Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Thailand Tee Tells Its Side of the Story

It was June of 2001, and our group of ten or so were preparing to return to Tibet. Some members of our core group were there in 1998 making our film about Tibet which went on to become a PBS success. Now we were going back, but this time our primary destination was the holy mountain of Mount Kailash.

My partner and I had made a fatal mistake in inviting two of our other friends to join our group. Although devout Buddhists, the male of the two was also an activist and a Grand A Plus Alpha Male. He conflicted with the other Alpha Male Leader of the group, and because my partner and I had been the one to issue the invitation for them to join the group, we were (uncomfortably) caught in the middle of the rivalry and conflict. On top of the alpha clash, as soon as we had arrived, we heard from our guide that Kailash was closed and would remain closed indefinitely. Apparently, there had been a Tibetan demonstration near Kailash, and thus the Chinese closed Kailash to all pilgrims.

Amidst this stew of group dysfunction and blockage to our destination, the King of Nepal was assassinated. Kathmandu, our staging platform, was nearly closed down, and the normal hectic, crazy street traffic had disappeared . Even the cows and goats which normally mixed in with the haphazard street traffic seemed to know the streets were closed for they were absent as well--only a rickshaw here and there was to be seen. The city had an eerie vibe, and ever now and then, we would hear shouting mobs in the streets. Americans were warned not to go out into the streets from the hotels.

King Birendra along with Queen Aiswary and nine other members of the royal family had been slaughtered--apparently by Birendra's eldest son and heir. What was going to happen to the country of Nepal? No one knew! The airports were closed. Finally, the authorities allowed a one-day departure for all the foreigners who wanted to leave Nepal. My partner and I had already made up our minds. We were going, going, gone and separating from our group. One part of our group elected to stay in Kathmandu--one part went on to Tibet and eventually Kailash--and four of us went to the airport to different destinations. We were relieved to be leaving the Nepal chaos, the quarrelsome group and the doubt. Yes, we were super disappointed that our goal to go on pilgrimage to Mt. Kailash had been diverted, but we knew in our hearts that we weren't with the right group of resonant others.

Since my partner and I had only visited Bangkok, Thailand, we elected to spend our three weeks exploring Thailand from top to bottom. After flying into Bangkok, we first flew up north to Chiang Mai. We visited temple after temple after temple, and even though I love temples, I became templed-out after many days of visiting temples! We treated ourselves to Thai massages every day. These massages are done with your clothes on, and the girls stretch you in all kinds of crazy ways. The best part is that massages are inexpensive, and so a massage a day is affordable. Most of the masseusses couldn't speak English, but we communicated through sign language. They giggled a lot and were totally charming.

We hiked with a guide into the Hill Country, and we made excursions to every Kuan Yin temple I could locate. We swam in GIANT swimming pools and ate delicious Thai food which is different than the Thai food you eat in America. We shopped, gave donations and gifts to individuals and temples, took elephant rides through the jungle and fell in love with Northern Thailand.

After our wonderful restful retreat there, we headed to Southern Thailand to Phuket. Once again, we had gorgeous accommodations and amazing adventures with various guides. One day we went to Phi-Phi Island and swam in THE most turquoise of turquoise waters in a secluded bay I have ever swum in. That's saying a lot!! Phi-Phi Island was completely destroyed by the giant tsunami which happened in recent years, and much of Phuket was also destroyed. It saddened us so because we know how much the Thai economy depends upon tourism. The Thai people are attractive, sweet, lovable and gracious, and their culture, art, cuisine, and architecture really appeal to me. I will return one day because I left a huge piece of my heart there.

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Posted by kuanyin333 at 3:33 PM 1 comments