Southeast Asia Thoughts: Thailand

Ten days in and our stay in Thailand comes to an end.  From Bangkok we traveled north through Ayutthaya, Sukhothai, Chiang Rai, and Chiang Mai.   Each of these cities contain the rich, Buddhist dominated, history that was once the Kingdom of Siam. It is not the country of Anna and the King of Siam.  While based on a true story, the Hollywood version, like most movies, is far from the truth.

That is not to say Hollywood hasn’t had any influence here.  The movie, Bridge on the River Kwai, actually caused the change of the pronounciation of the river.  Known locally as river Kwai, pronounced KWAY, they changed the name to accommodate the tourist influx after the movie release, since everyone wanted to see the River Kwai.  It is indeed a small world.

One of the most interesting parts was our crossing the border into Myanmar, aka Burma. Once you cross the border under the watchful, but unobtrusive , local Myanmar authorities you are in a vastly poorer country than one can imagine. And yet, the people smiled, waved, tried to be circumspect in not staring at for what many of them was their first view of the strange westerners. Visiting such a place where, for less than the price of a cup of coffee from Starbucks, one could sustain a family for a day puts the fortunes of being born in America in perspective.

Living in a country where the borders are there to control entry is an entirely different life than living a country where the government works to keep the people in. The Myanmar government even set the local time to 1/2 hour earlier than the time in Thailand, just to make a point of who runs the show. The people of Myanmar, when they can, cross into Thailand to get basics for survival. It is an eye-opening experience.

Now we are on our last night in Chiang Mai. We are here in the midst of the old Thai New Year and the Water Festival. The streets are lined with both Thai and tourists, armed with the world’s largest collection of squirt guns (or buckets if needed), dousing everyone with water as a symbol of good luck. Tourists are their favorite target, all in the spirits of fun.

Even the cops wear body length rain covers; no one is exempt.

If I had to sum up the country of Thailand in one word, relax. The Thai, while going about the daily business of life, have learned to relax and enjoy their life.

We could learn something from that.

Here are some images of Thailand, I won’t bore you with descriptions of each one since they speak for themselves.

Suwadee khrap (Hello/Goodbye/How are you. You hear this, and they all bow with the hands pressed together, all day everywhere.)


On to Laos


Through a Puppy’s Eyes

On this first morning of my 365-day-long 62nd orbit of the sun, I took stock of life.  Where I’ve been, where I am, and where I am heading.

From the time of my birth, I’ve traveled 556,625,000 miles on this spinning earth. Since my arrival on this planet, I and all my fellow humans who’ve been alive a similar amount of time have traveled 274,661,040,000 miles around the galactic center of the Milky Way.

Our universe, if Einstein and Hubble are correct, continues to expand.  In the time it takes most to read this (say 10 minutes) we will be 85,666 miles further along in our rotating galaxy and about 166 miles further along in our latest rotation of the earth.

The point? We are never in the same place twice. Everything about our lives, our world, our universe changes.

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” ― Heraclitus

For some, a birthday is a sad reminder of their mortality and aging. For me, it is a day to consider one’s life. Every moment of every day for every human is unique. No other human is like you. No other will experience any moment in the same way.

No other human, not one, lives the same life.

Now for many of our fellow humans, those living in poverty and squalor, tossed by the virulent politics of tribal legacy or totalitarian regimes, they may not see the difference moment to moment.

It is incumbent on us to remember this as we live our more fortunate lives. We do well to do what we can to change the world, understanding that the only way to happiness is through freedom of choice and tolerance of differences. It is not ours to impose our choices on others, but to ensure they can make their own choices.

James Taylor sings that “the secret to life is enjoying the passage of time…” I would agree, for time is an irresistible force. But I think there’s more to the secret of life. One has to look at the world as if for the first time. Recognize the vicissitudes of each moment of your life. Look for the potential for the future, not despair of the past.

What gave me this idea was a small puppy. puppyWalking along the bike path, bouncing back and forth on his leash, everything was new to him. The grass, a fallen leave, a fluttering butterfly, my wife and I passing by.

Through that puppy’s eyes, the world was full of hope, opportunity, and discovery.  As we age, it is hard to hold on to such wonder. Yet to lose it is to lose one’s best hope to enjoy each revolution around the sun.

Life, like the universe, is a matter of mathematics. Each of us experiences our first revolution around the sun and our last. It’s what you do with the revolutions between the first and the last that matters.

In the words of Warren Zevon, dying of cancer, when asked if he had any advice for others said, “Enjoy every sandwich.”

I intend to do just that.