Walks and Thoughts

of Michael Simes

An old Man's Tale:

Shelf

Brighouse

West Vale

Clay House

Ripponden

Cragg Vale

Todmorden

Heptonstall

Pecket Well

Luddenden Dean

Jerusalem Farm

Catherine Slack

Stone Chair

It's Just Like Home:

Hong Kong

Auckland

Rotarua

Napier

Picton

Marlborough Sounds

Kaikoura

Milford Sound

Sydney

Manly

Blue Mountains

Northern Beaches

Thailand

A City Of Revolution:

Paris

Versailles

Sacré-Cœur

Notre Dame

Discovering Thailand

Travelling Round Thailand Sightseeing and Exploring


Thailand

Last day in Sydney. There’s a shock we’re leaving this evening for Thailand stopover. Letter from colleagues about bridge climb.

Watched Chinese New Year festivities at Darling Harbour. There’s lion dancing, monk fighting and drum pounding. Home-made picnic peering at boats and cruise ship, Dawn Princess. Wrote postcard to work referring to reflection about our big trip and difficulties of adjustment on our return.

There’s a huge shake out and destruction looming. Opportunities for shattering non liberal consensus and agenda. Maybe space for socialism. Financiers still paying themselves huge bonuses. Taking our money and run. Where do they keep the money? It’s their defence against the world. Comedy cruise boat passes laden with young Aussies with gurgling bottles. Elders could be more sedate though mortality is more pressing.

Airport procedures frustrate each queuing process. Alienation and ruin make DIY holiday at home a longing. Airport renewals a step too far. Ten hour flight sardined and sleepless, full of manufactured meals in front of screen. Arrive at hotel after midnight. Impressive storied lobby. Fitful and sleep disturbed by time differential and speed of sound.

Temples

Americano breakfast in busy international restaurant for 450 bahts. Essential Bangkok includes tour of temples. Beautiful temples an oasis of elaborately decorated shrines. Tempted to join monks and adherents in silent abstracted meditation. Propensity to cramp prevents practise with the lotus. An opportunity regretted and lost.

Reclining giant gold Buddha particularly inspiring. After 108 lives the Lord Buddha achieved nirvana, without trinkets in his own way. Enjoyable learning trip dampened by time share presentation at local jewellery factory. An excursion frozen in resentment. Traditional bowing welcome and smiling disappeared on exiting. Profit motive corrupts and infects our relationship.

The king is 82 but looks a vigorous forty in his brushed placards. He remains one of the richest men in the world. Us republicans are rarely comfortable. Hot humidity burns into skin radiating a dampening response.

Swim in rooftop garden shaded by palm trees raised above poverty and polluted congestion. A cocoon amidst the destitute. Western onlookers hardly embedded in eastern culture. We have the money but don’t know the way. As equilibrium disturbed keep flopping asleep, much to Carolyn’s chagrin.

Customary greeting of “wai” welcomes respect to each other verging into obsequiousness for tourists. Lifetimes of supplication earned Buddha his oneness and iconic idolatry.

In the lobby it’s all bell boys, pianists and loitering servers. Pasta at the Roberto’s restaurant regaled by a Thai popular group.

Reports of falling heavy snow in UK. Uniquely no London buses. Boris has had it if he can’t keep buses running on time. Quiet in the hotel. Do visitors enjoy delights of Bangkok night life? We’ve been offered a transvestite show. What kind of life at home awaits these servers? Hopefully feisty and challenging. Political protests continue in Thailand. The realm is not secured.

Eco tourism just another market niche. Toilets like an aeroplane with a sort of sucking draft.

River Cruise

Lobbying at 6:00am for the river cruise. For the first hour packaged into small mini-bus navigating the back streets of Bangkok, corridors lined with places to buy food. There’s a chaotic, traffic snarled web bursting with street vendors. Transfer to spacious luxury coach air conditioned for the day.

Thailand is the land of temples with 26,000 to view. There are 95% Buddhist and 75% rural poor scrapping a living on 300 bahts a day. Carolyn sits next to woman from Norwich who shared school and mutual friends. She’s on her way to New Zealand to stay with her son in Auckland until April. Traffic jammed pollution in a city of 10 million screams for a mask.

You don’t get paddy fields at home or stilted shacks in rivers. Wonderful open breathable space. There’s heavy snow in Britain, shutting down buses and tube. Strikes over migrant workers. We should picket the robber barons. Rich bastards are fair game.

You could spend most of our days chairbound. Coach is seated with people of a certain age. Who makes the rules? The king is dead, let him reincarnate himself. I could be a monk for a couple of weeks. They have their alms but do they pay for taxis?

It’s a privilege to see king’s summer palace. It’s all about kings. Where do republicans live? We can’t allow historical materialism to be relegated to regal recitations. There’s a lot of custom and mores for dress and behaviour. Why do they assume we’re fascinated by royalty? Reactionaries hold the world view. Off with their heads.

History communicated through the masses. This country’s shrinking democratic space is creeping towards totalitarianism. Dissent stifled and informed by lese – majesty. Monarchy an obstacle to freedom and human dignity. In the clash of the t-shirt nurture the red shirts.

Appreciate the greens, lakes, temples and priveted animals cultivated by gardeners and soldiers. Exorbitant Lilt at the palace shops. Royalties only come to summer palace one hour each year. Pristine mansions kept for courtiers. Let us liberate with the masses. The Lord Buddha divested himself of all royal material riches.

On to the world heritage relic - a shrine to the destruction of sacred temple and buddhas in the war with Burma. Pulsating heat tugs away at your energy. Downbeat dogs play dead in shadows. Beheaded buddhas a sorry site. This is Ayuthaya, the former capital of Siam.

Toilets are five bahts each. We’re locked into excursion spotting, strangely remote from this ruined tragedy. It should impact on our senses. Perhaps its just architecture and not history, sucked dry by the hordes.

Bumped into another temple. Eyes are windows to the soul. Why would monks avoid eye contact? A warm human flicker would do. Stalled at taking my shoes off. Stop the excursion! I want to get off! I came only for the river life. Another Buddha reclining robed with forty metres of golden silk. I’m templed out. I could do with a house for meditation.

At last we find the boat. Welcome Thai buffet with queues for cakes and desserts. Brits complain of spicy chillied foreign food. We gave our guide a special thank you. Long live the king. Powder kegs come in many forms. Thailand has all the ingredients to join the rest of us.

Enjoyed river cruise on outside deck in the sun with freshening river breeze. Chatted to doctors on holiday form Sri Lanka. We watched the river peoples’ stilts but no sign of life.

Back at the ranch succumbed to a club sandwich in the lobby. Life consists of irregular couple taking frozen Hagenbach to their boudoir. Bulging pot bellies clasped by young Thai girls. A huge transvestite in stretched billowing tented silk flows through. A sort of puffed up ladyboy of Bangkok. Lobby fodder for all to avert. The Lord Buddha acknowledged we would find our own way.

Home Again

Early swim with yoga and martial art exercises in the roof garden. Beyond the smog entertaining the Russian émigrés. Met woman from Malaysia who emigrated to Perth two years ago enjoying her break in Bangkok.

Shortened stroll through park exhausts with humidity, heat and laying pollution. It can’t be sustainable. Park is site of evening communal exercise – we should have joined the Thais.

We wait till 9:00pm in Century Park for our overnight flight to Heathrow. Pushed Gideon to one side and picked up the life of Buddha. Similar stories of parable, disciples and wilderness journeys. For a few minutes I could disentangle the bondage of desires. “If anyone wishes to escape suffering you must sever ties of worldly passion which is the sole cause of suffering.”

Another swim with brief drying in the sun. Lounging with lots of nationalities and languages. Pizza and tea for lunch. Our siesta interrupted by enquiries about our welfare and mini-bar.

Last read in lounger as evening rushes in. “We feel white around black people. We feel black around white people.”

Reflections on our transit. Wherever memory sticks that’s where you’ve been. Stories of our time, discourses we should share. There’s room on the path – a family circle with hokum pipe. A fiction you should contribute, a giving back to ourselves.

Carolyn’s become maternally attached to delicious coconut milk at 40 bahts, a suckling thirst quenched.

Bangkok Post shines on temples and exposes monks as “masters of ceremonies for entertainment”. They’re not socially engaged and passively distance themselves. Temples simply a place for rituals. Reverie in roof garden interrupted by bottle wielding, pot smoking youths. They seemed to enjoy each other.

Supper at the Patisserie. Ingestion of a few sips of café au lait digested with sweet brownies. Attending to lobby pianist squeezing understated melodic tones.

Our flight arrives at 6:25am in London on time. Unbearable stiffened flight with convulsive sleep gorging on TV meals. An agitated boredom cannot be banished. All the latest releases. I enjoyed Australia.

Tube to Kings Cross to find mainline trains in chaos. Delays and cancellations in deteriorating weather. Discover alternative route round Sheffield. Tired, lagged with slowed brain functioning. Beautifully white deserted fields accompany us back home. There’s a remarkable vagueness of our three months sojourn. Time oscillates randomly in fast release pockets. Time to live not just reminisces.