21 September 2005

Big Buddha in Pattaya

In South Pattaya, there is a large hill with a large golden image of Buddha. The hill is appropriately called Buddha Hill. At the base of the stairs leading to the large Buddha image there are vendors for water, sodas, and snacks, and small birds in cages. The birds may be purchased to carry to the top of the hill to release them (that may explain the numerous cats prowling the top of the hill).

The steps leading to the top of the hill are flanked by two huge golden seven-headed nagas. The naga is a sacred mythical dragon-like creature that often appears on the balustrades of temple causeways and platforms ("naga bridges"), where they personify the rainbow as a bridge between the earthly and celestial worlds.

Nagas have always been associated with water. In ancient times, the universe had three worlds, heaven, world, and a watery underworld. Nagas inhabited the watery underworld. In Thailand, nagas were thought in reside on the bottom of bodies of water.

In Hinduism, nagas were known as gods of rain and fertility. In Buddhism, they became seen as protectors. There is a story about Lord Buddha meditating under a jik tree when a heavy rain and cold winds started and continued for seven days. A naga king called Mucalinda came out of a nearby pond and wound himself around the Buddha seven times, then spread his hood over the Buddha to protect him from the rain and wind.

A common image of Buddha is one of the Buddha being protected by the naga. The image is believed to have special powers in terms of metta, loving kindness, because it indirectly teaches the benefits of developing loving kindness: even a great naga king living at the bottom of a pond went to the Buddha and provided protection for him as a result of the powers of the Buddha's great compassion.

19 September 2005

Pattaya, Thailand

Pattaya, Thailand

Pattaya Bay
Eoy were eating dinner at a restaurant on the Walking Street. Our table was on a pier over the water. At sunset, the lights on the boats in the bay came on and made a picture-perfect moment.

Elephant in a bar
It isn't the beginning of a joke. There really was an elephant in the bar. Jeff, Todd and I were having a drink at the Buffalo Bar on Soi 7, when the elephant and his mahout visited us -- A dictionary published by the Thai Royal Institute indicates the mahout is defined as being a person who drives, takes care of and controls elephants

Ronald McDonald says, "Sawatdee Khrab"
The wai is the Thai greeting and show of respect, indicated by pressing your palms together near your chest and bowing. Sawatdee Khrab (or Sawatdee Kaa if you are female) is how Thais say hello. At this McDonald's on Beach Road in Pattaya, Ronald McDonald greets you at the front of the restaurant.

Fruit and Vegetable Carving
Kae-sa-luk, the art of Thai fruit and vegetable carving is one particularly delightful aspect of Thai cuisine. In the fruit carver's skilled hands and using a small and very sharp pointed knife, an ordinary papaya or pumpkin is turned into a bouquet of flowers, a radish becomes a tiny rabbit or daisy or a carrot a rare orchid. Almost any kind of fruit or vegetable can be used. The carver must understand the texture of each and use its natural colour to imitate that of the chosen subject. Not all the carvings are as small as a flower; a large round watermelon becomes a richly decorated and lidded bowl to be used as a container for fruit salad. The green outer skin is cut away to make a pattern in relief of flowers or even characters in Thai literature.

Gigantic Lobsters!
In Chiang Mai, we had a dinner that included the largest curried lobster I ever saw. It was one of the specials of the day, and we had no idea it was going to be so enormous! On the platter containing the monstrous lobsters was a carving of a rooster from a carrot. The detail was unbelievable. It is hard to image the orange rooster was once a carrot!

Traditional Thai Dance
The two major forms of Thai classical dance drama are khon and lakon nai. In the beginning both were exclusively court entertainments, and it was not until much later that a popular style of dance theatre, likay, evolved as a diversion for the common folk who had no access to royal performances.

Music is integral to all forms of Thai dance drama and khon and lakon nai performances are accompanied by an orchestra comprising traditional instruments -- usually five percussion pieces and one woodwind. Small bell-like cymbals are used to set the pace while the music of the rest of the orchestra lends mood.

Students of khon learn four categories -- male human, female human (usually played by male dancers), demonic and simian. Each has its own style of movement and before training begins students are selected according to which parts they are best suited.

Students of lakon nai must memorize the mae bot, the 'mother alphabet of dance' which contains 64 basic gestures and patterns or movement, before learning how to combine these in interpretive dancing that tells a story

The song-taew (literally, "two planks") is Pattaya's equivalent to a taxi. It is a pick up truck with two benchs in the bed of the truck. They continually ply the Beach Road and Pattaya 2 Road in counterclockwise circuits, but can be hired to take you to other locations. It isn't uncommon to see a song-taew over-flowing with people -- People sometimes stand on the rear step and hold on to the rails as the song-taew makes it's way through the traffic.

Pattaya Beach
This is a photograph of Pattaya Beach in the early afternoon.

18 September 2005

Dinner in Pattaya, Thailand on 26 Jul 2005

The last meal I ate with Eoy in Pattaya at the end of July 2005 was a feast. The two of us ate everything then "waddled" out of the restaurant down the Walking Street to have some drinks in a bar.

Vietnamese Spring Roll

Kaeng Jeut Wunsen (Noodle Soup) แกงจืดวุ้นเส้น

This is a clear, bland, “Chinese style” soup. The broth is very good, almost like an onion soup flavor. The soup contains pork meatballs, kratiem jeow (slivers of fried garlic), green onions, and wunsen (cellophane noodles).

Som Tam (Green Papaya Salad) ส้มตำ

Som Tam is usually pretty spicey, but this dish was some of the spiciest I’ve had. It is made with julienne strips of green papaya, prik kin nu (fiery Thai chiles), kratieum (garlic), raw crab, prik chi fa daeng (Thai jalapeno chiles), Nam Pla (fish sauce), long beans, Nam Manao (lime juice), and ma kua teet (tomato).

Grouper with Chile Lime Sauce

This dish is very similar to the Vietnamese dish, Ca Chien, and it was delicious! The skin was fried to perfection and the sauce was wonderful with the flavors of chile, lime, and basil.

Boo Talay Yaang (Grilled Sea Crab) ปูทะเลย่าง

I think this is the single largest crab I ever ate! The claws were huge. It was served with Nam Jim (the bowl in the top middle of the picture). Nam Jim is a fiery combination of Prik Ki Nu (incendiary Thai chiles), Hom Daeng (shallots), Nam Manao (Lime Juice), Nam Pla (Fish Sauce), Phak Chee (Cilantro), and a little Gratiem (garlic). It is fiery hot with a very citrus taste, and goes very well with the crab meat.

San Jose Del Cabo, Mexico

Sunrise over Gordo Banks
We usually fish from pangas rented from Gordo Banks Pangas. This morning, we went out with Tony to the outer Gordo banks with mostly light tackle. Wouldn't you know it? Almost immediately after arriving at the outer banks, Walter and I had double hook ups with yellowfin tuna.

We weren't expecting to catch tuna -- I didn't even bring a fighting belt. That means the butt of my rod was jabbed into my groin as I fought a 60+ pound yellowfin tuna using a Newell reel spooled with 50 pound test. I fought him for about 30 minutes. Then Walter helped me out for about 15 minutes. Then I tried again for a few minutes. Then Walter worked it in for a gaff in about another 15 minutes.

After a few more tuna were landed, Walter was ready to try to catch some "small fish". Back on shore, around noon, we had five tuna that to fill my cooler with 70 pounds of tuna fillets.

Los Olas

We stayed in a beachfront condo in the Los Olas complex. It felt really good to return from fishing in the hot Mexican sun to the air conditioned condo to take a cool shower before sipping on frozen marguaritas!

Chiang Mai

Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep
Jeff and Eoy at the base of the 290 steps up to the mountain top temple that is a little more than 3,500 feet above sea level.

The original temple built by King Gue-Na dates back from 1383 and the present building is believed to be 16th century. Over the years it has been expanded and restored considerably by various Chiang Mai rulers. The temple's glorious golden chedi (pagoda) contains and enshrines many sacred Buddhist relics. The cloisters are painted with bright murals depicting the previous lives of the Buddha and the marble floored area in the middle (that rises to the chedi) is filled with Buddha statues.

Legend has it that an especially holy relic was brought to Chiang Mai in 1371. To decide where it should be enshrined, it was placed on the back of an elephant, which promptly set out to climb the mountain. The elephant finally came to rest and there the relic was buried. The first chedi was built over it and the temple has been continually expanded and embellished ever since. The gold covered chedi is surrounded with a railing and at the four points of the compass are places where people can offer flowers, light joss sticks and apply small squares of gold leaf.

Hilltribe people

Over 100 years ago, the Hilltribe peoples migrated south from China into what are now Burma, Laos, Vietnam, and Thailand. The six major tribes are the Karen (Kariang, Yang), the Hmong (Meo), the Yao (Mien), the Akha (Ekaw), the Lisu (Lisaw), and the Lahu (Mussur). The main profession of all these tribes is farming, and all of them tend to migrate whenever they feel that the soil at their present location is becoming depleted.

Each tribe is district, with its own culture, religion, language, art, and dress. With Thailand undergoing rapid modern development, it is difficult yet to say whether these tribes will continue in there traditional ways of life, or whether they will eventually be absorbed into the surrounding, and ever more-encroaching, Thai society.

Buddhas and Murals in the temple cloister
The courtyard took its present shape under Chao Kawila in 1805. It is lined by a cloister which contains Buddha images and murals depicting the life of the Buddha. In the middle of the east and west sides of the cloister are two ornate viharn. The inside walls of both are covered with murals. The murals of the eastern viharn show the legend of the elephant and the relic, while those of the western hall show the Vessantara Jataka. Devotees go to the western viharn to receive blessings and lustral water from monks sitting on a dais.

On the south and northern sides of the cloister, smaller shrines are the subject of much veneration. Thais prostrate themselves and then shake a holder with 28 sticks to see which one falls to the ground first. A fortune reading for each of the numbers may be found in a cabinet nearby.

The power of the chedi and the sanctuary attract many visitors who are invited to make merit. The sanctuary contains numerous boxes for donations to worthy causes, such as the education of the needy.

Todd, Eoy and myself
We lit candles and incense before we visited the viharn to receive blessing from the monk. I was very hot when we visited, and when the monk sprinkled us with the lustral water, I smiled and told him it felt good. The monk tied sai-sin, a plain cotton thread to my wrist and placed one on the mat for me to tie to Eoy's wrist. The monk can not hand it to her directly, because a monk is never suppose to touch a woman. The sai sin is tied around the wrist to bind the wearer to their khwan (soul).

Novice Monks
Much of Thai life centers around the local wat (temple or monastery) where people come for worship, sermons, advice on family matters, meditation, schooling for children, and traditional medicine. Many boys and men take on robes as novices or monks for short periods in order to fully immerse themselves in the Buddha's way of life. Men who choose to spend all their lives in robes receive great respect. Thais also welcome foreigners to come and practice the Buddha's teachings. The extremely supportive environment of a good Thai wat or meditation centre provides inspiration and opportunity for spiritual development that's rare in the world today.


Photos from Bangkok

The Grand Palace
This is a photo of the Grand Palace in Bangkok. The complex was built in 1782 by King Rama I on 218,000 square meters of land on the Chao Phraya River. Inside the complex is Wat Phra Rattanasatsadaram, Temple of the Emerald Buddha" (in the building to the right of the Golden Pagoda). The Temple of the Emerald Buddha is the most sacred structure in the Kingdom and the repository of the spirit for all Thai people. The Emerald Buddha was carved from jade in the fifteenth century.

Long Tail Boat in the Chao Phraya River
Eoy and I stayed in the Bangkok Marriot Resort and Spa. Each day, we took a 15 minute water taxi ride from the resort across the river to Sathorn (Taksin) Bridge Pier. The first day we took a boat up the river to the Grand Palace and Wat Pho. The next day we took the Skytrain from Sathorn to Mo Chit station to visit the Chatuchak Weekend Market. This market is huge! It covers 35 acres with 15,000 shops and stalls. On a typical weekend, over 200,000 people will visit the market. It is impossible to go through the entire market in one day.

Returning to the hotel one afternoon, I noticed this long boat at the Sathorn Bridge Pier. A ride in a long tail boat is an unforgettable experience -- The boat is powered by a car engine and run up and down the river quickly.

Waiting for the Marriott water taxi one morning, I noticed the bee in the flower on the pier. I really like this picture!