Trip Start Dec 29, 2007
33Trip End Mar 10, 2008
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It was a tough call. Yesterday, I learned that the Chiang Mai Women's Prison runs an active spa, in which female prisoners offer traditional Thai full-body massage to visitors. I have to admit that this was a tantalizingly tempting way to spend the day....being in a women's prison while getting a rubdown is pretty much the penultimate male masturbatory fantasy....but I decided to take the route to good karma instead.
I woke up at 4:30 a.m. - I'm not sure why. Well, actually, I do....I went to bed last night at 6:00 p.m
Waking up refreshed two hours later (that's 12 1/2 hours sleep today if you're counting), I walked down to Wat Chedi Luang. This temple complex dates back to 1441 and is well known for a very large Lanna-style chedi. This main chedi was damaged by an earthquake sometime in the 16th century and is in partial ruins now.
While I was there, I took the opportunity to speak with one of the monks. Every day, Wat Chedi Luang sponsors something called "Monk Chat", which gives their monks an opportunity to practice their English while farangs can brush up on their Buddhism. The monk I spoke to was 22 years old. He grew up in Chiang Rai, a medium-sized city to the west of Chiang Mai, and came here about eight years ago. All boys in Thailand are expected to practice as novices for at least two months before reaching manhood
I was very nervous, but told him that I had come to Thailand to study at Doi Suthep. I asked him if he could recall what was most difficult for him when he began studying meditation. He immediately pointed to his head and said "monkey mind". I have heard this term from Buddhists before -- it refers to the mind's tendency to bounce around from place and place and the difficulty in staying focused on experiencing the present. I asked him if it had gotten easier with time. He paused and responded, "Sometimes yes....sometimes no".
We spoke for a few more minutes about Buddhism. Before I left, I asked him how long he would stay at Wat Chedi Luang. He paused again and said, smiling. "For a very long time, I hope."
As I bid him farewell with a traditional -- albeit awkward -- "wai", I walked away, momentarily forgetting my backpack. I turned back to retrieve it, and saw my new friend smiling and pointing to his head, and then to me, saying "Meditation! Meditation! Focus! Focus!" :)
At Wat Chiang Man, just a ten-minute walk way, I spent about an hour praying and looking at the impressive Buddha images, some of which date back over 2,000 years
I hope all is well with you. I'm determined to have Kao Sawy, a Thai concoction of chicken, spicy broth, and wheat noodles tonight. And I'm committed to stay up until at least 11pm. :)