Monthly Archives: October 2012

Monks Galore

All 2600 of them didn’t fit in my frame

I have been seeing signs for a big monk gathering since my first day here.  Pretty much all I could decipher was that it was from 6-8AM, there would be 2600 of them, and it was on October 20th.  So I dragged my ass outta bed this morning after only getting 3 hours of sleep to see what this was all about.

Which one is not like the others

Apparently the dress code for non-monks is white.  Whoops, missed that point, but that didn’t stop these staffers from wanting a photo with the farang.  So there I was, a giant whitey (I’m 5’6″ and these women are wearing heels and are still that much shorter than me), wearing the wrong color clothes and carrying a camera that doesn’t fit in my pocket.  Perfect disguise for them to believe I was a member of the foreign press.  I got into the photographer area, which gave me a wayyyy  better view of what was going on.  If sales taught me anything, it’s fake it til you make it, and that’s just what I did.

Ramen noodle for all.

Anyway, back to the point of the gathering.  I’m not 100% sure on this, but from what I can tell, monks gather food as like a charity thing.  Kind of how we buy the cheapest, most dented can of mystery meat/dog food at the grocery store and put it in the food donation box so that some lucky soul can eat it on Thanksgiving while we’re stuffing ourselves with human food.  The first part of the gathering is a Mass type thing.  People speak and the monks sit and listen and fall asleep, just like church.  I was kind of unsure of what this was all about, so after about an hour of speakers, I didn’t really know what was going on, and I was bored and hot (Bangkok is the hottest city in the world), but I knew that if I stayed til 8, then at least something would happen when the monks got up to leave.

Monks and their spiritual orbs, aka upside down bowls

Then at about 8:00, the monks started chanting.  And wow, that was cool.  I  have no idea what they were chanting, but it was awesome and way better than those “peaceful sounds” CDs you buy at Walmart.

When they were done chanting, that’s when the real stuff started to happen.  They all had these things in their laps, and I was thinking to myself, ohhhh, I’m so smart, those must be some sort of spiritual orb symbolizing the circle of life and Buddhist reincarnation.  No, they are actually just bowls that were turned upside down.  The real press all started shuffling away toward the long aisle through the crowd, so I did the same.

Monk parade

Monk parade

People were sitting on the ground on a huge white plastic covering all along the aisle with big tupperware boxes of food.  The monks all stood and lined up, and started parading down the aisle, single file, and I was smack in the middle.  I didn’t notice, but all the press were men, which is probably because monks can not touch women, can’t brush past them, bump into them, nothing, and it was a pretty narrow aisle.  Once they started their march, some of the women along the aisle called me over and pulled me in to sit down next to them to offer food to the monks.  So I hopped right in there with them and started handing out packages of noodles, drinks, corn, all sorts of non-perishables from these womens’ boxes.  They just kept handing me more and saying “put, put”.  Again, as a woman, I can’t touch the monks, that’s why they have the bowls.  As each one walked by, we put food in their bowls and gave a little bow.  Then they emptied the bowls into big collection bags.

If I’d known, I would have brough a can of creamed Spinach without the label

Once the monk parade was over, the holy men hit the streets, and all the regular people gave them food.  Walking through the crowd on the way out was a little tricky cause the monks have big robes and it was hard to not be the stupid, giant American that bowls over some old man monk by accident.

Some observations: 

1. Monks have the sweetest tats:

Monk ink

2. Monk CIA.  Don’t mess.

That radio is a direct line to Buddha

3. Monks probably hate cramming on to the bus just as much as the rest of us

Beep Beep, Monktown express

4. There’s always a gift shop

2 dolla

5. They have better uniforms

Make love, not war

6. Sometimes a monk just gotta holla at his boys (note the sweet ink)

Yo what up bro?

I’m hoping that Buddha will enlighten me and help me find the way to an apartment….

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Sawatdee Kaa

That is one of 2 words that I know in Thai.  It means hello.  The other one is Ka poon Kaa (that’s my phonetic spelling).  And despite only knowing 2 words, I managed to say hello to a street vendor when he handed me my food last night.

I arrived in Bangkok 3 days ago and met up with Den and Mint.  We connected via couchsurfing.org, which is an awesome site for anyone who is travelling.  We had some good laughs over my pronunciation of this word “ka”.  Ka, ka, ka, ka and ka are all different words.  Get it?  Yeah me neither, but hopefully I will soon.

This isn’t even the really nice one – MBK Mall

My first impression of Bangkok is: I definitely came to the right place.  There are food carts serving up fresh pressed pomegranate juice and noodles and fruits outside KFC, McDonalds and Dunkin Donuts (yes, they are celebrating their 30th year in Thailand).  There is a super modern sky train cutting through the city while motos and Tuk-tuks cruise down the street underneath it.  Bangkok has the best of both worlds.  And no, elephants do not just walk down the street like they do on the Amazing Race’s portrayal of Thailand, at least not in Bangkok.

I spent the last couple days interviewing for teaching jobs, and of course, as I am about to step out the door to my first interview, the monsoon started.  I couldn’t help but hear my old Sea Scout leader in my  head saying, “When the weather gets shitty, you better be glad you didn’t

The raincoat is now part of my business professional wardrobe.

buy the cheap foul weather gear”.  I’m glad I listened to that advice, because an umbrella wasn’t going to cut it.  Long story short, I got the job, and more importantly, my hair stayed dry.

After the interviews were over, and I had hoofed my way all around the city, I decided I deserved a treat.  Thai massage.  1 hour for less than $6.  I am getting one every single day .  That woman was all over me.  As a matter of fact, I am going to go get one right now, then drink pomegranate juice while I sit in an orchid garden.  Don’t you think you should come visit?

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Wait, it costs how much?

That’s right $16 USD for a pint of beer.  Just regular beer, not some special brew with magic spices in it.  Just a regular old beer.  Singapore is beyond any concept of what I thought expensive was.  A box of strawberries, $8 on sale, Orange Juice, $7, a LITER of gas, $18.

If I could eat at every stall, I would, except for the ones that only serve fish balls.

Besides the expense, Singapore is a really cool city.  It’s ultra modern, but you can still find pockets of traditional food at the hawker centers like Lau Pa Sat.  It’s like a big open air market with lots of little independently operated food stalls.  Kind of like a big food court of local Asian/Indian food surrounded by steel and glass bank skyscrapers.  Nom nom nom.

The various gardens are worth a trip to Singapore even if you aren’t into gardens.  I spent a day wandering around the Botanic Garden.  It’s immaculate and I have never seen so many beautiful flowers in my life.  There  are some critters wandering around too, turtles, water monitors, cool birds, and these things that look like the Asian version of an American squirrel…i.e. smaller and less fat, just like their human counterparts.  The National Orchid Garden was like Eden.  There were SO many orchids, but all sorts of other flowers too.  Thanks to my Miami ID, I got in for $1.  I am a student of plants.

The other gardens I went to were downtown and inside 2 big glass domes.  Wandering around in these gigantic terrariums, I couldn’t help but think that when we destroy the earth, at least I know that I’ll be able to go to Singapore and show my kids what plants used to look like.

Some kind of tree flower

Orchids

Pauly Shore and that Baldwin brother live here

Flower from the Cannonball tree

Queen of America.

The bio-domes (formally known as Gardens by the Bay) also had some kind of American fall exhibit going on, which to Allison and me, was kind of hilarious.  There were cornucopias and pumpkins and scarecrows and, more importantly, an Indian corn throne which I had to sit in and take my rightful position as one of 2 Americans in that crazy dome.

And why have I never had a Singapore Sling before?  We went to the offensively colonial Raflles Hotel, (a guy dressed up like Punjab from Annie greeted us at the door) which is the birthplace  these delicious drinks.  Good thing they were $26, otherwise I would have definitely overserved myself.

I’ll have 3 please

Singapore is definitely worth a visit.  But be prepared to sweat like you never knew was possible and be reminded of how unclean, dated and smelly American cities are.

My parting thought:

This sign doesn’t leave anything to the imagination

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Transit

Well, I made it to Singapore.  Despite a brief freak out when I found myself on a plane rolling back from the gate and bound for Hong Kong, the trip was fairly uneventful.  Nothing like that adrenaline rush to counteract the Advil PM and prevent you from grogging off to sleep.  In my haze of checking in to my Asia bound flight in San Francisco, I missed the fact that Singapore Airlines flight 001 had a layover in Hong Kong.

Upon arrival in Hong Kong, I had to go through security for my 3rd time that day (?- my concept of time is screwed up right now) and the Chinese were able to find and take the pair of large scissors that I forgot to take out of my laptop bag.  The thing that’s funny about it is that neither the TSA at O’Hare or San Francisco took the large stabbing/cutting object from me, but instead took a bottle of hand lotion that was over 3 oz.  The TSA Theater show gets 2 thumbs up.

Speaking of thumbs up, since my first sleep crushing adrenaline rush came after the Hong Kong thing, and the second one came after I had my second plane crash nightmare, I have gotten about 3 hours of sleep in the last 32 hours.  As a result, I watched a lot of movies.  Below are my reviews:

Madagascar 3: Sequels are never as good as the original, but this was good mindless funny entertainment

People Like Us: I only watched this because it was on my Chicago – San Fran leg.  It sucked.  The ending redeemed it from getting 2 thumbs down, but just barely.

Dark Shadows: I really like Tim Burton, so I like all of his movies.  Got a little drawn out, but the visuals are cool and it’s an uncomplicated story.

The Woody Allen Movie about Rome:  I can’t remember the title, but its new and it’s in Rome.  Really funny, if you like Woody Allen, which I do.  I think there are like 14 actors in it that you’d recognize.

Friend Wanted for the End of the World (or whatever it’s called):  This was disappointing, which probably makes it the worst of the bunch.  No I take that back, it’s not worse than People Like Us.  It’s an unconvincing love story without much humor and a depressing ending.

I started watching The Artist, but it was too intellectually stimulating.

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“see you later”

I’ve started counting down the hours until I leave, 48 to be precise.  I’ve been saying a lot of “see you laters”.  Not goodbyes.

I feel like when people say goodbye, they always end up having weird small talk as they are parting.  We all know how it goes, you give each other a hug and kinda stand there awkwardly, then someone breaks the silence by asking a question that they already know the answer to, “So you have your wallet right?”, “Yep”.  And in the end, you both just end up waving and saying “see ya later!” anyway.

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Is this thing on?

Victory.  Here’s my first post.  Building a website makes me insane so I am going to the bar to play trivia.

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