Loi Kratong, English Camp Tour [9]

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Well, a few things have happened since I last checked in ūüôā

Lanterns over Chiang Mai [click 2 enlarge]

First of all was the famous ‘festival of lights’- Loi Kratong. For this festival, people get big paper lanterns and light a burning wick in the middle, and they float up into the sky. This is pretty cool with a few lanterns, and when there are hundreds being released at once the whole sky lights up. Its also traditional to write a message on the lantern, so I wrote ‘to all my friends’ (I know, its corny but I couldn’t think of anything amazing).

Roman Candle at Chiang Mai

Another aspect of Loi Kratong is fireworks. Almost everyone has some kind of firework they are releasing, missiles, smoke bombs, roman candles, and even massive exploding rockets right in the middle of town. There was also a huge parade through the main streets of Chiang Mai, with floats and people dressed up in traditional Thai dress.

Helping a local student blow up his hand

Then the school I am living at- School for Life had a celebration of their own to celebrate Loi Kratong, they had a game where you had to float a lantern through a hoop suspended in the air, and then you would win a prize. There was then a cute lil show where all the boys and girls did some dances and some of them even did¬†karaoke¬† Then we went down to a local festival in the nearby village and all the boys had a massive firework war and a rocket exploded right in my ear so I couldn’t hear for the rest of the night, and I let off a skyrocket but it went wrong and exploded about a meter off the ground making everyone scream. It was really a cool night and just like most festivals, everyone gets together in good spirits and has a good time ūüôā

Picture unrelated

A few days after that, the motorbike I bought started playing up a little. We¬†weren’t¬†sure what the problem was but think it might have just been an impurity in the fuel tank because it has been fine ever since. So I left the bike in town while it wasn’t working properly and rented one of the new fuel injected CBR 250s. It was a lot bigger and heavier than I was used to, and on the way back into Chiang Mai a woman did a u-turn right in front of me on the motorway (for some reason they have u-turns on the motorway in Thailand) and I didn’t have time to stop and rammed straight into the back of her at about 60ks. Luckily I was¬†completely¬†fine, but the bike wasn’t. My Thai aunt Bee pretty much saved me from having to pay all of about 50,000 baht (about 1.5¬†Australian¬†grand) by convincing the insurance guy that it was the other driver’s fault (which it pretty much was) so i’m really glad it all worked out in the end.

Helping out Thai students at an English camp

After that I started work with a company that runs English camps around Thailand for Thai students, called Dragonfly English Camps.
First I went to a small town called Loei, where I did my first English camp. Basically what we do is get all the students involved in fun English based games like treasure hunts, and they make a shop to sell things in English, and other cool things. The students really love it- after all its a lot more fun than school, and I get to travel around to new places and get free¬†accommodation and food ūüôā

Bangkok by night

After that I went for a daytrip to a place called Udon Thani and got stuck there for about 8 hours so I looked around the massive shopping mall and had some really bad crab-stick pizza.

After that I went off for 9 days to camps in Bangkok, Korat, Cha-Am and supanburi.

Korat was a fairly small town with nothing much to see apart from a few massive sugar-cane processing factories.

The 3 day camp in Cha-am was at a beach resort which was great because I got to go to the beach and swimming and we had an all you can eat steak buffet.

The camp after that was in a massive golf resort in Supanburi which even had a zoo with monkey’s.
We also planted mangrove trees in a royal forest¬†conservation¬†project, saw King Rama 6’s palace, saw a local tie-die tshirt factory and went to a butterfly sanctuary.

Some of the Dragonfly crew

Now it is Christmas time, and I am deciding what to do next in my little journey, after I leave Thailand.
I was¬†initially¬†planning on staying in Thailand for about a year and establishing myself here, but now I am thinking that I have seen and experienced so much that Thailand has to offer and I would like to see some other places as well. After I have been down to visit the south of Thailand with some friends from Australia, I will have pretty much done a round-trip of Thailand. Also, my tourist visa expires on Jan 7, so I will have to see whether I can do some visa runs to extend it or not. If I can’t then I will have to leave earlier than expected. If I can, then I will probably stay until Febuary-March.

Butterfly Sanctuary

Now I am planning on living and meditating at a temple in Chiang Mai called Wat Roempeng. The head monk runs meditation classes there, and he wants me to come and learn there for a while, so I am thinking of staying there until about the 26th (presuming my visa will allow it) and then heading down south to visit some friends from Australia at Kopanyang for the infamous full-moon party. Also I’m growing a beard, so i’m not going to shave for at least a month and see how it goes, because why not?

Mangrove Forest

By then it will probably be time for me to
leave Thailand, and I will have to think about what to do next. I have some¬†vague¬†ideas- Teaching English living in Japan, working at summer camps (Starting May) in America (which I am applying for now), travelling working and partying around Europe (with my UK passport ūüėČ and visiting a friend (Nicola) and making music in Italy-¬†among¬†other things. The three factors that I have identified to be¬†absolutely¬†necessary¬†for travel are 1.A flight there 2.Visa/legality of stay 3.A means of sustaining yourself. Once the first two can be organised, the third is the only real challenge to face, and where the mystery and adventure of travel lie ūüôā

Lastly, I wrote this little section about happiness-

1. Happiness
To put it simply, life is all about happiness. When your mind, body and soul are really in order, then you will be happy. Only recently have I begun to have real and profound glimpses into the deep, all-encompassing happiness that has been missing from my life for perhaps the last 2-3 years. The reason this happiness waned somewhat in my life can be attributed to a few externalities, but the only one real perpetrator here is myself, or rather my ego. Without getting too deep into the fundamentals of it, the fact is that I have been holding myself back from this state, at least for a little while anyway. And only now after having been travelling for a while, and really starting to examine myself and my mindset, I have started to access this deep well of inner peace. When I talk about happiness here, I don’t just mean being content with the situation you are in, I mean absolute and complete happiness, the nectar of life that we can sample at any time.
At the moment they are still only relatively short insights- I think they are described as ‘peak experiences’ by Maslow [http://alturl.com/zrkk9]. It is just a moment in time when you are totally content- and I beleive we were all born into that state. An examination of any normal child shows that. Whenever you try to hold onto or examine that feeling, you loose it because you are no longer living it, but rather examining it with your mind. But the fact that I am able feel that natural state of happiness at all gives me all the hope I ever need. I am going to a buddhist¬†temple to complete a long meditation course so that I might cultivate that feeling and make it a part of my life again. Which upon examination is the real reason I went travelling in the first place- despite the fact that I could (theoretically) find that inner peace in any given situation. But for me it just seemed easier in a new and exciting scenario.

I thought I would put up this picture because I think it¬†summarizes¬†my motives¬†nicely [click to enlarge]. (Don’t worry i’m not planning on going to¬†Antarctica¬†and freezing to death in an abandoned bus though).


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