Posts Tagged With: Emerald Buddha

Kob Chai Lai Lai

I am a bit disoriented.  Where am I?  Oh yes, Vientiane, Laos.  It is the capital and its largest city.  Sabaidee@Laos hotel (I promise to have a Review Page on all soon.) I had left the curtains open before I went to sleep and am rewarded with a pretty cool sunrise.  It is still dark.  I grab my camera from my bedside table and snap away as it gets lighter.   

I get up and notice that I have not unpacked yet.  I wonder why and go about doing so.  As I hum a song to myself and go into the shower I realize that I am feeling absolutely, completely well.  Was I really sick yesterday?  Was it a nightmare?  Did I imagine it all?  Definitely not!  My imagination is pretty developed but for good.  Never would have I imagined being so sick.  The main thing is that I am well and ready to go.  Later on I would consult with a doctor friend and he said it was most certainly a case of mild food poisoning, otherwise I would not have recovered in 24 hours.  I wouldn’t call it mild but it is now forgotten. Down to kow sao (breakfast  in Lao). I go with a smile on and a “goooooood morniiiiiing” to all.  It is so nice to find some of the group in the restaurant, remarking that it was good to see the old me come back.

We are taking a tour of the city.   Laos gained its independence from France in 1949.  Vientiane certainly has a “Frenchness” to it.   We pass by the Presidential Palace , which is not open to the public and only used for formal ceremonies, on our way to Ho Phra Keo “Hall of the Emerald Buddha”.  It was there that the Emerald Buddha, taken from Chiang Mai, had its home until King Rama I, repossessed it and took it back to Thailand.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I can’t figure out whether to point my camera at the flowers…

Or at the Buddhas around the museum.   One in my favorite pose of “stop the war, make peace”   

Another in a pose –and attitude- I should adopt:  walking meditation  

In any position (or mudras as they are called) these Buddhas are beautiful.  This one is in the Bhumisparsha mudra symbolizing the enlightenment of the Buddha under the Bodhi tree. 

Or at the Nagas  (mythical serpents, protectors and guardians of treasures) flanking the steps going in. 

 We continue to Wat Sri Saket, home of 6,840 Buddhas.  Some in little niches.  Fascinating to see so many in one place.  

Really sad to see the storage room of the ones damaged in the war.  

But the surroundings are also worth exploring.  This is where I find a Smiling/Happy Buddha.  The story –according to our guide- goes that Buddha was so handsome that many where those he attracted while meditating.  To avoid interruptions he transformed himself into a plumper and less attractive version and therefore happily gained solitude for his meditation.  Looking it up it seems it may have other versions but the constant is that the parasol is for protection. 

Our trip leader finds a nest in a tree, of what is a delicacy in Thailand and Laos:  ants.  He points and pokes at it.      And the ants get angry.  

Then they are really, really mad.     So we leave them alone!

Next is That Luang stupa, said to contain remains of Lord Buddha.  It is impressive.  

The day is brutally hot, there is no shade at all and I can barely stand it, so head back to the bus.  Snapping photos on my way back.

It’s hot even for the monks! 

This building is a Monk’s Center.  The streetlights look very French to me. 

Off we go to Patuxai or Victory Gate.  It was built to commemorate those who fought in the independence from France.  At first sight it is a copy of L’Arc du Triomphe in France and when I ask our guide if he doesn’t find that fact ironic he doesn’t seem to believe so.  It is, however, decorated with mythological Buddhist half female, half bird figurines (kinnari) which makes it quite Laotian on inspection.     

Other details also make uniquely Laotian.    And as I climb steps up to the top on each level there is a mini shopping mall of Lao crafts and souvenirs as well as architectural details that continue reinforcing the Laotian side of this monument.       

The view from above.   

From there, the rest of the afternoon and night is on our own.  I decide to have a mani/pedi since it’s on our way to our hotel.  Will be my first in Southeast Asia.  Unfortunately, though the ambiance was unique the service was not the best.    My feet are happy campers anyway for the little TLC I have provided them.  Little do they know that in the afternoon I will join our guide and some of the group for a walk on Vientiane’s boardwalk and will make them work all over again.

The boardwalk is a surprise.  I am finding that in laid back Vientiane there is much more to see and do than I expected.  Again I wish that I knew how to ride a bike.  Though even as it gets darker the heat is quite oppressive.    
King Anouvong overlooks all this activity.      Giving his back to the “new” aerobics craze and the free class that is held in open air behind him.  
Which I decide to join… for less than a minute. 

I have a feeling he wouldn’t approve of this girl’s attire, an American flag printed on her shirt.  

Alongside freestanding exercise equipment stands this banyan tree, completely ignored by most.  I just stand in front of it awed by its intricacy (and dutifully avoiding –due to highly allergic reaction to exercise- even looking at the exercise machines in front of it 🙂 

At night I join part of the group to eat a pizza, of all things, at a French restaurant in Laos.  Kinda weird, huh?

We leave Vientane, and Laos, tomorrow morning.  I, once again, will be leaving part of my heart.  The Lao people have an acceptance of all things ingrained in them by their religion.  Acceptance… something I should add to my vocabulary and to my life.    Kob chai lai lai (thank you much) Laos for giving me a life lesson.

What will Vietnam (our next destination) teach me?

 

 

Advertisements
Categories: BLT+ (Burma) Myanmar, Laos, Uncategorized, Vientiane | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Khob Khun Ka

There has been a huge gap of days; too much time away from you.  The days in Myanmar have been unforgettable, incredible, moving, life changing, inspiring and so many more adjectives that have not even been thought of yet.  I strive to make it justice and find that I will honor it only by taking my time in writing about it.  I want you to enjoy it as much as I have so I wish to take my time in taking you through what experience.  Hence, for now, we are going to have a time gap. Will retell the Myanmar part as soon as possible.  At the last hotel in that country I was trying to connect to the Internet (seems to be a constant in my life these days) and could not.  So the engineer was called in and proceeded to change the configuration of it so that I could access it.  You must change it before you leave he tells me –through signs and smiles.  I in turn signal him to show me how.  He does and I proceed to forget how to do so as soon as the door closes behind him and think nothing of it.  More on that later.

We are in Yangon where we will say good-bye to Thiha, our local guide.  Parting has been difficult for all of us.  He has been incredible.   He leaves us at the Yangon airport.  The mural is one of a Myanmar wedding. 

Shopping Monks

I depart feeling as when you leave a loved one, part of me excited with what lies ahead, the other side of me mourning the separation and worried about my partner.  Myanmar has taken my heart prisoner.

We are flying on. Off to Bangkok we go.  We are bussed to the plane up the stairs into the aircraft where it is sit where you wish or have an empty seat.  It’s a routine I am getting used to.  

We arrive in Bangkok and to go through passport control.  Of course, when I go through (or try) they once again send me to the doctor to stamp my passport.  But I live in the US.  Yes, but Paraguay passport.  But, I already have a stamp from before.  Yes, but need it every time you in.  Ay, ay, ay!  So I go and the doctor stamps my passport and tells me to go through him before I go through passport control.  Now I’m concerned about my internal flights, when I will be alone.  Now I know that there are another 10 souls that are waiting and worrying about me.  Oh well, day at a time.  Zen mode.   I return to the same girl and go right up to the front.  She discovers my profession and I get the first smile in Thailand yet.  You actress?  You go.  I ask how to say thank you in Thai and she says “khob khun ka”.  She takes her time, corrects me until I pronounce it right, smiles again.  I can almost feel the murderous stares of those in line.  Welcome to Thailand.  One more smile and I meet my friends who wait with my luggage.  I love this group!

We arrive once again at the Pantip Suites.  I am starting a new page on my blog where the reviews of hotels, airlines, restaurants, and shows will go.  The one on Pantip Suites is going to be long and not for all the right reasons.  However, a friend will be happy to know that I did jump on the ginormous bed.  I am focusing on the good and am including here the view that I get from the room in the morning which pretty cool.

We arrived late at night so we are free to relax.  I take out my computer, excited that I will be able to report on Myanmar.  Nothing happens.  Try Internet again.  Nothing.  Call downstairs.  One engineer comes.  Changes the cable.  Other engineer comes and reverently touches my Mac and shakes his head no.  What?? Is my Mac dead?  Why are you patting it?  Oh, new Mac.  Don’t understand it.  They leave.  Internet doesn’t come and then it hits me.  The WiFi configuration was changed and I can’t figure out how to reset it.  Ugh!    Nothing else to do but unpack and sleep.

We meet our other 5 travelers at a meeting Otto, our trip leader has set up to brief us on the next 19 days.  A map awaits with where we will go and something that I find absolutely charming.  He has prepared a tag with the maps of our next 4 countries and a space where our name will be written in the language of where we are.  He is funny and very knowledgeable.The Grand Palace is how we will start our day.  I don’t really know what to expect.  On the way there we pass Chinatown.  It seems there is a Chinatown in every city of the world.

We arrive and there is a tidal wave of humanness that overcomes me.  It is hot, hot, hot.  The sun shines strongly, it’s 98 degrees, only 54% humidity.  Still, I am about to faint.  We cross the street.  Cars are everywhere.  Scooters you have to scoot away from.  Bicycles. Motorcycles.  Tuk tuks.   Horns blast.  People talk.  Peddlers putting their mouths close to my ear wanting me to buy elephants, postcards, hats, t-shirts.  Bursts of color seem to flash by. Our guide raises his hand and surprisingly they all stop albeit barely a few inches from us.

Then we go in and once again I am bombarded by colors.  Reds, greens, yellows, oranges along with others shining more than ever due to the sun.  Still haven’t gotten many smiles but am starting to warm up to Thailand.

Scary Good Demon

Good Demon standing guard.

The walls of the Royal Monastery are painted with scenes from the Ramakien.  One is a depiction of the initial stages of the war waged by Ramo of Ayothaya to rescue his wife who had been abducted by the King of Longka.  Ah, the extent that some men will go for a woman!  We visit the Emerald Buddha made of a huge piece of jade.  It is one of the most venerated sites in Thailand.  They change his outfit 3 times a year: one in winter, one in summer, one in the rainy season.  He now sports his winter outfit (Yeah, winter!)  Soon he will be changed into the summer one.

One of the stupas is adorned by broken porcelain.  Intricate design. beautifully executed. 

One building built by one of the kings is European in style on the bottom.  When they were going to complete the top he was advised to make it in the traditional style of the country.  The end result is beautiful and not weird as one would think.

It’s lunchtime now.  My pants are a tad tighter now which makes it impossible for me to disregard the fact that I am a bit less thin J than I was before. Somehow, though I notice there is no way I won’t stop experiencing that burst of flavor with every bit.

Local Beer

Each forkful offering a new taste to decipher and assess.  The restaurant is on the water but a permanent fixture.  Lunch is buffet-style.  I have my first local beer:  Chang.  I am told it is made from rice.  It’s cold and I love it.

Beer and noodle soup unite

Noodle soup is hot and just great. 

Coconut "pancake"

Dessert is a little coconut pancake which is really half a little ball is insanely delicious.  I go back too many times for more but don’t worry much about it.  We see the long boats pass by and with them floats my worries away.

Once back on the bus we pass huge fixtures with photos of a man with a camera and one on the piano.  Who’s the dude? I am told he is King Rama IX.  He is now 84 years old and frail but all photos depict him when he was young.  He is much loved among the Thai people, as is his wife.  It turns out that he is American though his wife is Thai.

And now comes confession time.  In my haste to not keep my friend waiting to go to the airport I left the charger and the extra battery to my camera safely plugged onto the wall of my room in Los Angeles.  Thiha, our Myanmar guide, tried getting me a battery or a charger to no avail.  As we return to the hotel I ask Otto to give me the address and name of somewhere that could possibly have it.   He writes it down in Thai, puts me in a cab and I am off to my private adventure in Bangkok.  Nothing prepares me for what I encounter.  I am at MBK Center “the most visited mall in Bangkok” a shopping mall/department store/market 7 floors high.  It is massive!  You can barely walk the aisles. I feel like sand thrown in a glass and stirred mightily.   Not many understand English but all recognize my battery and that it comes from a new model.  No, they don’t have.  Finally I go into a store that says Lumix in big letters.  I show my battery she says no.  I ask for charger and she says yes.  And so it is that my camera is operational again.  I go downstairs and grab a cab.  I’m in it and show him my hotel address in Thai that Otto so kindly provided me.  He doesn’t put the meter on.  I point and ask him to turn it on.  He shakes his head so I ask him how much and he tells me it will be 800 bahts.  Stop the car!  There is no way I will pay that for a ride that cost me 60 bahts here.  The second one I don’t get in.  I just ask and he says 500 baht.  Next!  I get in the third and ask him to turn the meter.  There’s that head shake again.  He speaks English.  300 bahts.  No!  How much you want to pay?  It cost me 60 to get here.  Too little.  Rush hour.  It’s Saturday, by the way.  Okay 100.  No, 250.  My counter-offer: 200.  Okay.  I know I’m overpaying but just want to get to the hotel.  He feels he got what he wanted.  We are happy.

Quick shower in my new room -after packing and moving since my room had a semi-flood in my original- and off to dinner it is.  Zilch ambiance but the good company, great food (we are given a cooking lesson), a glass of wine, and an unforgettable coconut ice cream make up for it.

Two of the girls and me, along with Otto will be going to a lady-boy show called Calypso.  Before we go in we encounter the

Thai Elvis who is doing a mighty good job at the lobby bar.

The lady-boy show is actually pretty good and I am glad I came.  A recreation of a wedding with drama when the guy cheats bringing out the dark side of the bride is pretty neat.  A Marilyn Monroe lady-boy has us all quite amazed.

Back to the hotel but this time in a tuk-tuk with a young, proud driver that tells us his tuk tuk has 3 horse power, car brakes and 1 cylinder. He’s done all the changes himself. He honks his horn (which makes a sound that just cracks us all up) probably a good 70% of the way, zigzagging around cars at a speed that tuk tuks should never go.  We are laughing throughout the ride out of sheer terror!  He reaches the hotel honking his horn repeatedly and makes us all feel like VIP’s.  All those in the lobby (including the employees) come out to see what the racket is all about.

I can’t take any more fun for the day and retire to my room.   Wake me up tomorrow?

Categories: Ramblings, Thailand, Yangon | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: