant. I sit and absorb for over an hour. The atmosphere is special, though not totally serene, as the occasional boat buzzes out into open water. Not all the monks seem to be immersed. I see one chatting on his mobile and another taking selfies on an iPad! This event is to mark the mid-point of the monks' retreat. Now I understand why there is a monk camp site, and why they are behaving as if they are on holiday! These guys come from all ove thailand and are at Buddhist university. The man in white is also studying there.






Sangkhlaburi day 2

Quite a chilly sleep, thankfully the karaoke on the other side of the creek stopped by 11.

I'm quite excited to get up for sunrise over the lake. Monks on the bindi baht are crossing the bridge. Long tail drivers are prepping their boats and cruising out into the golden water. A schoolboy dressed in Boy Scout type uniform is with his mother selling little fish in bags of water, to be released for merit making. I guess that's his job before school. I forget how early it is. 6 am? 7 am? The village is getting up. Mon women with yellow ash daubed faces with baskets balanced on their heads are selling tea and snacks. Across another small bridge, under which locals are tilling their vegetable gardens, I'm now in a more rustic environment of typical mon houses, bamboo platforms with thin woven walls. There are a lot of women with babies. At a store I drink some water and a guy on a motorbike generously offers to take me to the wat. It's burmese and very ornate. On the land next to it is a campsite. Tents for monks. There is a road which is strewn with dry leaves, rustling in the cooling breeze. This leads to a gilded stupa, next to which is a souvenir market. Here I see a small group of monks committing taboos: handling money, smoking, shouting to each other. Buying food and ice creams…I understood their food was from donations. In the road a small mangey pup has just died. A pack of adult equally scrawny and few ridden dogs aggressively police the small corpse.