sábado, 2 de marzo de 2024

Wats, Signs, Mums and Babies and The Unexpected

I returned to the same Wat yesterday where I'd previously seen the sign: 'We have not gone beyond decay.' In the last 36 hours or so, more hand-written signs on wood had been nailed to the trees!
It was dusk and the monks, both the children and adults, were clearing garden plots and cleaning pots, hands in the earth mucking about, literally, their saffron robes all muddy and wet and there was lots of laughter as they squirted water at each other and did some mud-cake throwing.

I was the only person there, sitting on a bench a little way back, out of sight, taking advantage to go bare-footed on the soil and get a bit of grounding in! lol

Some of the things the new signs said: 'The Wise Master Themselves' 'Everyone is a fool but nobody is a fool forever.' 'If there is nothing that you like you must (it would be good to) like the things you have.'

Earlier that morning I got to hang out with mums, babies and toddlers where we sang and played. The mums sell crafts at the market. We did an exchange of a Lao word for an English word. We enjoyed hearing each other's attempts so it mostly turned into a laughing session. Learning through laughter, laughter and intent, to-ing and fro-ing, taking turns is always so good. The mums have these most beautiful hand-made little suits that their babies lie sleeping in, attached to their hearts and chests, while we seesaw back and forth between singular Lao and English words. Facial expressions, looks and laughter connecting us and these tiny little babies lying sleeping soundly through-out it all. And little sensible toddlers, lol not whipping up any storms or tantrums, just bogeying to the Lao and English music on in background. Or plonking down on the ground to play with the first thing they see.lol

The Wats are like public park where anybody can go and sit on the beautiful hand-made wooden and stone circular benches. I'd love to have taken photos of the monks and their playful, yet functional activity, but they were enjoying themselves so much that who the heck needs photos! With increasing numbers of tourists here, they're paparazzi-ed out of it! There were two or three temple dogs, beautiful sandy-coloured dogs who lie around sleeping wherever the monks are. Sleeping, and lying still even when the monks before them were, giddily, in full throes of kicking up a playful gardening-storm.

The day ended in a Chinese restaurant eating some fried rice. On paying the bill at the counter, there was a stuffed white fox (or maybe imitation :)) and a stuffed crow sitting there looking as if they'd flown right in out of a parable and plonked themselves there! lol And maybe they did! lol

The Lao Children's Library Boat and the 'Cafe for Knowledge.'

The events that happen when not having any plan in particular in mind never fail to surprise. After having had a tummy bug for three days, the chemist prescribes some probiotics, antibiotics and an energy drink to deal with a bout of food poisoning. Within half an hour, I'm on a boat that's pulling out to go across the Mekong to the other side of Luang Prabang. On reaching land, the Lao Children's Library boat is moored there. Eager looking children are on board and two women. One of the women invites me on board. She says they're going further down the river to the children's library to do activities. I excitedly hop on board. The woman, and man about to steer the boat, ask me to mind my head and watch my step as I clumsily, but happily, step aboard.

We spend a great few hours together in the library doing fun English games. The kids are eager and love learning. Afterwards, the Lao teacher takes out a giant set of false teeth in a blue mould to tell them the activity will be about mouth hygiene. The teacher puts the colourful false teeth in the middle of the table and asks the children to draw the teeth. It's no easy thing. One or two children have got their companions to draw them the teeth after their own sincere 3rd or 4th attempts at drawing teeth. I'm thinking of Steptoe and son and Steptoe's fun with his false teeth and for a moment I'm tempted to grab the giant false teeth and make them move! And I do. Each child then wants a turn to make the false teeth move. And they do. It's great. Also coming to mind is Pam Ayres' poem that encouraged Irish and British 60's and 70s children to look after their teeth. 'I wished I'd Looked After Me Teeth.' My siblings and I were about 6 or 7 years old when we got our first toothbrushes from Santa Claus.

On leaving the library, I go round the corner and find Kraw and Sen's 'Cafe for Knowledge.'The place is amazing. And empty. Sen, through sign language and photos, recounts their love story...the events are worthy of a film. They have an intriguing collection of books and art from their travels, one being a bronze bust of Chairman Mao (Sen shows a photo of Kraw wheelbarrowing said-bust along the street and into their cafe)... a place with so many stories. I'll go back for more.
An unpredictable and lovely day and the benefits of modern medicine. 🙂

Arriving in Bangkok and Luang Prabang (Laos): A Few Anecdotes

A few photos of having just arrived in Luang Prabang via Bangkok, 27 hours on land and in air...involving a mix of episodes and stories and since my memory isn't up to the mark any more, I'll jot things down in a Blog (lol does the world need another travel blog!!!??...lol It's unlikely they do, but I feel one creeping up on me!)

An 80 year old lady I meet on shuttle bus taking us to hotel in Bangkok gifted me a 'post- bite pen' (she doesn't believe in layering poisonous mosquito-repellent Deet on herself - never has, never will, 20 years in S.E. Asia with only Boots Pharmacy 'Post Bite Pens.' She's willing to take the bites then zap them! Yay!

Carlos Santana Musician story on flight where he says he speaks to god before each performance and says: ''God, I know you're there, keep me in time and keep me in tune' Then everything becomes another dimension.''

I see a sign in a Wat (Temple grounds) 'We have not gone beyond decay...' At same time, young boy monks come running out with blue watering cans, laughing and drumming on empty cans and then begin filling watering cans, making music as they go off to start watering...lol )

Memory...is the diary that we all carry about with us. (Oscar Wilde). 

More photos here https://photos.app.goo.gl/2tXrZqeDp9o3Ctxf7

viernes, 1 de marzo de 2024

Sunny Days and Easy Nights by the River of Bangkok: Easy Like a Sunday Morning

....(Lionel Ritchie on loop! lol) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XUpTIvPYKOk

Bangkok: Easy Like a Sunday Morning

Bangkok's a city where the humble, daring, new and loud live in harmony on the banks of The Chao Phraya river. And its footpaths, made up of contrasts - one part smooth and wide to one part bumpy, broken and pot-holed, but where feet (even mine lol) never miss a step. Hearts miss beats though. That's what Bangkok does. Bangkok shines, energises, takes you by the hand to the tune of Lionel Ritchie's 'Easy Like a Sunday Morning.' And you swoon to that unique Thai smile that breaks out from Thai people when you meet eyes. The connection of nervous systems. An exchange of energies, of creating safety, through eyes and smiling. It's powerful, real and makes the heart sing.

Signs: The Sanctuary For Your Soul

The hotel workers wore t-shirts saying things like: 'Pleased to please you, please ask.' or 'We'll show you what Bangkok is, your adventure begins here.' And yes! Bangkok is many things. But it's the ordinary people on the streets that are its heart-beat. Just across from the hotel was a gentlemen who worked constantly, head down, sharpening knives or other house-hold instruments that people took to him, the yellowing, fading banner on his humble wooden-shack wall said 'The Sanctuary For Your Soul.' 

The 'Other Side' of Bangkok

And sure, Bangkok has its 'other' side, the Western 'seedy' side of things, made seedy by the western take on things. Sex shops exist alongside night markets and waffle stores, it's not underground or shamed away. Buddhism's part of their outlook on everything. That probably sounds like a basic take. Maybe it is. Or maybe it's the essence of it all. Our innate uniqueness no matter the path taken, no matter the choices that sometimes befall us in our need to survive. 

First Experience....

My first experience of Bangkok was 25 years ago. Vladi had been there and said 'Let's go. You'll love it!' And he was right. I'd been en route to Bangkok and S.E. Asia when I stopped off in Las Palmas to work for a year. And met Vladi and stayed. I've been many times since and each time is unique and brilliant, a bit like the first time all over again. Impossible to bet bored of Bangkok or anywhere in Thailand.

Roadie Look-Alike

Or the look-alike Roadie for Bruce Springsteen who stood with a wheelie cart of knives of every description and when I asked him if I could take a photo, he smiled, signalled with a hand out to please do so, not changing his rock and roll pose, just smiling. Tools feel like tools here, not weapons, to stick inside a sock to be on the safe-side. 

Ay, Ay, Ay Thai Massage

An then there's Thai Massage. All those years ago, I'd connected massage with oil and stickiness and being kneaded awkwardly and feeling icky and had not been into massage at all! lol But Thai Massage. A total other story. You wear cotton pyjamas. It's mostly on the floor or a wide wooden bed. If you're lucky enough to have a Thai middle-aged women as your masseur she'll treat the massage like a ritual. She'll do the Namaste sign as she kneels at your feet, as you lie on the floor. She'll bow and say something in Thai with her eyes closed. There'll be eye connection and smiles. She'll know all the acupressure points and muscles of your body and press and rub them in different ways. She'll sit alongside you, stand and tower over you, kneel by you, hold on to you. She'll take one leg at a time onto her lap and locate exactly the points she needs to locate to unblock the energy she needs to unblock. She'll use her elbows and feet to press you. She'll roll and knead. She'll lift your legs and bottom up in the air and hold you there. She'll put you into yoga poses. It's the most amazing body experience ever and sexuality doesn't come into it. The neck massage part is amazingggggg. It feels as if she knows where the vagus nerve is and how powerful it is. She pulls your head up, pushes your shoulders down, grips the base of your brain as if her hands were huge pliers, pulls your hair and her thumbs feels like giant panda thumbs pressing in all the right places. And the outcome? You feel it. Every last thing she does to you. You feel the 'good pain' of it. It's like the rhythm of 'good pain, release, relief' over and over again. It's a fine art. One wrong placing of finger or thumb and the body screams blue murder. You'll ask her to go 'soft, soft.' The 'something's wrong' pain rarely happens though. They're experts. And it's brilliant. Needless to say I had many massages and kept to my mantra of 25 years ago and my first time in Bangkok when after my first massage and back in the hotel room, I emptied my purse and put aside the money to have two massages a day even at the expense of eating. Who needs food when there's the healing experience of Thai massage! lol Actually, everything else is put on a second plane. Thai massage: food for the soul and body. It costs a fortune in the West. And hard to find.  I'm in Thai massage, cold turkey, the sweats and the longing for 'just one more.' lol Last think I did before stepping in a taxi to the airport was have a Thai massage with an amazing lady I got to know. And afterwards the refreshing and invigorating sipping of a hot cup of Bael fruit tea. It's the same tea the give women after giving birth. :) That says it all about the power of Thai massage. :) 

Bangkok Odds and Ends

An Indian fortune teller crossing my path on the path and reading my palm on the spot.

monk approaching and blessing me in a market and tying a colourful double tie around my wrist then cutting its excess ends with scissors he takes from his pocket. He smiles and gives me an extra wrist tie to take with me, blessing it and saying something serious-sounding which could have been: 'Please replace my wrist tie with this new wrist tie when deemed needed.' or 'Please give this tie wrist to someone who needs my blessing.' :).

I come upon a Wat in Bankok in middle of high-rise and tumbled down buildings, hearing chanting coming from it and creep inside to sit at the back of the temple to listen, alongside a Thai lady who smiled delightedly at me. In front there were 3 monks with their backs to us, sitting in yoga poses, chanting to an enormous golden Buddha in a beautiful, frescoed red temple. One monk had an amazing tattoo going from his shoulder, down his arm to the palm of his hand. A tabby cat sat on the window sill, stretching and watching. Another tabby cat sat by one of the monks, seeking out belly rubs between moments of stillness. It's amazing what going around a corner can reveal. The unexpected and spontaneous pop up.

Seeing the river sights through the eyes of a gorgeous young boy in yellow as we took the 'people's express' boat from one end of Bangkok to the other. Just wonderful. And there's more. But another day. :)

More photos: https://photos.app.goo.gl/QMnxYNh5U8ZBRkVAA

Wats, Signs, Mums and Babies and The Unexpected

I returned to the same Wat yesterday where I'd previously seen the sign: 'We have not gone beyond decay.' In the last 36 hours o...