July started with one of humanities greatest inventions. The five day weekend. Well it did for me anyway. Tanya had to work. Sucks to be her.
Rather than lying around the house or spending the time out on the town I decided to go ahead with our plan to spend a few days at the temple on Doi Suthep. Tanya had intended to come but wound up having to work instead so I'd be going to the mountain top on my own. This is the place.
It was a really interesting experience. It rained the whole time which was kind of nice. The continuous rain drowned out most other noise and the fog was so thick you couldn't see more than 40 feet so you could really forget that the world outside the temple was even there. Most of the windows are left open all the time so you even had fog swirling about in the main meditation room which was quite surreal.
Being able to wander around the temple buildings at night when all the tourists were gone was very nice. The main areas of the temple are pretty busy during the day with tourists taking photos, ringing loud annoying bells and what not. All the statues and decorations have a very different feel about them on your own looking at them in the moonlight.
It was definitely worth doing although I'm not sure Ill rush back to do it again anytime soon. I was only there for 3 days but there were people there for up to 21 days. 21 days of meditating 6-8 hours a day and spending the rest of the time in silent contemplation would be quite the ordeal. No tv, radio, computers, books or telephones and no talking to other meditators would make for some long evenings. Technically the only time youre meant to speak is your daily meeting with one of the monks to discuss your progress and get more instructions. Nothing to do but meditating or just sitting around thinking about meditating.
Oh, and you can only eat solid food between 6am and midday so theres not even any dinner to break up the evening. And you're meant to get up at 4ish. And there's no meat, no alcohol and no cigarettes allowed.
The no talking rule was violated a few times in the evenings long enough for some of us to find out where we were all from. There was another aussie who had come to Thailand purely to spend 2 weeks in the temple, an american living in Japan and one living in Vietnam both holidaying in Thailand, two Thais for whom mediation retreats are an annual event and an Italian living in Thailand. Plus there were a few others I didn't speak to. A dozen people all up. An interesting bunch.
I came home with a terrible headache. My headaches are usually a pain behind my eyes while this was a pain in the centre of my forehead. I'm not sure if its referred pain from so much sitting on the floor or if its something of more spiritual significance.
So anyway, if you can spare a few days while youre here I recommend a meditation retreat. It's an unusual experience but worth doing at least once in your life.
We have also bought a bike to get around town. We've been renting various bikes for a few months and have finally taken the plunge and bought a Honda Dream Exces (yes, it's spelt that way) 100CC. Her name is “Black Thunder!!”
She was all ours for the princely sum of 8000 Baht. That's the equivalent of about $320 AUD. I thought I'd never own a vehicle cheaper than my $650 Toyota Corolla but I was wrong. It's fine for getting us around town although it we're venturing out onto the mountain roads we will be going and renting a newer and more powerful bike like the 125cc beast we rented last month.
H1N1 has apparently come to Chiang Mai with a few confirmed cases at a few schools including the one I teach at. I say “confirmed” but this is all third hand information. Getting information involves playing Chinese whispers whether you're trying to get a new whiteboard marker or find out what's going on with that whole flu pandemic thing.
Either way masks have been appearing more and more at both of our schools. Some schools have closed although given this virus looks like its going to be around for months/years there doesn't seem to be much value in shutting a school for a week or two.