Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Visa Regulations Require Trip to Thailand. Oh, Too Bad

May 18, 2009

It has been a month since either of us wrote in our blog. Our time has been packed with various wonder-filled activities in and around Nimboli. . Both of us have written about our Indian experiences, but neither of us have polished them for this blog. By the photos you might wonder where we have gone. Palm Springs, California? China? Japan? They don't allow you to wear bathing suits like this in India!

Right now we are in Chaing Mai, Thailand. We wanted to escape the worst of the heat in Nimboli which was expected to get up to 120 degrees F. And now we are in northern Thailand experiencing monsoon weather. We do find it refreshing after so many weeks of dry heat. We also had to leave the country every six months to renew our tourist visa. Some people have student visas when staying in an ashram and we will have to explore this. But for the time being, it is to our advantage to “have to leave” the country every six months. We probably would not have left if it was not required.

Dahvee found a four star hotel online, the Green Lake Resort, with two fabulous swimming pools, gorgeous and elegant simplicity in its architecture, and more than just a comfortable place for us to stay.

The tourism trade has suffered 50% here in Thailand due to swine flu scare, political upheaval and economic downturn. Of course this works in our favor by everyone offering special discounts. Our hotel is just a short drive outside the city of Chaing Mai and charges $ 26 a night which includes breakfast and air conditioned room. They shuttle guests to and from the main city for free three times a day. We are very happy with our arrangements. The gardens are abloom with exotic flowers: many varieties of orchids, birds of paradise, Champa, and unknown flowers. It is heavenly. We are surprised that there are not more bugs..

Sunday night is the principal weekly street fair which attracts locals and tourists. We were looking forward to attending. But as soon as we jumped out of the shuttle, the clouds released torrents of rain. We looked around for a dry place to wait out the storm, and there was our salvation: “Starbucks”. We had tried the Indian equivalent in Mumbai: Costa Coffee and CafĂ© Coffee Day. Each time we were disappointed. But here in Chaing Mai, you would not know the difference from this Starbucks and the one in your neighborhood in the states, except of course, the Thai translations. We were not disappointed.

We spent our first day napping by the pool, swimming in the delightful water and reading. Impulsively I bought a copy of Louis Fletcher’s “The life of Mahatma Gandhi” at the Mumbai airport. (In five months I have found only one adequate bookstore in Mumbai. I know there must be hundreds, but when we go to Mumbai we usually have a list of things to do that always exceeds the time we have available.) This book is perfect for it is answering many of the historical questions that have arisen in our minds since arriving in India: When and how did the caste system get started? When did the British arrive and for how long did they rule? What did India look like before the British? And what exactly did Gandhi do for India. I am not going to answer those questions for you, but this book has been a fabulous resource for me. I have been a fan of Gandhi’s since I saw the movie of his life probably over 20 yrs ago. And now I am learning more about what influenced his decisions and his actions. I do believe this will make a difference in the way I adapt to the amazing country of India.

Every night our hotel has a spa special which allows us to partake in some kind of massage or spa treatment. Right now we are waiting for our notification that our evening massage for $9 will be ready. The other night, Dahvee had two and half hours of body work and he looked so relaxed when he got back to our room. Chiang Mai has become a mecca for massage and health treatments. Of course, we all have heard of the plethora of sexual massage parlors here, but also, there are many legitimate massage clinics. Even at the open air market, there were rows of lounge chairs, the kind you watch TV from, where massage therapists awaited the chance to give a client a foot or back massage. By the end of the evening all the chairs were filled, and there were many hands at work on exposed feet, backs, legs, arms and heads. I personally like to receive my back rub in private. Dahvee has been trying for weeks to receive a massage in Nimboli. Two times he has found a massage therapist, both times men, and was given 10 minute massages. Not quite what he had in mind. So we are looking into taking a 5 or 10 day Thai massage class here in Chaing Mai so that we can at least be of benefit to each other once back in Nimboli.

Our second day here we walked around inside the old walled city of Chaing Mai. We are immediately struck at how clean and organized the streets are. I wondered why is it the concrete streets of India crumble making for such rough streets? Dahvee explained that the politicians and city officials are known for siphoning money off the top leaving very little for infrastructure. It is a shame.

Here in Chiang Mai it seems that every street has a beautiful Buddhist temple and gold laden stupa. Inside, we found monks in orange robes performing various rituals, eating lunch or meditating. The energy in each of the temples was beautiful and strong and we found it very easy to meditate. Some of the temples are over 500 years old, so one can imagine that many prayers and devotions have been performed in each. Dahvee caught some great shots of the gorgeous architecture of the temples with their adornments of dragons, gold, and Buddha figures. Here is his friend the dragon.

More to come………………….

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