Chatting up the Monks

Trip Start Mar 13, 2008
Trip End Apr 03, 2008

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Monday, March 24, 2008

I kept my scooter again today and made my way to Wat Umong which was described in my guidebook as a "forest wat with beautiful grounds and unground tunnels" blah blah blah (I made the last part up).  It took me FOREVER to find it because unlike most of the Wats, there was no sign in English to help me find it.  When I finally made it, I was wholly disappointed.  The grounds were nothing spectatular and it was pretty much deserted.  I walked around for about 5 minutes and left.  Blah.

I went to yoga this afternoon at Chiang Mai Yoga Sala and it was awesome.  I love doing yoga here, it just seems so much more authentic!  I checked out Tony's Big Bikes which rents motorcycles for tours outside the Chiang Mai area.  It's kind of funny that the name is Big Bikes since the largest bikes they have are 400cc's!  Anything bigger is illegal in Chiang Mai.  I also headed over the Eagle House and signed up for a 3 day 2 night trek which goes out on Wednesday.  As it stands right now they don't have enough people to run the trek but that will probably change.  I'm going to check with them tomorrow after I get back from my motorcycle trip around the Mae Son Loop!  The guy at Tony's Big Bikes was English and very helpful.  He assured me that I didn't need a guide to go with me and that I'd be able to find my way to Doi Ithanian National Park and back so that's my plan for tomorrow.

The absolute highlight of my day was going to Monk Chat at Wat Son Dok.  This is the same temple were I was suspose to do my meditation retreat but it was cancelled (turns out a bunch of the monks had to go to Burma last minute for something).  Monk Chat is held there every Mon., Wed. & Friday from 5-7 and anyone can come in and talk to the monks about anything at all.  The monks use it as a time to practice their english so its a win/win situation.  I got there around 6 (after I finally found it!) and had a monk all to myself!  He was great.  He's from Cambodia and spoke great english considering he couldn't speak any english a year ago.  Talking with him was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.  It's so rare that a woman would get to talk to a monk and he was so friendly.  We talked about Buddhism, Catholism, war, thai culture and Cambodia.  I wish I could have spend an entire day with him!  It made me even more disappointed that the retreat is cancelled though.  I've lookd around and all the other Wats that have retreats offer only much longer retreats like 10 days or more, which I don't have nor do I think I'm ready for that. I'm probably going to go back to Monk Chat Wednesday if my trek doesn't go out.  I felt like I was walking on air when I left there.  He answered so many questions for me and confirmed so many things I already thought.  That will probably be the highlight of this trip and its worth it.

On my way back I missed my soi and so I took a main street a few blocks down and had planned on just circling back around (I've gotten confused/lost enough times to know you can get anywhere by cutting through sois!).  As soon as I turned down the street I noticed scantly clad thai women (which is totally abnormal) and provactive bars names like "pink panther".  Obviously, I had scootered myself right into the Chiang Mai red light street if there is such a thing.  Everyone knows that Thailand has a booming sex industry, even though prostitution is illegal.  In Bangkok, surprisingly, I never saw it.  Although, I never went to Patpong which is where all the go-go bars are, so I'm told.  But in Chiang Mai I've noticed several very old wrinkly white men with very young pretty thai women.  I've noticed other people noticing them too which makes me think I'm right in assuming these guys are with escorts.  Today I was driving behind a tuk-tuk with a sign on the back of it that read "lovely thai ladies". It went on to say that it offered "marriage minded" thai women and that it was NOT an escort service.  Uh huh. I just wonder if these guys care that they're being laughed at by everyone they pass.  From what I understand, most thai women aren't forced into the sex industry, they actually choose it because the money is so good.  It's all very interesting...

There is a beautiful lab at Sarah Guest House (by the way, guesthouse is just a fancy name for hostel!) and when I came downstairs this morning it would look at me and then look in the fountain and then look at me.  Then I saw it - a tennis ball in the fountain.  I swear I almost cried because it made me think of my ball babies back home! 
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