Ella, Kandy, Sharing, Sri Lanka

Sweet Kandy, Bella Ella

SWEET  KANDY

In Kandy it is time of Perahera, the Buddhist festival. What is being celebrated, though, I couldn’t find out, really. (Something’s to do with Buddhas tooth being shown around… sammā-sambuddha would surely be amused…) Musical performances, people dancing, processions, and everything is pretty much over at around 9 p.m. when somewhere else, parties haven’t even started yet 😉

  

To include that which does not run so smoothly, I have to state I have a hard time finding the Homestay. Buddha shows the way… and um, well… local people with their cellies help, too 😉

   

Next day I rent a scooter and go northeast to visit Hunusgiriya Waterfall and explore Knuckle’s Range via Panwila-Huluganga-Bambarella. On the way, I stop several times cuz I meet friendly locals waving at me and pointing out a cemetery in the middle of tea plantations, guesthouse owners inviting me for tea and a chat. Sometimes I also decide to have a rest and snack some delicious vegetable samosas, checkout a tea factory, and enjoy the view over the hilly terrain.

   

At 5 p.m. I still have not reached Knuckle’s Range. It is getting dark (and chilly) soon so I make a U-Turn and go back to Kandy. On the way back I come across a ceremony at a temple in Madawala, a small village. I stop and sit down with the locals. Three monks come to chant and one of them gives a dhamma talk in Singhalese after that. A man called Bandara invites me to have dinner with his family.

When i finally arrive in Kandy, I notice how noisy it is because of Perahera. Many buses, construction sites, loud music, neon lights.

      

This is what Kandy looks like from the viewpoint of the White Buddha

   

   … … …

   

One of the things I like about Sri Lanka, I mean… apart from the delicious food, the hospitality of the people, the diversity of the natural landscape … is the transport system. Given there is so much talk on the web about the special train ride from Kandy to Ella I  decide to see for myself if all the hype is justified.

   

On the train from Kandy to Ella

   

   

   

Coming Going Coming Going Coming Going

   

BELLA  ELLA

   

Look, maaan, Nine Arch Bridge, right over there !!!


   

Ella is a beautiful place to be for a couple of days, a week even. There are opportunities to hike, e.g. Ella Rock and Little Adam’s Peak. Also, a nice walk to Nine Arch Bridge along the railway tracks. I was lucky to have an Indian friend named Vineeth at my side who knows a lot about fauna and flora (among other things). He pointed out the names of birds, butterflies and reptiles along the way and gave me the chance to hold a snake in my hand. Thanks, bro, in case you happen to read this, I had a great time with you and lookforward to meeting you in India 😅

   

Scootering around Horton Plains with my dear friend Vineeth singing songs with deep meaning

At Bomburu Ella Falls

   

Also, I have to say, I was really happy to stay at Ja’s place called “ostello”. Located on a hill with a wonderful view on Ella Rock and a sunrise to make the fresh Ceylon tea smell even more intense, this place is my base for some days. I am very grateful for being around like-minded travellers, have inspiring conversation and enjoy my breakfast which was different every day.

Yes it’s tiny, I know, but still, it’s a snake, a snake on my hand… and the snake charmer’s right ear

   

Having a break on our way to Ella Rock summit

View from Ella Rock!

The Dhamma is Everywhere!

   

A family’s potato field near Bomburu Ella Falls

  

Sunset as seen from Little Adam’s Peak

   

One morning, Vineeth and I rent a scooter and head towards Horton Plains approximately 30km west of Ella

   

When we return in the evening the ostello is fully booked. Nevertheless, we can stay as friends and even get breakfast for free the next morning. Oh my Buddha! Thank you, Papa Ja!

   

Batman in Rawana Cave, Ella

Standard
Anuradhapura, Sharing, Sigiriya, Sri Lanka

North of Kandy

Together with Pranavan, a fellow Vipassana yogi at Dhamma Kuta and student in Jaffna, I pay a visit to the Botanical Gardens in Peradeniya. We are there for around 4 hours to walk about, meet some Austrians, see flying foxes and indulge in the splendour of natural surroundings.

   

With plants, fresh air, and a good friend by my side, happiness comes naturally

   

Whatever grows on this pale blue dot in space… … and is reincorporated to make other things grow… … which again, will wither up and die… … just to contribute to the growth of another generation…

   

The story of a tree, the story of a man… interconnected invisibly

    

After that, Pranavan and I take the bus to…

   

Anuradhapura

   

Tending the garden, the temple within prompts me to visit some holy sites in the north of Sri Lanka. Not the far north… just a couple of hours bus ride to reach Anuradhapura, ancient city and capital of north central province. Historically, it is closely connected to Mahinda, the son of Ashoka who had taken refuge in the triple gem after being overwhelmed by the atrocities of warfare necessary to secure and expand his empire in 3rd century BC.

Together with Yuna, a french woman living in Barca, I venture forth to explore the area by bicycle. We see Bodhi trees with people sitting in a circle around it, chanting, praying to it as a wish fulfilling sacred magical plant. We come across white pagodas being renovated. We watch playful monkeys in trees and we wash our feet in the nearby river. It is hot and we’re sweating a lot. So the refreshment is more than welcome.

  

The Ruwanwelisaya Stupa, like a spaceship just landed

   

Green green green , can it get any greener?

   

After the sweaty bike ride to see various temples, ruins and sacred trees we decide to take a dip in the lake Nuwara Wewa. Next to where we jump in is the City Water Supply. We meet people doing laundry and intensive body soap scrub washing. Can you see the white stupa in the distance? I am told that is Mihintale.

  

Wonderful friendly family hosts at Lucky Holiday Home, Anuradhapura. A-ma-zing breakfast!

I enjoy my time in Anuradhapura a lot. The place I am staying at is called Lucky Holiday Home [affiliate link that is]. I highly recommend it. I find it hard to leave.

   

Sigiriya

   

Shortly before we, Yuna & Kimo, reach the summit of Pidurangala Rock …

   

We are lucky. The weather is clear, the view is great! Over there, Lion’s Rock looks more like an elephant if you ask me 😉

   

Standard
Kuching, Lundu, Sarawak

Exploring West Sarawak

When we do not work…

or play beach-volleyball…

or enjoy the view…

or chillout at the campfire…

    

   

… we use our time to explore the surroundings.

   
One fine day a carpenter from Scotland named Dave who volunteers at Matang Wildlife Centre (22km west of Kuching) comes to finish work on some doors, handles, locks etc. Konrad, Karla, Leon, Joy and me borrow his car and decide to hike for an hour to the most beautiful waterfall in this region. What is shown on the photos is a mere fraction of what there is to see; there are trails following the river up up up to more than ten waterfalls, each more beautiful than the previous, providing spectacular views over the entire rainforest with semingly endless variations of green. Indescribable.

   

Refreshing pool at the end of the hike

   

Standard
Nan, Thailand

Living & Dying In Nan

After some days in Sukhothai and surroundings I call a friend’s friend named Tao.

ขอบคุณครับ แอนนา ผมไม่คิดถึงคุณหรอก 😉

Dhamma bro Tao lives in Nan.

On the phone he says I can stay as long as i like. Sounds good.

When I arrive at the bus station he and his two sisters Tim and Tom are already waiting for me. We go to have something to eat. Then, sleep.

Tao likes to take it easy, nice and slow. เนิบเนิบ. He is interested and skilled in the art of natural and holistic healing. Concocting his own herbal cough medicine and stuff. He wants to be an organic farmer. Free. Independent. Grow his own vegetables. Build a nice little clay house. He keeps his eyes open for a piece of land near river Nan to realise his dream. His heart หัวใจ bleeds whenever he sees some man-made structure in a remote area of natural beauty. ‘Why do they build that here?’ he whispers to himself.

Friday we prepare the blue Honda Wave for the trip north of Nan. We also visit the ที่งานน่านเนิบเนิบ.That is the Trade Fair ‘Nan, slowly slowly’. Good food there. Really everything is provided for. I am not allowed to pay.

I write this in retrospect with the help of my calendar cuz as a traveller I keep on forgetting what day it is… i know it’s February, though. So, Saturday we start early in the morning. We share the driving up north to the Laos border. Short stop at the Riverside Art Gallery for a coffee.

Driving is fun. After a while it hurts. Roads are in good condition. Sometimes not. Sometimes construction sites slow down our trip. Sometimes no matter what the road is like, carelessness leads to disaster and sudden death.

image

image

We sleep somewhere in a Bungalow near Thai-Laos border and get up early the next day it’s foggy so much morning mist but after a 20-minute drive the sight is clear. Sun comes up behind a hill. Iz not getting noticeably warmer but at least less chilly.

image

Sunday. Our first resting place is at a restaurant named Lamchanat (meaning ‘very delicious’ in northern dialect) at Bo Kluea (meaning ‘Salt Well’). We have breakfast and hear the story of the former restaurant owners. There used to be a bigger restaurant until for some unknown reason the man – who was also a police officer – killed his wife and was arrested.

We check out the stream and the salt well and the production site – several huts in which the salt water is boiling, leaving the crystallised salt on the ground of a big kettle. Outside the sun is smouldering and yet, after a while sitting inside one of the huts the open air feels quite fresh. We are back in Nan at sunset.

image

Next day. Sunny Monday afternoon. We drive to the suburbs. My dear driver points out crops of sesame growing on the fields we pass by. The next minute we spot what looks like a crime scene. Tao stops the motorsai at the side of the road. We soon find out that a woman was found dead in her nightgown. Police are investigating. Scouring the terrain to find evidence, traces, indices. It all seems incredibly near and clear. Exodus as a fact of life. Nothing to be particularly surprised about. Happens to everyone. Tao asks someone if she was killed. A man answers ‘Something like this…’

Then my dear guide brings us to a friend’s house. First thing to do after entering the room is to down a glass of high spirit in a plastic stamperl. Like an inverted entrance fee, hihi. Next thing I do is sit down and get beard trimmed and hair cut. 10 minutes. 30 baht. We leave. Tao is an efficient teacher when it comes to avoid wasting precious time. We have a good meal with Tao’s sisters and take a stroll through the wat. Sit and bow down in front of the golden statue. Go outside. Watch and listen to percussionists preparing their drums with sticky rice for a competition. The player of the instrument with the most balanced sound wins. The jury looks critically wise with their sleek uniforms and ready whistles round their necks. After that there is a beneficial dance operation going on – it’s too automatic to call it a gig really. It’s just noise. Too loud to go near the stage. Too sober to dance to these tunes. I am grateful when Tao says he wants to leave. Great idea. I get up to join him. Get rest.

Silence enwraps me.

Soundless sound sleep.

Next day we take a tour through the city on the motorcycle. Tao suggests we visit his cousin Pik (Thai for ‘tiny’) in the neighbourhood. When we arrive no one is at the house but we find some groceries in a bag. She might be back in a jiffy?! Tao has a look around while I stay at the house in case she comes back. Some minutes later he returns and tells me a woman he knows has been found dead this morning. Pik is there. It’s round the corner. We go there and meet up with his cousin and many other locals. Within ten minutes of our arrival the pickup truck with the coffin on it and a monk on the passenger seat passes us by to drive off to the nearby temple for ceremonial business.

Later I relax in the afternoon sun reading Recollections of Ajahn Chah and enjoying doing nothing. At the river I feed some fish. At a food stall (‘Lupin Kanom-Waan’) Tao and I eat some sticky rice with coconut milk and mango (kao niao mamuang). In the evening we visit the sisters Tom & Tim to have dinner with them. Some students also come by and interview me: Where do you come from? How old are you? What are you doing in the city? Do you like Nan? I ask them to write down the translations in Thai in my notebook.

image

Days go by.

Days go by.

One day we have breakfast at Ban J veggie rahn-arhaan after doing some gardening in the morning hours. Another we visit the sisters’ house and everything is prepared for us. We only have to set up a table, sit down, and feast.

At noon we get picked up by brother Sotep and his wife and go to Santisuk – Pua – Bo Klua to revisit some places and also see some new,e.g. the queen’s residence at Phufa Development Centre in the national park. Suai suai! Beautiful!

image

image

image

We see the salt well again and listen to traditional music played by a group beside the river. I buy some sausages to feed begging dogs on the street.

image

image

At 8 p.m. we are back in Nan and meet the sisters. Together the six of us enjoy a delicious Thai dinner. Many plates on the table and we all share what’s there. I look at the bottom of my nam-gæo (water glass). It tells me I am lucky in Thailand.

image

image

image

As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light of meaning in the darkness of mere being. (C.G.Jung, “Memories, Dreams, Reflections”)

Standard
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.

image

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.

image

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.

image

Cruising on Chao Phraya River

image

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

image

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.

image

… round and around and around and around we go…

image

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.

Standard