Posts Tagged ‘full moon’

Stalker Taxi Driver in Koh Pha Ngan

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We dragged our weary bodies and heavy bags off the ferry at Koh Pha Ngan after half a day of mini-vans and busses. (Unfortunately there were no handicap ramps, elevators, or helpful men around to get our heavy luggage up and down the long flight of stairs so we were especially tired by the time we staggered onto the pier!)

So we emerged in the hot sun of Koh Pha Ngan, this island paradise in Thailand, and were immediately swarmed by questions such as “where are you going?” and “where are you from?” Most were songtaew (Thai taxis in the form of open-air trucks) drivers looking to charge us a bundle to take us to our resort, which was on the north end of the island away from most of the tourists and nightlife.

They wanted 150 Baht (about $5) for the ride. That seemed really high since we had just paid 550 Baht of travel (5 hours!) to get to this island.

So we refused all offers and dragged our luggage many blocks looking hoping for a bus or cheaper ride.

As walked from one street to the next, we noticed that this one woman seemed to really want to “help” us. We’d go around a corner and there she would be jabbering about her brother being part of our resort so our ride would be free at 150 Baht each (around $5 a piece), and how hard this trip would be on her truck due to the many hills. She showed up three times on three different streets and just wouldn’t seem to take “no” for an answer.

Finally we thought we had gotten lucky after seeing a van with our resort name on it. No such luck! Unfortunately our stalker got to the driver first, so he ignored our frantic waves and drove away.

Now we were even more determined not to hire her for anything! But she wasn’t done with us yet! We soon found stalker woman was heading off all taxis up the street so none of them would stop for us. Geez!

Seemed like we’d been black-balled by her!

IMG_1197ourbeachFinally we flagged down a nice couple in a songtaew and paid them the $150 Baht to the resort, which was actually about 30 minutes away up and down many hills. We didn’t save any money after that adventure, but were so happy to get to our destination where we found our own almost private beach with palm trees, warm water, and ocean breezes!

Not sure how to avoid being blackballed again in Thailand, but guess that’s what can happen to a stranger in a stranger land!

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Buddha’s Birthday on a Full Moon

The flags hung in honor of Buddha's Birthday in Patan, Kathmandu

The Buddhist flags hung in honor of Buddha's birthday in Patan, Kathmandu

Buddhism is everywhere here in Nepal and it’s intermingled with Hinduism. It seems though that most people I come across are Buddhist. I have always had an interest in Buddhism; they say it’s a philosophy and not a religion. That may be true but here in Nepal it comes across as very religious to me.  The temples alone yell religion and then all the people performing different rituals also smacks of it. Religion isn’t so bad; it brings comforts to millions. Ritual is amazing; it creates energy like nothing else I’ve ever seen. And yet, I find myself resistant to it.  Here in Nepal though I feel slightly less resistant. When I am asked if I am a Buddhist the next question is usually if I am a Christian. When I tell them I’m nothing they don’t try and convert me, they just listen.

So Lord Buddha’s (as they call him) birthday is May 27th and I happened to be in Nepal for it. It’s actually a national holiday here as you can expect. Being next to the gumpa that contains all the mini monks Buddha’s  birthday was an interesting experience for me. All the trumpet playing and horn blowing they have been practicing seemed to be for this day. It was a full moon and I went onto the roof to watch the boys playing their trumpets out towards the city.

I couldn’t get any good pictures from our roof so I decided to go up on theirs. I had my camera with me and as I went to go up on the roof many of the monks were outside the gumpa. They beckoned me and asked that I please, please come in.IMG_0868

Up to this point I had been afraid to go in. I can’t really tell you why. I guess I didn’t want to be disrespectful, this lame tourist poking around inside a religious structure. I think I was also waiting for an invitation. So I finally had it and I removed my shoes and followed the monks in.

It’s so beautiful inside with large statues of Buddha and some other folks. I learned that you always walk clockwise around any religious site here and so I followed the path around inside. The energy inside the gumpa was astounding; I could feel it circulating clockwise through the building. I could feel the energy of everyone that had come that day to pray. It was positively vibrating. As I walked around I saw mini monks stashed away in corners repeating mantras out loud, sometimes in pairs, sometimes alone.

The gumpa next door

The gumpa next door

Doorway to the gumpa

Doorway to the gumpa

As I came to the end again there was a local prostrating himself. It’s quite something to see someone doing this. It’s so humble, almost apologetic. He was doing this movement over and over across the floor as if to say “forgive me, I am so worthless, make me better.” It wasn’t in the direction of Buddha’s statue and I wasn’t about to interrupt him to ask him to who or what he was doing this to. Perhaps it was just himself.

The mini monks asked if I wanted to learn how it was done and I hesitantly said yes. I have this fear of looking like an idiot because I don’t get something right the first time, but I know that it’s better to say yes and have a new experience.

One young monk showed me first. You stand up straight and put your hands in prayer position, then you bring them to your head, your heart, and then you get down on the ground and bow your head all the way down. Then you push yourself up without using your hands more than once for the push.IMG_0865

The first time I tried this I had to use my hands twice, I didn’t really trust my own strength on the hard marble floor and I was being watched. I could see on their faces that I had done it wrong even though they were obviously trying to hide it. I tried again and this time got smiles from the two monks. This is the kind of magical thing I hoped for, the sort of romantic idea that got into my head when I first heard the name Nepal. After this I felt uneasy, wondering what I should do now that I had made my rounds so I made my way out into the entranceway and watched all the young monks gathering at the lit candles. They were picking them up and bringing them inside for some purpose that I couldn’t gather, mostly because I didn’t ask. I kept having this sense like I was interrupting something, that I was an outsider. I felt myself shrinking back. I wanted to take a picture badly but was afraid to ask. I didn’t want to make a wrong impression or say something wrong but the photo opportunity was too good to let go.

I haven’t prostrated myself since then but I have this feeling like it would do me some good. I think it would do a lot of people some good. Do I have to prostrate myself to some religious god? Shouldn’t I prostrate myself in front of my own self judgment instead. I could learn to be easier and more care free…

Woman celebrating in the Laghenkel area of Kathmandu

Woman performing a ritual in honor of Buddha's birthday