General Travels

Buddha, Buddha, Buddha, Buddha, Rockin' Everywhere – Thailand Part 8

Yet another full day.

After sleeping off the night before and waking up around 2 Christine and I head out yesterday and got a boat tour through the Ayutthaya river. The boat ride was excellent and it was a lot of fun to ride past people swimming in the river who then turned to wave at us. The boat made three stops, the first of which was to a Buddhist temple that houses the largest Buddha statue in Thailand. The thing was massive! There were also monks leading holy blessings and the whole thing kinda felt like a Buddhist version of an evangelist Church as a man walked around with a microphone and got people to shout in it, kinda bizarre, but the statue was pretty cool.

I’m not quite sure what the second stop was, there definitely were some monks wandering around as well as some interesting buildings and statues but I’m pretty sure I didn’t go to the spots I was supposed to. When I got back to the boat however everyone was there except Christine. I wandered around looking for her to no avail. Since I had no other way to find her I was forced to call her on my iPhone, for which did not purchase a calling plan for, so the call definitely cost around $6 for a grand total of 2 minutes… Awesome. After that I managed to somehow pocket dial Jenn at 4:30 am in her time zone which she was thrilled about and cost me at least another $6. Doubly awesome!

From there we went to our third stop, which seemed to be ruins of a Buddhist temple, however since everything was in Thai and no one spoke English I had no idea what exactly I was looking at, however I do feel like I’ve seen photos of this place before so once the pictures are online maybe someone can identify it.

After that we caught the bus to Nakhon Sawan where Christine has an apartment. We dropped off our stuff and grabbed her motor bike and then met two friends of hers for dinner, drinks and karaoke till 3:30 am. It was a pretty good time with laughs all around. Today is my last full day here, tomorrow I have to take a bus back to Bangkok and then a flight to Tokyo at 4pm. I’m really excited for Tokyo and I’ll be glad to get out of the sweltering heat but I’m definitely going to miss this place and Christine.

In a little bit we’re going to head out and she’s going to attempt to teach me to drive the motor bike and show me some of her favorite places around town. I’m hoping to make it an early night and a slower day so I’m rested for all the traveling tomorrow but we’ll see.


General Travels

Another Day, Another Bus, Another Buddhist – Thailand Part 6

We got up this morning, had breakfast and caught a motorbike taxi to the bus station. We were actually walking their ourselves when we stumbled onto an an old man who offered us a ride as we walked past his house. He was a funny little guy with a great big friendly smile so we couldn’t help but accept his offer.

As we walked up we saw his back was covered in a large tattoo written In the Thai alphabet, so while it was illegible to me it was very detailed and very beautiful. Christine informed me that she’d seen the same design before and that it was a spell of protection that the monks do. Sadly, I did not get a picture but the idea is fascinating to me.

Thailand is one of, if not the most, populous Buddhist countries in the world and it has greatly changed a lot of my outlook on Buddhist culture. I suspect and hope that I may be misinterpreting things but at first glance there seems to be a lot of materialism and superstition around it here, which was not at all what I had understood from the beliefs previously. I also, in general know very little about Thai Buddhism and how it varies from other forms, this is something I plant research further when I return to having a regular Internet connection.

I have noticed that meat is very popular over here but beef is almost nonexistent. This fascinates me because a spiritual buddhist is typically vegetarian so I’d suspect a lot less meat as a whole, but the no beef thing one would guess to be influenced by Hindu beliefs. One this is for sure, there is definitely a friendly, laid back culture of lovingkindness here, so that says something. I definitely need to read more before I go on talking about this as I’m sure to make myself sound ignorant to someone with a greater understanding and possibly offend someone.

We are headed now to Ayutthaya which used to be the capital of Thailand before Bangkok. We’ll be meeting up with some of Christine’s friends from her job over here (note: I forget if I mentioned this but Christine is over here teaching English as a foreign language). She tells me it’s among here favorite places here, I’m excited all around.

General Photography Travels

Elephants, Dragons and Bats (oh my) – Thailand Part 5

Kanchanaburi on Flickr

What a day.

We woke up this morning and had breakfast on the river before catching a ride to the elephant ranch. We sat in the back of a truck for the half hour ride through the countryside, the weather was beautiful, it was really nice to have the wind in our faces and to just enjoy the ride. When we got there we bought a bag of bananas and hopped onto an elephant and rode through the hills. The wrangler handed Christine an absurdly pink umbrella to block out the sun as we rode. He lead us down a path to the river where we dismounted and Christine begrudgingly returned the umbrella. We each got another elephant to ride in the river. The wrangler provided us with some dish soap and a scrub brush to bathe the elephants. They are such amazing creatures, we sat around their necks and as they dunked themselves under water. They pushed their ears back to hold your legs onto them. So considerate!

That whole adventure cost around $25, which was money well spent. From there we headed back to the hostel, showered and rested a bit. While hanging out we saw a giant monitor lizard swimming through the river right in front of our place that Christine will not stop going on about and demanded I fit into this entry. To be fair, he was pretty cool (editor’s note: that monitor lizard – aka dragon – is the embodiment of awesome!) (writer’s note: Christine is never going to be asked to edit my entires again).

After that we rented a motorbike and took off on the open road, eventually finding our way to the “Death Train” and the “Bridge Over the River Kwai”. I bought a much needed pair of sunglasses and we proceeded to get lost until we found a passage over the river we could take on the bike (the “bridge over the river Kwai” is train or foot only, no vehicles allowed).

We spent some time getting lost, asking directions and having a good laugh before we stumbled onto a bridge and eventually made our way to the Khao Pun Caves and the Buddhist temple built in and around them. It was quite possibly the most peaceful experience I’ve had here, which is saying a lot. The caverns went deep under ground and we stumbled onto a massive amount of bats lurking up above us and proceeded very carefully as to not disturb them. Despite our efforts, one or two still took flight here and there, giving us a mild spook.

The place was filled with a crazy amount of Buddha statues stashed throughout the caverns and many of the passages got absurdly tight and short causing my lanky self to have to duck often. We were both very thankful for not being much larger in size. It reminded me of the scenes from “In Bruges” where Colin Farrell’s character is heckling the fat American family, telling them they won’t be able to climb to the top of the bell-tower. Luckily we’re not that large.

The caverns were beautiful beyond what I can describe and it was nice to find some naturally cool air here (it’s been in the 90’s this week). As we were leaving, a monk set himself up in front of a massive Buddha statue and started to pray. It was an extremely moving thing for me to witness but I made a conscious effort not to disturb him. After that we biked back into town for some dinner at the “Tofu Bar Vegetarian Food” restaurant, which thankfully had free WiFi for customers. We watched the sun go down over a few beers, listened to some John Lennon and caught up on the news. I’ve very much enjoyed being cut off from just about everything aside from twitter but it’s good to know what’s going on as well.

Tomorrow we’re heading out to Ayutthaya which is the old capital of Thailand and from there to Nakhon Sawan, a small city where Christine is teaching. As much as I’ve enjoyed the tourist stuff I’m excited at the possibility of getting into a less touristy area and seeing things a little more like a local.

As for tonight, back to the bar we found last night to share a pint with a couple of Belgian girls while listening to our new Thai friend Juan (definitely spelled wrong) play music.

Until tomorrow friends, cheers!