Letters from Thailand 2012 (Geni flies solo), part 2

July 8th

Dear friends and family,

While last night was alive and eventful, nothing could have been more amusing than returning to my compound only to enjoy whom I believed to be the proprietor singing Karaoke to "Brick House" with all of the "r's" rolling like "l's." Needless to say, there was not a large crowd at that end of the canal but I thoroughly enjoyed that bit of mixed cultural entertainment ;)

It certainly is a magical to wake up to the distant sound of monks chanting from temples along the canal in Ampawa. This morning, I was lured by the sound of lively music and voices toward the temple across the bridge from my compound. The glimmer of this temple had caught my eye since arriving in Ampawa and this presented a better excuse than any other to make the journey.

While this appeared to be a local event, I ventured over to the neighboring temple which was clearly abandoned by evidence of the heavily boarded windows and doors. As I walked around the temple followed by half a dozen roosters and a couple baby chicks, I was approached by a monk with a toothless but an ear to ear pleasant smile. Again, only able to converse in varying tongues, he gestured me to follow him into the temple as he opened the huge bright red wooden shutters which flooding the ornate building with well-deserved sunlight. Although this temple was not as elaborately adorned as its predecessors that I had visited, there were a myriad of paintings of manifesting the Buddha over his life time on earth. As I walked around in bare feet with my newly befriended monk asking questions in English, he so obliged me in Thai.  

After forty five minutes of communicating in our own special way, my monk again gestured me to follow him to the neighboring temple where he introduced me to a celebration of a newly indoctrinated monk. Apparently, it takes some years of study to graduate to this point and is not achieved until twenty eight years of age. He was perched on center stage with beautiful robes of gold and sheer white cloth draping his small framed bronze figure, a very neatly cleaned shaved head and an expressionless appearance of serenity. This was a very honorable time for this young man and I was blessed to have had my picture taken with him on stage in front of at least a hundred supportive friends and family. 

After picture taking time, the audience started to rumble and someone pulled me to my feet handing me two full plastic liters of Cola and Grape soda decorated with streaming ribbons of green, pink and white from the bottle tops. I was pushed into a parade lead by dancing villagers which was followed by a marching band, and folks carrying flowers. Somewhere in the group between the band and soda pop brigade was our fresh monk basking in his glory...after all this was his debut! The tradition is apparently, to parade this very slow moving act around the temple three times. At this pace, I was sure that the rest of my morning was going to be lugging two liters of soda in the blaze of a very hot sun with over a hundred very happy villagers around a temple for a very long three laps. 

As I enjoyed the movement of this village ritual, I spied another rather large western gentleman (meant in the kindest of terms as it all relative) meandered in to take a couple photos from the steps of the temple. Really, this was a photo shoot not to be missed as an outsider! Unfortunately though, it was a missed opportunity for me as I paraded around with my soda. The heat must have been too much for my western friend because he fainted and cracked his head on the marble stairs. So knowing that I was the only one that spoke English, I not so reluctantly handed off my sodas. Although the parade did not stop, he was smothered with overwhelming attention by anyone close at hand. After chatting with him and knowing that he seemed okay with being dumped into a van that appeared to be taking him to a medical aid center, I was pulled into the front of the parade by an entertaining group of elderly dancing women. 

So now I was leading the parade as they danced and laughed with me...or at me?   We circled the temple a couple more times laughing and dancing and then our new monk was escorted up the marble white steps and stopped. He turned, smiled and nodded at his onlookers and then stared tossing little hand woven ribbons of origami ribbon. I'll have to say I was not quick enough to jump on this opportunity, but my crazy dancing lady friends showered me afterwards with their gifts of ribbon from heaven.

After sweet good byes, I took my last stroll down the canal which is still rather quiet in the late morning before the weekend warriors arrive. In passing an eatery that had lovely exotic music floating over the piers, two elaborately dressed women insisted that I come in for a very fine meal. The meal was very fine at that and the lovely ladies with very manly voices insisted on very many pictures. Ampawa does not appear to have too many visitors from the west so it is a special occasion to indulge them with pictures and open ended conversation with the likes of someone like myself...even ladies with beautiful manly voices ;)  

I left a part of my heart in Ampawa as I bid farewell to the cute little chickie who drove the white Toyota and maybe the proprietor (assuming but never really found out for sure). Upon checking out, I attempted to inquire as to how I was going to get back to Bangkok or at least a more direct route this time. "Ca...motorbike to bank." Hmmmm...after my backpack was nestled on the handle bars of their resident motorbike, I hopped on behind the driver to the bank? There had to be some reason to this rhyme...I hoped. After a ride that now best describes "fear" for me, I was dropped at the Bangkok Bank. Standing in front of the bank not knowing what to do, my escort pointed across the street to a make shift tent with a lovely sign hanging above only in Thai of course. His nod and redeeming sense of geography as he blurted, "Bangkok" was somewhat of a relief.  

Eighty baths to Bangkok in a minibus as the only foreigner was becoming very comfortable. After an hour and a half, back to the bustling city, I immediately longing to be back in Ampawa. Arriving in Bangkok, I took a taxi to New Joe's accommodations which is actually run by a Madam Joe. The accommodation is not easily accessible as it is really not situated on a street but rather through a catacomb of subway like allies. (I just would like you all to know that because no one asked me where I was going to be during this time in Bangkok...a little fyi now ;) 

The Madam is very nice and owns most of the alley where I am residing this week. She owns the school where I am to study Thai Yoga Massage, the restaurant, the sort of hotel or hostel place, the internet cafe and a couple other hottie spots that she pointed out during my very informal tour. The room could not be any more basic or if I can't say anything nice...nothing at all. So remember that I was in a hut in the jungle with furry friends and in Awpawa with the reptiles. This just has more of an urban shake to it.  

Bangkok does not have the same flavor for me as the rural parts of Thailand. There are a lot of Europeans here and that does not bode well as always being a very friendly environment for the most part. But it is all part of the journey, so until the next tomorrow....