Continuing Education

Trip Start Jul 15, 2009
Trip End Jun 01, 2010

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Flag of Thailand  ,
Friday, February 26, 2010

Today started out a little slow as we waited around for about an hour to return the motorbike, to the rental shop. They do a nice service in picking the bike up from the guest house, but of course they are probably taking out bikes to rent first, then picking them up.  It worked out okay though.  After returning the bike we walked a fair distance around the old town and then hopped on a songthaews and headed for the forest temple of Wat Umong.

Living in Chiang Mai in my opinion has been a fair bit easier than living in Bangkok.  Bangkok, the city of 4 million, probably more, is a congested place and choosing where to go, is just about as difficult as actually getting there.  The scams are as plentiful as the pick pockets (at least so I heard, we were not pick pocketed and didn't visit the notorious night market for such events), we definitely handed over more money than needed on a couple of instances, but so goes the way of the foreigner in the foreign land. 

Chiang Mai is really two towns, the old town, surrounded by a moat and a crumbled wall, with the acception of the gates, and the new town that also hosts a fair amount of area referred to as Chinatown.  We are staying near the north gate in the old town.  Inside the old town there are hundreds of temples, every block seems to have a temple and some blocks are nothing more than a temple.  The guest houses in this part of town a smaller, from what I can see, at least they have a smaller feel to them.  There are definitely the dirty hippie guest houses, that seem to have a fair number of beer drinking, cigarette smoking kids as well as more upscale guest houses that cost a little more.  We chose our place because it was recommended but also because it is a bit more of a family place, some school groups are here and many people that are in Chiang Mai taking massage classes.  The place is relaxed, clean, friendly, and secure for a lower cost place.  Staying multiple nights always helps in reducing the cost of a nightly rate.

In addition to renting motorbikes, there is also tuk tuks (three wheeled motorized vehicles that may or may not take you to your requested destination (you may end up at some shop where they can get a commision for bringing you, they are also more expensive), taxi's (with a/c) or songthaew.  Songthaew is a pick up truck with a covered back end where up to eight people can sit and a couple can hang off the back end.  The later is the least expensive, they pick up and drop off people at random that are generally going in the same direction.  It seems like a pretty good system, even if you end up going slightly out of your way in getting to your destination.

Food comes from a variety of places.  First there is the street venders with no menu in English that generally serve only one or two dishes and almost never veggie.  We don't get to eat at many of these and they are probably the sketchiest when it comes to health and sanitation.  Then there are Thai restuarants that also don't have an english menu, but if you can make yourself understood, you are sure to get some pretty delicious menus.  Then there are Thai restuarants that cater to forgeiners, English menus and often easier to order vegetarian items.  Not many Thai people are vegetarians with the exception of monks and nuns.  Then there are straight up Forgeiner restuarants that serve things like sandwiches, ceaser salad, burgers and such.  The last are generally expensive and I'm not sure what the food is like because we haven't visited one.  Most guest houses also serve food, and ours has a variety of Thai and forgeiner foods.  We have had the Thai food and one time I had a banana pancake.  We also get coffee in the mornings, which is pretty good (we heard there was no good coffee in Asia, I think that is wrong).  Coffee is grown locally and is becoming a cash crop here that people can make some money from.  Pretty much all that Misty and I have been eating is Thai food.  Curries are at almost every meal and then a stir fry or two.  It is traditional in Thailand to order a few entrees between a couple of people and share them.  In addition to the entree you order a plate with a small amount of rice.  We generally order just two entrees, the climate is so hot here and we aren't used to it so our apetites aren't what they could be.  Eating less is a good thing anyway.  The portion sizes are reasonable and three entrees I think is a little too much.  We have grown fond of a couple of vegetarian restuarants in town, and generally visit one or the other for one of our meals.  Two meals a day has been our usual, lunch and dinner with a coffee in the morning.  This is actually the opposite of the monastic community since they eat breakfast and lunch, no dinner but usually coffee, water or milo in the evening.

The air here in Chiang Mai, maybe I said before the farmers have burned their fields to rid them of weeds, I expect the ash isn't bad for the soil, and it doesn't appear that fields are turned much.  Rice fields are flooded and planted, my they are beautiful.  There seems to be a rotation of the planting, possibly due to the fact that they are planted by hand, but also maybe for the ease of harvesting and having space for drying and preparing the rice after it is picked from the plants.  So the air is a bit thick with the smoke.  Exhaust from cars is thick and normal on city streets, many people wear doctor masks.  It's not a bad idea. 

In the evening we hopped a songthaew to Wat Suan Dork, so that we could attend a chat with the monks for a second time.  The university there is taught in English and that is a major of many of the monks, actually all of them, along with other subjects.  So the opportunity to speak with foriegners who are English speakers is good for their education.  There is a forgiegner who started to this event that is held three times a week, monday, wednesday and friday.  he has been there for thirty years or more, I think he said.  Anyway, as we arrived, Misty had said, she wasn't sure what to talk about, but i was pretty sure that didn't matter.  It wasn't totally up to us to determine subject matter, and of course there is always principles of Buddhist philosophy to discuss.  Two of the monks we talked to were named Warasa Mi (from Burma) and      Phitthaya Phom (from Thailand).  Their English was pretty good and they seemed to really enjoy talking to us.  At one point I think there was six or seven monks sitting with us, most of them not speaking but just listening in on the conversation.  We talked about a number of things, I can't even remember all of the subjects, but we talked about a number of things from what it was like to be a monk, why they became monks, and many other subjects.  One of the main conversations about Buddhism were the Four Noble Truths, The eight fold path and the three characteristics.  And as usual when I talk to monks and I share the same with you know, don't take any discussion of Buddhism and believe it just because I said it.  You should learn from your own experiences and if that helps you understand the principles that is better than just following it because someone said it.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>I don't intent to start preaching Buddhism in this blog, only to share some of what I am learning and some of that is Buddhist philosophy.  Like I said before, if you are not interested please skip the section, but please continue to enjoy the blog or my journal how ever you would like.>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

The four noble truths:
Life means Suffering (for example, we will all die)
The origin of Suffering (attachment, all suffering comes from us wanting things to stay the same yet life is constantly changing)
The cessation of suffering
The path to the cessation of suffering is attainable

The eight fold path: (discusses ways to avoid harming yourself and others and doing positive actions in both your inside world and outside of you in the physical world)
Right View ( look at the world honestly and truthfully)
Right Thought (don't cloud your mind or focus on unhealthy thought patterns)
Right Speech (don't lie to convince someone to follow you)
Right Action (don't harm others in any way to get what you want)
Right Livelyhood (don't make money by harming people,  selling drugs or human trafficing)
Right Effort (do good because you intend to do good)
Right Mindfullness (be mindful of your inside world: body, feeling, mind and mental qualities
Right Concentration (Whatever you are doing, pay attention to that)

And the Three Characteristics:
Impermanance (everything is constantly changing)
Suffering (there is suffering in life)
Non-self (even the cells of our body are replacing constantly, there is no self)

>>>if you skipped you can start again>>>>>>>>>>>>

This was some of the lesson that was shared with us at the chat with
the monks, like before, it is a really enjoyable way to learn about
each other and our ways of life and thinking.  Unlike our counterparts in the conversation, we went to dinner after the conversations, I think Warasa Mi went to study for his exams.

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