My 2nd visit to Thailand January to July 2009.
I'm here this time on a mission mainly to study at the Agama Yoga school on Koh Phangon (tropical island in south), do their 3 month yoga teachers training intensive, stick around the island another 2 months (total of 5 on the island) studying the complete 8 limbs of Yoga (the original Yoga, before being turned into gymnastics by Westerners consists of Yama, Niyama, Asanas, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Concentration, Meditation, Samadhi). So, there's lots to learn & focusing on learning this from probably one of the best schools in the world, bringing back the ancient true forms of the complete Hatha Yoga system. They also teach health, healing, tao, tantric sexuality, diet, cleansings, Tibetan studies, lucid dreaming, mantras, & more. Not getting bored here, as each class is a new lecture, video & pamphlet. This school offers 5+ years of the above mentioned system of kundalini tantric based Hatha Yoga. After 9 months in India & checking out many schools there, not to mention back home, & seeking online, i'm grateful for finding this school in Rishikesh, studying some in Vancouver, and now coming to the source of the action, their main school here in Thailand where a great community of over 100 yogi's in training gather, share food, have dance parties, potlucks, meditation retreats, workshops on everything you can imagine, and yes....do Yoga together! Really feels like a 2nd home here!
But let me back up to the first few days I spent in Bangkok. What an ancient Asian labrynth that place is!
It's been 7 years already since the first time here back in Feb/March 2002. Man...i forgot whata lovely place Thailand is! Kind people, beautiful temples & all things exotic & different from what us westerners are used to. Bangkok was again a fun mysterious flow of temples, riverboats, KohSan Road tourist trinkets & the oasis guesthouse, Shanti Lodge. Same Same as 2002, but different. Thats what they say here in their broken English, "Same, same - but different!" I did alot of the same things this time in Bangkok, but somehow it was like a totally new experience. This place continues to intrigue me.
I arrived in Bangkok 6pm December 29th, 2008 after about 42 hours journey from Maui! That consisted of a plane leaving Maui late at midnight, spending the night sleeping on a cement bench (good thing i brought my yoga mat!) at an unusually quite & calm Honolulu Internaitional Airport (where I chained all of my bags up together & slept a decent 5 hours). I woke up & caught the 7am China Airlines long 12 hour flight to Taipei, with a quick transfer to another China Airlines 4 hour flight to Bangkok, arriving to the metropolis about 5pm. From the airport I caught the Airport Express shuttle (only $5, 150baht) one hour to Khoa San road, and then a local tuk tuk (motorcycle covered wagons - called rickshaws in India) to Shanti guesthouse in Thewet area.
Shazaam! I was thouroughly pooped after that, but managed to have a full power first day checking out the many big temples nearby. The first thing I noticed about being back in Thailand is the spirit of these people. Very light-hearted, kind, gentle, smiling people. A people that are over 90% Buddhist - which means most pray daily for world peace/inner peace, with many meditating regularly, visiting temples for offerings of incense, flowers & prayers for their health, wealth, family & the world. When I changed money at the airport I saw the woman working there do a prayer with palms together (called a wai, same gesture as Namaste in India) & eyes closed before beginning work that morning. When I went to the bank to cash a US $100 bill the next day, a tear came to my eye as the bank teller woman did the "wai" bow to me & the glimmer in her eye shined bright with peace & happiness. The Asian Thai spirit is strong! It is so amazing to be in such a big city such as Bangkok (7.5 million people) and hardly anybody honking (unlike India, and America for that matter!!!). The people hardly even harassed me to purchase things as I experienced in many other countries ("hey friend, want to buy silk scarf"). There is great respect for personal space here. Well, except when you are in a dense over-filled market, filled with people shopping through dozens of baskets of food things you've never seen before, many unidentifiable such as seafood (mostly still alive!) and vegetables that may as well be from another planet! I never cease to be mesmerized by the exotic and sometimes downright yucky aromas of these food markets (well, its the huge piles of fish that gets to ya).
The first morning, I took a riverboat down the Chao Phraya river. How fun! Many people get around by these boats for less than 50cents a ride. It was about a 15 minute ride from Thewet area of Shanti Guesthouse to the grand palace & main temple district. So, me, the farang (foreigner) I am, six feet 3 inches high, towered above the average Thai person, and Thai entrances! Ducking down carefully everywhere I go! I went to this one temple to meditate & ran into a happy-go-lucky tuk tuk driver who took me to about 4 different sites for free. Well, not exactly free - he received 300 baht for taking me to 3 different tourist traps (each only 2 minute stop - a custom suit shop, travel agent & jewelry shop). It really made his day...he was laughing & ecstatic for making an extra days wage (i think average day wage here is about $5). We went to Gold Mountain (incredible panaramic view of entire Bangkok), Marble temple (of course these are the western names for these unpronounceable Thai names) & Standing Buddha (100 foot high standing buddha that people prayed to). The Happy Buddha temple was closed. But I was still happy! Here you will see some photos of that adventure. Overwhelmed with beauty & respect for the intricate art that went into making these humongous temples! Deep respect for the people who are devoted to the path of peace & prayer in this Buddhist tradition.
Me & my new job as a "Tuk Tuk" taxi driver! Well, just think, some of your are so gullible you think i'm serious about this!?!