Rooted – 3/29/23
The Mekong is the world’s 15th longest river, originating in Tibet and cutting from China to Southeast Asia (Myanmar, Vietnam, Thailand, and Laos). I can’t get enough of this river and it’s magical energy.
So we set off early for a sunrise boat ride upriver, seeing hardworking fishermen pulling in their nets, huge fish leaping from the water (the Mekong boasts mammoth catfish over 2000 lbs!), watching the shadowy mountains move in and out of the cover of smoke from the jungle fires, and noticing how developed and crowded the Thai shoreline is while Laos is virtually untouched in this stretch of river (save for a giant golden Buddha, a restaurant, and a farm). For the elephants that used to work in the river, you can see the road made for them to access the shoreline despite the steep slope.
Residents make excellent use of the space they have, using steep hillsides along the shore for growing bananas, papaya, corn, bamboo, and other local staples. The steep shoreline hillsides on the Thai side are essentially a squatter’s rights situation; state owned with no oversight, residents in town without any land of their own on which to grow food take advantage of the free garden space between the boardwalk and the water, currently a 70 vertical foot swath during this dry season. Of course, during the rainy season the river is *up to the boardwalk* so that garden land is underwater! How the trees and bamboo can survive this current is mind boggling.
D keeps meditation cushions in the boat house. When you cross the world and have friends you can meditate with, why would you say “no”? You don’t. Haha. The Universe provided a list of opportunities this week and each one of them steered me toward meditation. Every. One. And you’ll soon find out why this is so serendipitous it’s crazy!
But first, let’s talk traffic and driving patterns because it’s fascinating to me here. It seems there are rules, which again are merely suggestions, but in reality most anything is permissible. Slower moving motorcycles and scooters drive in the breakdown lane or shoulder (where there is one; remember we’re on the verge of the willywhacks here) so regular traffic can move freely. This includes driving in the breakdown lane on the wrong side of the road if that’s the side you’re going to and you’re almost there. No big deal. No one gets excited about this or when people are squeezing through an opening here or there. I have not seen a single sign of road rage, just the opposite. The vibe is so chill here – it’s an immensely refreshing change from life in the US. Motorcycles have priority over all other vehicles. If you’re on foot, you have no rights and had better look both ways twice. Remember too that drivers drive from the right side of the vehicle (as in Great Britain), which is a total brain bender at intersections and watching someone go left on red.
Anyway, one of the highlights of today was finding another Buddhist temple called SriKhunMuang, which is the second oldest in town at 300+ years old. The monks in their mustard colored robes swept the parking lot with their wispy, inadequate brooms while others held stations at various buildings, perhaps to answer questions?
After briefly visiting the sanctuary, I walked to the next ornately adorned building which had an alter at the end. Shoes off at the foot of the stairs (customary everywhere here), I approached the alter with its statue of an ancient Buddha leader and colored tributes of flowers, candles, and incense from visitors.
Here’s the magic part: as soon as I stopped in front of the alter, my feet felt like they became part of the cement floor, as if they WERE the cement of the floor. It was the most grounding sensation I’ve ever experienced. Eventually I felt like I had roots growing from the bottoms of my feet into the earth and I was solid. No amount of today’s gusty winds affected my balance and I stood rooted and transfixed for 45 minutes. My feet would not disconnect from the floor so I waited patiently, did some qigong, let myself cry with joy and gratitude for being here, took off my sunglasses, and the feet released their magnetic hold on the floor. I bowed, thanked the spirits for their energy, and went to the next building.
I’d only intended to take photos because this building looked more official with its movie-theater or office building-type doors. But a monk saw me glancing around and taking photos, pointed to the stairs and asked me with his eyes if I want to see upstairs. I had no idea what this place was but up I went and oh what a glorious room!! The dancer in me decided it would make a perfect dance hall and the giant Buddha in the corner would make a great conversation starter. But seriously, black and gold painted columns to complement the golden Buddha? It was stunning. And the floor downstairs was similarly adorned but seemed to be the dark storage for all the accessories.
We had an excursion for lunch to eat goi (the raw beef tartare dish) and I was the talk of the place because none of the locals could believe an American was eating raw beef. Mind you, this is one of my favorite Thai dishes, not to be found in your typical American Thai restaurant. So we had a great laugh about it and I earned some respect. I also got myself a rice basket, used for serving any rice. I think it’ll be a great reminder of this culture and fun to share the tradition with dinner guests at home.
watermelon – Tangmo
See you next time. Thanks for being here and for sharing the love with your family and friends. If you want more like this, find me on Instagram @adventureswithwen
Leave a Reply