Notes along the way

Notes along the way.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Hua Hin

Big Buddha near Hua Hin

So we're now in Hua Hin, a beach town located on the west coast of the Gulf of Thailand. It's a lot like Florida's gulf coast towns in that it's half ghost town. Hua Hin is close to Bangkok so there are a lot of second homes, weekend get-away condos and apartments. Even the King has a residence here.

Dogs will be dogs and so will we

We're staying in an apartment M. Lee found on Airbnb. It's right on the beach overlooking the Gulf and much nicer than the tiny room we had in Chiang Mai. It's way to nice for the likes of us but we're willing to be corrupted. The odd similarity is that, like our place in Chiang Mai, we are very nearly the only people here. It's like we're ghosts in a vacant house. We're the only people on our floor so we've been sleeping with the front door open for the breeze.

Hobbit monk blue door into rock inner sanctum

It's a bit creepy but a nice draft. Our isolation here is compounded by the fact that not one member of the skeleton crew that runs the place speaks a word of English. That just seems like a bad idea to me but that's the way it is. Anyway, we met the owner of the apartment next door this afternoon. He is preparing the place for a family coming this weekend.

Me, Swami and Giant Golden Tortoise

Bummer. But it's late. More on Hua Hin later. I've got to get to sleep.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

A five-year-old's Christmas list

Christmas is coming so, of course, we asked the parents for gift lists for the grandkids. This is one of the ones we got back in reply:

"I opened this up to Miss Thea:

My own chapstick.
My own pack of gum that's my own, because I think I'm old enough now.
And that's it.

Are you sure? You don't want anything else?

Well, maybe some new tights because I don't have very many that fit me.
And popsicle sticks without popsicles.

For crafts?

Yes, for crafts.
And I really really really really really want a picture frame.

What for?

I just really need one.
Also, batteries for my camera
Art supplies, cause I just love to do art.
A necklace that is red with snowflake beads
Red socks with snowflakes
A pillow with polka-dots and stripes
Shoes with red and green flowers and blue snowflakes
A blue blanket with snowflakes
... Oh, and did I pronounce that I really want a blanket? Not just on the idea list, but I really want it for Christmas?

Okay.

Did I pronounce the necklace already?

Yes.

Okay then, that's it.  G'night."

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Visa run recap

The visa run went well the other day. Mostly we waited. M. Lee read. I did some reading, people watching and talked with some interesting people. When my number was finally called I stepped up to the counter, handed over my passport and paperwork and, most important, paid the fee... 1900 baht (about 60 dollars US). We were both done and out in three hours. Before lunchtime. A friend happened to be there at the same time getting his residency extended (a yearly task) and I hear, three days later, it's still not done.

I will say this, the Immigration office is a world class crossroads. Everyone who wants to extend their stay passes through there... tourists, travelers, scholars, entertainers, writers, photographers, cyclists, charlatans, nuns, missionaries, do-gooders, clergy, monks, imams, shamans, wizards, warlocks, expats, refugees, wanderers, outlaws, volunteers, professionals, politicians, drunks, addicts, dirty old men, kooks and just plain crazies. I think a good many of them were there on Monday. I hear there are services that, for a fee, deal with Immigration for you, otherwise you go in person. Of course, that doesn't mean everybody does but they run the risk of fines and deportation.

Our extension was routine. The 60 day tourist visas we got before leaving the US had expired. We had to either extend them or leave Thailand. We did 30 day extensions so we'll leave mid-January and return to the States. We want to spend some time with the family. The grandkids are growing up way too fast.

As for photos of the place, I didn't even try to take one. The second anyone snapped a shot, an Immigration officer immediately appeared and made them delete it.


Monday, December 8, 2014

TEMPORARY STAY IN THE KINGDOM

I'm not exactly looking forward to today. We have to go to Immigration to renew our visas. I hear it can be a brutal, all day wait. A guy I met here waited five weeks for his wife's visa but ours should be pretty straightforward though it could take all day. I'm ready. I've got snacks, my Kindle, all my devices are charged, including the portable charger which is indispensable when you take a million fucking photos with your phone every day. And I have pen and paper... you know... in case I want to write something. We are hoping for the best.


Sadly, our temporary stay in the Kingdom of Thailand is running out. We have a week left in Chiang Mai and I haven't done one post about the place yet, though I photostream an account of the passing days at Instagram and Flickr. Anyway, time to go. Have a good one.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Elephant and more elephants

Finally I got to spend time with elephants. I went with a friend a few weeks ago to Elephant Nature Park in northern Thailand. Most of the elephants there have been rescued from heartbreaking situations but now, happily, they'll never be abused again. And the Park is not only a refuge for elephants, but is also home to some 400 dogs and countless cats all co-existing in relative harmony. 


Do not get in the way of an elephant butt rub

Before lunch, we got to bathe an elephant in the river. It's a bit hokey but a harmless way for us to interact with them. Our group bathed a lovely lady named Kathong. She's new to the Park and still healing after stepping on a landmine a year ago. 


Bathing Kathong

She's not the only elephant there recovering from a landmine. Another Park resident was in the hospital for three years, but Kathong's injury is the most recent. She's still shy and keeps to herself but didn't seem to mind munching a basket of fruit as we splashed her with buckets of water. And, of course, her mahout was by her side.

Kathong and her mahout, an amazing fellow.
He is her comfort and protector and hangs out with her in the field
all day, everyday. At night, he returns to his family who live in one of 
the mahout huts at the edge of the forest. You can see them in the background.

I appreciate that the Wikipedia page on mahouts includes a link to Elephant Nature Park. It's a nod in the right direction, The hooks, bludgeons, whips and chains used by traditional mahouts have no place at the Park where everyone is treated with compassion, respect, savvy and buckets of treats.

Elephant Park's newest family.

In the afternoon, after an amazing vegetarian feast, we took a walk with our guide. Along the way, we met this mama and her baby. The calf was an orphan who had come to the park, and been with his new mother, for only two weeks.


Who could object?

Of course, we all stopped and oohed and awed and started clicking away. We didn't think anything about it. After all, we were their well-wishers and delighted to see the new, happy family. But mom had a different take on things.

Mama doing what mamas do

She came around the fence, and her mahout followed her as she followed us, but it wasn't until our guide clued us in that we finally got what was going on.


And stay out!

He quietly warned us not to run but quickly follow him slowly away, and pointed us towards a larger group about to enjoy a tasty dinner. After that, the new mother turned and went back to her calf.


After a day of eating it's dinner time

All in all, being around elephants, for even such a brief time, was not only delightful, it recalibrated my soul and, no, I don't care how corny that sounds.

Monday, December 1, 2014

RIP Mark Strand

Mark Strand (1934-2014)

Cat in a Hat by Rene Magritte


Canto XVI
-from Dark Harbor

It is true, as someone has said, that in
A world without heaven all is farewell.
Whether you wave your hand or not,
It is farewell, and if no tears come to your eyes
It is still farewell, and if you pretend not to notice,
Hating what passes, it is still farewell.
Farewell no matter what. And the palms as they lean
Over the green, bright lagoon, and the pelicans
Diving, and the glistening bodies of bathers resting,
Are stages in an ultimate stillness, and the movement
Of sand, and of wind, and the secret moves of the body
Are part of the same, a simplicity that turns being
Into an occasion for mourning, or into an occasion
Worth celebrating, for what else does one do,
Feeling the weight of the pelicans' wings,
The density of the palms' shadows, the cells that darken
The backs of bathers? These are beyond the distortions
Of change, beyond the evasions of music. The end
Is enacted again and again. And we feel it
In the temptations of sleep, in the moon's ripening,
In the wine as it waits in the glass.


So You Say

It is all in the mind, you say, and has
nothing to do with happiness. The coming of cold,
the coming of heat, the mind has all the time in the world.
You take my arm and say something will happen,
something unusual for which we were always prepared,
like the sun arriving after a day in Asia,
like the moon departing after a night with us.


More poetry by Mark Stand