Chiang Mai, Thailand
I experimented with my sense of direction this morning by walking down an alleyway that I thought should connect a couple of dots for me – it didn’t and I got completely lost. Although I recognised everywhere I was – the old city of Chiang Mai is very compact – I still can’t get my head around how they meet up. That’s not to say it’s difficult, only that my experiment failed.
I managed to find my way back to the Thapae Gate will little fuss and pass through to the other side back to the good old Art Cafe (really, it’s not that great) to meet Becky. We talked and talked and talked and talked. One of the topics of conversation was Becky’s upcoming 10 day silent retreat at Doi Suthep for which she needed, amongst other things, a prayer timer (like a timer with a gently chiming alarm to bring you out of meditation without disturbing others around you). Of course there’s an app for that but no phones allowed.
With that in mind, we took our yap-fest on the road in search of this illusive item. We headed towards the old Chinatown area stopping at a few temples along the way. We tried our best to maintain a certain dignified decorum but it became clear we are a corruptive and disruptive influence on each other.
We kept on to the Warorot Markets – yet another bustling marketplace that definitely caters more towards the daily needs of locals selling everything from clothes to food to homewards to jewellery to flowers to anything you can imagine. The market itself is ill-defined having sprawled over the years to encompass the surrounding precinct. We stopped in at just about every store that looked like it might sell prayer timers but not a single soul knew what we were talking about.
Just when we’d about given up hope, inspiration struck. If anyone was going to know where to get a prayer timer, it would be monks right? And I knew just were to find them waiting for people to come along and ask them questions. We headed over to Wat Chedi Luang for Monk Chat where Thon and a friend were quick to tell us that they also had no idea what we were talking about! None the less, we stayed and chatted a while. The conversation became quite candid painting us a very different picture of the life of monks to the pious one we’d had. It turns out that, in Thailand at least, spending time as a monk is something akin to a very peaceful form of military service. It’s not compulsory but most young men will spend a year or so as a monk before leaving to pursue other endeavours. Others come and go from their order across their lifetime whilst the dedicated few devote their lives to Buddhism. One thing’s for certain, these young guns aren’t in for the long haul – that much was obvious when one of them all but asked a very blonde Becky if she had matching collar and cuffs so to speak and then gave her his Facebook details! We may not have found out where to get a prayer timer but it was certainly an education!
We continued to visit the shrines surrounding the temple, still bemused by our encounter and talking tangentially about our own lives. Suddenly there was a creative spark in our conversation that gave rise to an idea which quickly became a plan for a future project.
But for now, Becky only has tonight and tomorrow to squeeze in the last of her souvenir/Christmas shopping before her retreat so it was back to the Night Bazar with us. I picked up a few bits and pieces myself and by the end of the night, we found we were again out of time but not out of breath. Luckily, we’ve still got tomorrow!