The Lone Ranger strikes again

4 Mar

Saturday

So here I am, on my own again.. feels kind of odd and strangely familiar too. It’s Saturday, so I thought I might go to the temple… where I found a lot of people engaged in a Buddhist ceremony. I stayed for around an hour, just enjoying the atmosphere but without the foggiest idea what was going on. Mind you, after an hour kneeling on a rush mat my legs weren’t really co-operating when I stood up – so the farang (Westerner) must have looked a little the worse for wear when he left the temple.

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But I’m in a hotel, on my own, not sharing a dorm, or sharing with anyone else.. very peculiar. And THIS room has a shower curtain! It’s surprising what you can get excited about! Mind you, I have to race my luggage up the stairs – luggage gets a lift, whereas the receptionist just pointed at the stairs and said ‘exercise’.

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Monday

The real reason that I am staying in Bangkok is to get my Chinese Visa – one of a number of visas that I have to get over the next couple of months – although many countries will either let UK citizens in without a visa (God bless them) or will arrange it on arrival, many require an upfront visa in your passport. India actually want detailed travel plans. Anyway, I haven’t got these yet simply because they would have expired by now – so I need to pick them up as I go. First stop, the Chinese Embassy, half way across Bangkok. I decide to take the SkyTrain anyway, just for the views over Bangkok. Now here, they’re wonderfully organised into queues rather than just milling round the platform.

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So, arrive at the embassy, take a numbered ticket as if I was at the deli counter (lots of Asia works on this system, whereas in Britain we would just form an orderly queue), fill in my form, stick a little picture on it with an old fashioned glue pot (the travel reps have stolen the Pritt Stick) and hand it over. Simples. And it saves me around 2000 baht over an agency doing it for me. That’s £40 in proper money.

On the way back, I’m passing the Marble Temple, Wat Benchamabophit – so I thought I might as well stop by. Each temple I visit has a different energy, a different ‘feel’ to it. This one feels very peaceful, and I could almost sense the peace and tranquillity from the lone monk meditating there.

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There’s a collection of Buddha figures here with the formal poses explained (like, telling the sea to go back in the last picture above) and some spooky lighting effects that really light the Buddha figures up – it doesn’t look like that to the naked eye.

And in the evening, it’s Pad Thai and a foot massage/neck back & shoulder massage in Soi Rambuttri – again, just on the street again. The girls giggle because I have managed to get myself so relaxed… that moment of relaxation doesn’t last when they really start twisting, poking, prodding and otherwise abusing my body. And walking on my back. And – hey, that tickles.

Tuesday

Thought I’d drop in at another temple to chill for a moment and reconnect to myself – it’s become a little bit of a tradition over here, just to kneel down in a Buddhist temple and breathe… I’m not a great meditator, but there is something about just resting in silence that really helps. Again there’s some sort of celebration going on

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So, a little time for sightseeing while I wait for my visa.  I had a list of things I wanted to do before I left, which included visiting the Grand Palace and Wat Arun. The Grand Palace just feels too busy, so I wander off to Wat Arun, the Temple of the Dawn. The route takes me through the local markets, where I pick up a couple of pairs of sunnies for around 100 baht (£2). A lot of the market is given over to trading in amulets – these talismans are worn round the neck or hung from the car rear view mirror (or, very probably, all over the place) for luck. There’s actually an Amulet market in Bangkok – I find the whole thing a bit creepy. There’s actually the thai equivalent of ‘What Amulet’ available on news stands here

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And then across the river to Wat Arun. I wasn’t sure what to expect here, but this has to be the best temple I have visited so far in Asia – and believe me, I have visited a lot. To start off with, it’s huge. I’m really struggling to take decent pictures of it and get it all in – you will have to judge how well I do. It’s a Khmer style prang in the middle, decorated with seashells and bits of porcelain that apparently was used as ballast by Chinese sailors.

There’s a fabulous feel to it, too.. I stop off as usual to spend a moment in quiet reflection in the main temple hall (wiharn) – there’s a monk in there who includes me in the blessing – principally by flicking water from a wooden switch that he’s holding. And I do feel strangely blessed, too.. almost as if there’s a seal of divine approval on my thoughts.

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Climbing the prang is one of the scariest moments of this trip though – it’s really steep, and in fact we have a few schoolgirls in tears as they come down – perhaps a 70 degree slope?

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There are amazing views across the river to the Grand Palace and Wat Pho

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There are rows of gorgeous orange robed Buddha figures, and in front of them lines of cheery and/or menacing temple guardians

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And all around the tinkling of tiny bells. Make up your own mind whether the clapper is a heart or a leaf… I’d like to think it’s a heart..

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Honestly, I really do find myself strangely affected by this temple – almost as if I will never have to visit another one. Having left and actually got on the boat, I had to go back again and just sit in the temple… lots of thoughts going through my head, that I might be able to write about some time – but it seems that over the last couple of days God has been speaking in a new way… and in some strange places. I can’t explain it – and yet there is something that’s been said in the depths of my heart.

Wednesday

A day of reflection and contemplation today – some writing, and some thinking. Deep stuff, yes, and some simple stuff too.

Thursday

Return to the Embassy! And I now have a Chinese visa. Now, it’s not for as long as I thought – but that just means I might end up visiting South Korea too. Tonight, the heavens opened, scaring the life out of the locals… some of the most vivid lightning and incredible claps of thunder I have ever heard in a city. And it seems I am the only one with a coat! Lots of very wet backpackers – and soggy food stalls. It doesn’t take long for the rain to stop, and for the street vendors to suddenly leap back out into their regular spots though

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Friday

And back on a bus back to Vientiane. Let’s hope the reverse trip is a bit more peaceful! I’ve loved Thailand… now it’s time to continue the adventure in Laos…

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2 Responses to “The Lone Ranger strikes again”

  1. estelle March 6, 2011 at 8:18 am #

    Its really inspiring to hear abt your continued journeys.somehow touches my soul and inner spiritual side as well as an insite into places I will prob only ever visit through your posts. Thank u xx

    • Tim Hodgson March 6, 2011 at 10:06 am #

      Thank you. And yet, maybe your dreams will come true, babe…

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