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Published: April 6th 2018
The bridge of "the cycle of rebirth"
After the hustle and bustle of Hanoi when we woke up in Chiang Rai and went for a walk around town we were grateful to find roads where cars obeyed red lights and you could count the number of scooters in immediate view on two hands. It was also hot so I was able to retire my jeans and sweatshirt which I was absolutely disgusted about having to put on in Vietnam! I’ve been to Thailand twice now but never been more north than Bangkok so I was excited about seeing what it had to offer and how it differed from the islands in the south.
We only ended up visiting Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai before returning to Bangkok but we managed to achieve a good mix of busy and quieter days. Chiang Rai was nice and quiet and we explored the surrounding area on bikes one day and spent the others looking at temples or eating cake in a cat cafe surrounded by felines much to Julia’s delight! Chiang Mai is Thailand’s fourth biggest city with a population of approximately 175,000 compared with Bangkok’s 14 million or so! We ended up staying here for five days in the
end as we had planned to head up the mountains to Pai but we couldn’t find anywhere to stay and neither of us particularly fancied the 700 corners up the mountain on a bus to get there and back! One of the highlights of Chiang Mai was the cooking class we went on where we learnt to cook a stir fry, soup, spring rolls and a curry each. They taught us about the different spices and herbs that are used in Thai cooking and even gave us a book of recipes each so we can recreate the dishes when we get home. After a couple of days of relaxing by a pool, which was far too cold to get in, we put our hippy hats on and headed to an overnight silent meditation retreat run by Buddhist monks! It’s not something that I ever imagined us doing before we came away but seeing as I’ve not purchased a pair of elephant pants yet and Julia hasn’t let her armpit hair get out of hand I didn’t think it would do us any harm.
There was a real mix of people at the retreat ranging from people like ourselves who
had no experience of meditation to others that had been studying spiritualism for years. We were shown various different techniques for meditation, provided with meals, comfy accommodation and there was a group discussion where people could ask the monks anything they wanted. The discussion was lively starting with a bizarre question from a hairy armpitted girl from New York who wanted to know if it was ok that she liked the colour and pattern on the tablecloth at breakfast (it was ok in case you were wondering!) before a heated discussion around whether the group agreed with the monks saying that Buddhism was a philosophy and not a religion! I’m not sure people got the answers they were looking for with the monks being vague at best and often using the same answer for most questions but it was interesting nonetheless. We both did genuinely enjoyed the experience and can definitely see the benefits of meditation even if we don’t necessarily agree with all of the Buddhism side of things and I could definitely see some similarities between some of the meditation techniques with going to mass or saying the rosary for example that I thought was quite interesting. None
of you will be at all surprised to hear that once we were finished we undid any good by spending the time waiting for our bus to Bangkok making full use of the McDonalds free WiFi and feasting on burgers and fries!
Bangkok was the first stop in our South East Asia leg of the trip and it was here we finished up as well. In the three months since we’d been here the mourning for the King’s funeral was over and we were free to see more of the city and see Khao San Road in all it’s glory - which in hindsight wasn’t a great idea seeing as Julia managed to lose yet another phone on the one night out we did have there! That unfortunately wasn’t the only bad thing to happen to us in Bangkok and we actually ended up staying two days longer than we should have, which was ironic considering we were ready to leave Asia behind about two weeks ago! To cut a long story short we got the dates of our flight out of Bangkok muddled up with the penny only dropping when we were sat in our room on the
8th February trying to figure out how were were going to fly to Kuala Lumpur on the 8th, stay the night and then fly and land in Auckland on the 8th did we realise that our flight had departed Bangkok 29 hours ago! Luckily there was a direct flight leaving for Auckland the following day, our AirBnB host let us stay on another night and we would still get to New Zealand in time for Julia’s mum and sister who were meeting on the 10th! It was a costly mistake to make but we were pressing on!
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