After wandering around Chiang Mai for a few days I picked up a flyer that advertised –
Come and visit “Second home”.
A place where you can come and stay for as long as you like, learn about and practice Buddhism, meditation, organic farming and authentic Thai vegetarian cooking. All meals included.
Don’t pay, donations welcomed. Suggested donation 250 Baht (R60,00)per day.
Contact Monk Chinawoorn on 845673….
“This is exactly what I’m looking for,” I thought to myself.” I can become enlightened in a few days on the cheap and because I’m saving money it will lengthen my stay in Thailand. Cool, become enlightened and save money at the same time…this is for me”
Just as I’m dialling Monk Chinawoorn’s mobile number- already having my doubts- “since when were monks allowed mobile phones?” I ask myself .That fleeting thought passes through my mind without any attachment as so happens with people on the road to enlightenment, “when I have a minor panic attack. “What do I call this guy? Monk ? Mr Monk? Sir Monk, holy man Monk….what? Shit I can’t stop myself, I definitely need a bit of meditation as I’m obviously more attached than I think.”
“Monk Chinawoorn here, hello?”
“Well that sorts that out.”
“Mr Mo..” I catch myself saying.”Monk Chinawoorn?”
“Call me Chinawoorn,” he politely answers.
I like the guy already.
“I would like to come to your place tomorrow and become enlightened if you have space?”
“Yes, yes,” he answers.” All you do is go to the Samoeng bus station which is one block nohth of the Wolalot Maahket, and take the yellow bus via Samoeng to the Pung derm village. The tlip only take 3 ohwers and costs 100 Baht. Theh is anotha monk coming up, so I tehl heem to look foh you. The bus leave at 11am shaap.”
“See you then,” I say, switching off the phone
With all the details written down I have time to kill and ponder over the thought of a happy ending. It would still be my first one as my last one was interrupted by the start of my acting career.
“No can do, I’m on a spiritual path,” I remind myself.
The next morning I’m up sharp and hail a tuk tuk which is right outside the guest house.
“40 baht too bus station,” I’m told
Wondering how a 4 minute trip to the station can cost 40 Baht while a 3 hour trip on a bus can only cost 100 Baht. I consider bartering the price down but then realise that soon I’m going to be on a comfortable bus, probably with an air-con, on my way to the countryside and Nirvana”
“Forget it” I say and hop in.
After an uneventful, very short, journey we turn a corner into the “bus ” station and in front of me are about 20 “yellow busses” -which are actually closed pick-up trucks with seats running down the sides of the back- called sawngthaews.
With the thoughts of my “comfortable, air conditioned bus” quickly going out the nice comfortable busses window, I proceed to ask anybody who understands a little bit of english where the ‘bus” to Pang Derm village is. After about 6 shrugs and 8 blank stares , the travelling monk, spots me and calls me his way.
11 am comes and goes as does 11.15 and 11.30. But I’m not concerned as I’m on my road to enlightenment and nothing is going to piss me off. Just after 11.30 a very hungover, 20 something year old city slicker hops on the bus and grabs his place on the bunk closest behind the driver.
He opens up a bag of fresh fruit and nuts and starts munching away.
At 11.45 the last passenger arrives who is a teenage girl, about 16, dressed in a purple thin sweater and matching purple shorts. How I come to remember that I still don’t know as I don’t have a clue what the city slicker was wearing. The monks easy to remember, he had an orange, or brown, or mustard…. or maybe a beige robe on.
So at 11.48 am sharp we’re off.
There’s a monk, a Jew and a hungover city slicker on a bus…..!, who by now I‘ve caught more than once leering at the very nice young girl, leaving for the country albeit 48 minutes late.
What Chinawoorn didn’t mention is that the “bus” also doubles up as a courier, delivery, animal transport vehicle. So instead of leaving straight for my spiritual haven we drive around Chiang Mai picking up more people, including another two teenage girls, which really gets the city slicker going. As for me I take no notice as I’m considering abstinence.
“One step at a time,” I tell myself as I glance slyly through my sun glasses.
After about 84 stops which included picking up parcels, letters, bags of maize, and a two door cupboard -which went on the roof-, and a stop at a lotto vendor- on the side of the road- we’re on our way. My two concerns were that we would be stopping to pick up a goat or pig and that we’d only get to my destination once my two month visa had expired.
Being a “farang,” the 3 girls keep on glancing over at me and giggling. I’m thinking that maybe they’ve seen me starring in my movie debut and maybe they want to get it on with a hot, young, well, actor.
As my fantasy is about to start turning sordid I realise we’re leaving the city and starting up into the forested highland of the north west of Thailand.
Instantly the air becomes fresher and the views breathtaking. A low mist has settled in the valley below us and it’s simply a surreal site. The further we get from the city the easier I breathe and the more I relax. The narrow, double lane road, wide enough to squeeze two cars past going in different directions, meanders onwards and upwards around hairpin bends. While I’m enjoying the views I’m thinking to myself,” Why the hell does he have to use both sides of the road, especially while going around blind corners.” During my minor panic attack it starts to rain…really ,really hard, Instantly I have flashbacks, which aren’t drug related, about my arrival in Bangkok. The only difference now is that if we float off the side of the road this time we’ve got about a 500 metre drop. In Bangkok I was scratching for a life jacket under the seat, this time I hoped that maybe we’d picked up a parachute on one of the many stops.
Just then I see a sign that says “Mae se waterfall” And for a moment I thought I was back in Cape Town.
Between my deep breathes I notice how beautiful the rain is with the forested valley and the mist as a backdrop. If I wasn’t shitting myself so much I would have been able to let go of my seat and take a photo. It probably would have had a bit of camera shake…but hey with photoshop these days anythings possible.
About 15 minutes after it started and about 1 minute before I started hyperventilating the rain stops and once again the sun shines through the clouds.
The city slicker arises from his slumber and instantly gives ALL 3 girls the once over.
“I definitely know what he’s going to be doing before he goes to sleep tonight. Not me, I don’t do that anymore, and if I did that would make me a dirty old man” I think to myself. Yeah right
3 hours, about 112 stops, and one near death experience late, we arrive at what will be my home for the next few days.