Bangkok, Thailand

Suvarnabhumi – Sheremetyevo – Schönefeld

0902AM. Twenty minutes before boarding starts on the plane to Moscow. I sit at the Suvarnabhumi Airport. Munching crunchy monkey cashew almond granola and sipping lactasoy. A guy walks by. His right arm and left knee are bandaged. Probably a motorcycle accident, who knows?! On the night bus from Chiang Mai to Bangkok I watched ‘Interstellar’. To see a movie after seven months of travelling is gripping, of course. But it’s all too obvious where the directors and actors show their true nature: it is a big show to keep you entertained. Here at Gate E3 the seats are purple. I am clad completely in blue. It’s 0909AM now. In Pai, I read the first chapter of ‘White Tiger’. I also got an email from the city library. They offer me a job in July. This is good. The plane to Moscow will arrive in the afternoon. Then I have two hours in the world of the ruble. Nothing going for a guy like me. Guess I’ll just sit there and gaze into nothingness. 0915AM. Boarding begins. At this very moment a thought enters the mind – i remember someone confided in me that she once got to the airport and checked in and then did not board the plane. Well what can you do? It happens. Maybe too much gazing into nothingness? It is 0920AM. Guess I have bothered you enough with my ramblings. ผมไป.

The flight is kool to the max. Not only because outside it’s -50°C and I am in wonder above the clouds at 36000 feet. With ultimate Sunset Beach Chill out sound in my ears and a window seat and the seat next to me free. A vegan Thai/Indian meal that I had ordered via online check-in. I wonder what it must be like to be one of these business class persons? I have so much space. With a smile, ‘Mr Weiss, specially prepared for you’ a blonde Russian stewardess serves me a magnificent meal consisting of tofu-potato-daal & naan, salad and fruits and after that coffee. Yeah, right, they could serve it in something more classy than a plastic cup. But I come home from Asia so I’m used to that. I enjoy this flight very much, indeed. Going home. To my family, to my friends, to my loved ones. I am happy. Sad-happy.

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Hello Kabul. Good evening Delhi.

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Veggie meal on board... hmm? ahhh.. some tomato juice, please.


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My first jetlag! Jippie. I feel like Fight Club. So i put on my pink glasses. Instantly, I giggle.

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Bangkok, Thailand

Astrological passage สงกรานต์

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Let’s get it oooon 😛

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Three smiling girls near Chao Phraya river

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Khaosan Road transforms into Khaosan River

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Wash of all the dirt of the past. Cleanse the body. Clear your ♥. Be refreshed by the elixir of life. Buckets, pistols and bazookas filled up with icy water. Right inna your face. Wake up wake up. Get soaked. Have no worries. Wake up! Love is all around. Let it in. Let it flow. Let all conventions go. Feel free. Touch for peace. Just be! Yeah! Happy New Year!!! สวัสดีปีใหม่!!

Sometimes people ask me when I will go home again. Then the first thing that comes to mind is always: Well I am home. I feel at home here in South East Asia. And like I said be4 I am so confident everything turns out lovely. Nothing can happen. I am safe.

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Bangkok, Sharing, Thailand

Back in Bangkok

Just in time for Songkran in mid April I am back where I started my journey almost half a year ago. Bangkok or กรุงเทพ (Krungtep) as it is also called around here. Third time I find myself in this metropolis. Each time it gets less and less intimidating. Each time I find it easier to accept the fact that it is 50 % hot – 50 % traffic.

I can’t get a bus ticket to Myanmar before April 13th so I take my time at the Jatujak Weekend Market this afternoon.

Before dusk it starts to drizzle. Beams of light shining through holes in the clouds and perforating the tree tops.

Everything around us is a great mystery. I am a great mystery. You are a great mystery. In a way very sacred too. (Sajadaw U Jotika)

Nature whispers: The best things in life are for free… yet human eyes get fixed on products when the mind is in shopping mode.

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C'est une illusion comme un rêve sans sommeil / changes de perception car il faut qu'on s'éveille (Dub Inc)

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My painting carries with it the message of pain. (Frida Kahlo)

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What you deserve is what you get / You wanna know now but you don't know it yet. (Seeed)

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Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok revisited

Three days in Bangkok. Exhaust fumes and engine noise. Restless traffic and trafficking. Travel agencies, temples, flower markets. Smells of waste, of poo and of goo, too. Street food stalls, simple frying stations with a bicycle/motorcycle attached to it. Pad thai, instant coffee, the notorious chang-leo-singha connection. Countless offers of massage, manicure, pedicure. And of course, the ubiquitous gold framed flower ornamented images of King Bhumipol and Queen Sirikit to round up the picture of this megacity, providing it with a sense of dignity.
  
… Being here after three months of travelling comes as a surprise. It was not planned at all. Given that this is Thailand, the no-plan mind-set probably counts as a valid reason for me to be here… exactly three months after I left Bangkok due south.
  
What I have in mind now is to fly to Myanmar. But as I am soon to find out, kamma kismet has something else in store for me.

1st day I go to the Myanmar embassy. It is in the south of the city (Pan Road) for a visa. Next day I go there again to get the passport back. I try to book a flight to Yangon but it’s not possible to go there without paying a lot of money and accepting an overstay in Thailand. So when I go to the Myanmar embassy I go there early in order to collect my passport. Once I get the passport, I reckon, I need to extend my Thai visa for 30 more days. This means going distances.

You already smell it’s not gonna be a piece of cake, right? When I go to pick up my passport they don’t want to give it to me because i am too early. They tell me to come back at 3.30p.m. cuz that’s the set ‘collection hour’. I insist and tell them I have to go to the Thai immigration office until 4 p.m. at the latest. Now you gotta know the Thai immigration office is located far north near the airport. It takes about 2 hours to go there from the centre. And I find myself south of the centre. Therefore, I insist. The clerk talks about embassy regulations. Still, I need my passport now. (You have to ask 3 times, right?!) Finally, he says OK and asks me to wait until he is finished with all the others. At 12.30 p.m. he gives me the stamped passport. Having left the Myanmar embassy, I take skytrain&bus&scooter taxi to get to the immigration office in the north. Three hours after I got my passport back I get that other stamp.

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An afternoon at Thai Immigration Office to extend my stay

I take a local bus back to Chatuchak Park to relax, work out, and run.

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Chatuchak Park right after that

Then I take the sky train and bus back to the guesthouse ‘Flapping duck’ near Phra Sumen Fort. Same place I stayed three months ago. I also meet a Viennese couple living in my neighbourhood. I meet Mark there, the Irish friend I had met in Khao Sok. A couple of new faces. Everyone with his/her own story.

We check Khao San Road, grab some food, dodge shady characters who want to play pingpong. Eventually we head back to the guesthouse. Playing pool and having phun on the roof top til staff member Eskimo kindly asks us to be quiet. His room is located right under the roof. It’s 3 or 4 a.m. when I finally find my way to bed.

The next day, a day of repose. Thai massage. Sightseeing. A lot of walking around. Cruising with the tourist boat. Indian food in the late evening.

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Cruising on Chao Phraya River

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Temple and spaceship (I am told it is a school but i don’t believe everything people say)

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This could be any place…but it’s bangkok.

Next day, get up early. Pack the bags. Checkout. Catch a bus to Chatuchak park. A spicy breakfast bowl. And a short walk to Buddhadāsa Indapañño Archives. Later I have lunch with some of the people working there. The simple food – rice with onions, guava and tamarind -, the metal bowl and metal spoon I am using remind me of Suan Mokh.

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… round and around and around and around we go…

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You get the picture…

I walk to the nearby northern bus terminal (Mo Chit 2) and catch a bus north to Phitsanulok -a city southwest of Sukhothai. Diamond, a chef de cuisine staying in Bangkok recommended a guesthouse to me. She wrote down the name in Thai script and said she is going to announce my arrival. When I arrive at the bus station at 10 p.m. the taxi drivers are baffled by this guy holding a piece of paper with some Thai script in his hand. They don’t know that place. No reason not to overcharge me and bring me someplace else. Thai tourist service. I understand. In the end, I check in at Lithai guesthouse. But not before having searched the streets for that place that was recommended to me. Here I am, in the middle of a city I don’t know. It’s midnight. And I am sitting at a bar with a Chang in my hand and some pak kao on my plate near the dirty Nan River. Fat backpack next to the table. Could be worse. I could be in that river. I am offered to sleep in the river hut for 300 baht. I agree. But no, there’s no key. I have to wait for the ‘other guy’. He is drinking his way out of this world on the other shore. I smile, wait til 1 a.m. and then all too willingly accept the scooter ride back to the guesthouse I was brought to in the first place, three hours ago.

A long day.

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Bangkok, Dhamma investigation, Sharing, Thailand

“don’t get stuck here, my friend, you came here to travel, so keep moving”

after a day of exploring the city on foot and by tuk-tuk, an american guy at the guest house made me aware of the possibility to get stuck in Bangkok. he reminded me of my intention to travel. to keep moving.

it’s true. once i get entangled in the mesmerising rhythm of this city and learn to get along with its pace, it is hard to let go of that base. it seems safe to stay. cheap street food, like-minded backpackers, mosquitoes are practically non-existent (at least for me they are, i heard enough complaints by fellow travellers), not to forget the nearby wat mahathat where I can join meditation every morning.

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as far as the guesthouse is concerned, I get everything I need here. but after a while i get uncomfortable with being too comfortable. i know how it feels when it’s about time to leave: when it would be most convenient to stay for another day just to hang out (hang on!) a little more.

so why leave?

the khao san atmosphere. an infectious mile of hollow food and barbecue booze, a noisy place not only of fear and loathing but also of greed and confusion. it is like the entrance hall to the tourist looking for something cheap – most, if not all, get ripped off in that process. greed meets greed. some never go beyond.

and some get simply disgusted by the fake smiles, the smell of too much stationary frying oil, and the irritating noise of cars, taxis, buses, tuk-tuks, motorbikes, scooters, voices all around… like mike.

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i think the most important reason to leave a city, no matter how many people live in it (Bangkok around 6 millions – hòk láan khon) is polluted air, noisy traffic and reckless worship of mammon in the concrete jungle.

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so I turn to the sides of bangkok I can appreciate! like parks, rivers, canals, vegan cafes and restaurants, temples, and assimilating the necessary language skills in order to be able to use public transport. like this, I can enjoy places like these… and be happy, full, content.

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I talk with LuangPi up there in the afternoon. He wants to practice English and I want to learn some Thai. good combination. we talk about life as a monk, his difficulties, about my life as a layman, and my difficulties. we also talk about family, travel, food, and of course, we talk about the dhamma which he pronounces drama. yeah, it’s like a movie sometimes.

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Bangkok, Sharing, Thailand

Saturn Day, October 25, 2014

today I get up at noon. sun is shining. i slept for about 12 hours. blame it on the cosy bed. also on the night flight. on the myriad of impressions of the previous day.

be that as it may, I get up and eat the leftover bread I still have with me from austria. the reason i mention this is because I get asked where I got it from and, to be honest, because it seems clear that a dark whole wheat bread with grains and stuff like this is nowhere to be found in this city. I also get some hot cacao with cocos milk from a stand nearby. so that’s my first breakfast in bangkok, cacao and dry bread. i can see some people writing their diary. one guy is drawing portraits of backpackers sitting in the open-air, musically ornamented lounge. and he is doing a great job, indeed.

I decide to go to wat phra kaew and wat pho. the first I just visit shortly and leave. too many tourists, too much entry fee for my taste, too many wats around with free admission. the second i do go inside and walk around until it gets dark.

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the lying buddha statue is about 50m long and covered with shining gold, like so many here in thailand.

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after wandering around and taking photos i go to the traditional thai massage school and let myself in for a treatment. after having been cracked fingers, spine and neck (well, almost) i feel reborn. refreshed also by a cup of freezing water I take my leave.

I am really hungry by now. I just ate some papaya wrapped in plastic in the afternoon. thence, i go to the nearest pier which happens to be tha tien. it so happens that this is a point where a ferry (3B) crosses the chao phraya river. i guess I can have a closer look at wat arun AND find something to eat over there, right?

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when i get to the other side, i notice the quietude of bangkok noi (old bangkok) as compared to the ko ratanakosin with its grand palace and other sights and tourist attractions. wat arun is closed already since 6 p.m.

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i can hear monks chanting in a great hall at the far end of the area. i go there …

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after the wat arun walk i go to the pier but there seem to be no more ferries crossing today. I ask a mother with child where to eat meat-less food. practice some thai, yes indeed. she points to this and that direction, says left,no,right, and we laugh together. it’s so refreshing! i check out the narrow and dark streets of this district and eventually i find some street vendor. i choose it cuz I see some local people eating there. i am lucky – one of them speaks some english, too. i get kwaytiaw vietnam to eat, i.e. a vegetarian soup with rice noodles, at least i think so.

i continue walking. it starts to rain heavily. i find shelter under a roof. some local residents are also there. instantly, the fact that I do not speak their language serves as a factor contributing to my feeling isolated. not knowing their code, I am put on single mode. mindfulness comes to my rescue. i resort to breathing for a while. i watch the rain. smile when I am looked at. i feel a bit lonely as the only farang and accordingly, i take out the lonely planet i got from yim at the ‘flapping duck’ guesthouse. i skip it through. find the lumpini park in the map and decide i want to go there tomorrow. and that is exactly where I am right now, writing this.

cuz as it goes, tomorrow has become today.

to finish yesterday’s story. the night has settled and i find myself at a night market. i eat something and continue walking. oh my god, really, today is a walkabout day. surely more than 10km. and that’s bangkok concrete, not teichalm forest, dammit. so in the end i take advantage of a tuk-tuk man giving me a ride to phra arthit. walking in the rain, i stop by at khao san and eat some padthai (‘mai gin nuasad’=i don’t eat meat). my third dinner since dawn. my body reeks of sweat, my bloodstream glutamatised. and i am amazed by the junk food phenomenon… no matter how much i eat, i am still hungry.

I made about 70 photos today. some of them you can see here.

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Bangkok, Sharing, Thailand

“Be patient, for the world is broad and wide”

this is a quote from the book flatland by edwin a. abbott which was originally published in 1884 and which i highly recommend.

the flight to Bangkok took about 8 hours. I arrived at 7:30 in the morning. at 5 a.m. I started to watch a hilarious film. it’s called fantastic fr. fox and i really enjoyed it. like the congress, it is directed by wes anderson.

WELCOME TO BANGKOK
from suvarnabhumi airport i take the train to the city centre, phaya thai station, and then walk southward. to ratchathewi. to khao san road. an australian guy i had met at the station accompanies me. we decide to share a taxi. of course, once we arrive at khao san, people start to check us out. ‘whatcha need? any help? massage? girls? two girls?’ we walk together for a while until we split up. all the best, good luck, be safe! same to you, my friend, peace.

i start to look around and ask a couple if they know a good place to stay. they said ‘all over’ but couldn’t quite pin one down for me which excels (and why should they?). they told me that cafes with free WiFi abound. shortly after that a man points out a police station to me. says I can get reliable tourist info there, on accommodation, travel tickets etc. so i go in and I am welcomed by a friendly man. he hands out a map to me indicating areas I shouldn’t book cuz it’s overpriced. shows me the way to the next tourist information centre. tells me not to give the tuk-tuk driver more than 20 baht for a tour to the info centre and the ride to my hostel. two minutes later i am sitting in a tuk-tuk. the driver’s name is Ko. let’s go.

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what follows is a two-hour odyssey through the city.

 

in the first info centre a very nice woman called Aon gives me further advise. she organizes the days until the end of october. only 8,900 baht. i tell her i will think about it. she says I can come back every time. I go out. ko is waiting for me. he says it’s good i did not book. ‘too expensive, they are,’ he says, patting my left shoulder confidentially. I tell him where I’d like to go, namely a guesthouse that had been recommended to me by a good friend (thank you, dear nina!) and he replies: ‘i know something better.’ and transports my greenhorn ass to yet another travel/tourist agency.

 

so i introduce my vague plans to this lady. that conversation got weird when she began to push: ‘so are you going to book or not? what are you waiting for? don’t think so much.’ outside the monsoon rains started to transform the streets into rivers. i ask if there is WiFi available here at Tourist Information Thailand. no, there isn’t. maybe she could help me check if the guesthouse i’d like to go to is full already? she don’t know that guesthouse. i pack up. sitting outside, Ko and I watch the rain pour down for about ten minutes. we small-talk about the weather in Austria, then fall silent and let the sky do the talking. when it is time to leave, I indicate an intersection where he should please bring me. he says: ‘no good, it’s full of mafia!’ -‘alright, then put me there, Ko, next to the bridge.’ but instead of doing that he brings me to a different inn. given that this time i had followed the tuk-tuk route with the helper’s map in hand i can tell he stops somewhere else. i give him 20 baht, tell him i am disappointed he won’t bring me to the place I want to go. but thanx for the ride. hav a nice one, ko.

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i fetch some water at 7-eleven and walk through the heavy rain to an area near the chao phraya river. water inside. water outside. water everywhere around. i look around, try to get a room at one of the hostels but two. guest house is full. the second one, flapping duck, has got a bed in a 4-pax-dormitory. i meet a guy from pinzgau. friendly people. river view. i feel at home at once.
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during the day i got to know people from spain and mallorca, china, canada, germany and austria. i went to the pier, strolled along khao san road. in the evening i ate spicy veggie curry and got a great foot massage. and i learned some thai: sabai sabai!

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