After 6 yoyo’ing months being in Chiang Mai, there was no better excuse to get away than my mum and her partner coming to Koh Mak and Koh Chang for a small break from good old Blighty. It’s been a long time coming. They’ve been saying they’re coming to Thailand for the past three years. Better late than never, innit?
The preparation for the trip was difficult. New associations of the past unexpectedly hit me with a few waves of pain when I tried to do the simple tasks such as pack, leave Chiang Mai and arrive in Koh Chang. The hardness was felt due to the fresh and raw associations, strongly linked to the past I hadn’t yet had been confronted with. Once the first is done, it’s easier (Kinda like eating a frog the moment you get up, everything after that is easy). The return to Chiang Mai for the first time alone was hard. Now, everyday is easier. Similarly, this situation of travelling alone will get easier the more I do it. Hmm…. Note to self: Travel more.
Realising. Adjusting. Adapting.
We loved sunsets, but it was now time for me to appreciate this love of the burning sky alone. Solitude is healthy. Aloneness is good. Those words are a few of many that I took from my Vipasanna meditation retreat. It allowed me to find peace with myself and I could again appreciate my own company; something that was always valuable to me.
So, it was sunset o’ clock and I was compelled to get myself to the beach. The sky was clear, the day was beautiful. I sat on Kai Bae beach in the heat of the cooling sun and watched the burning sky for a few moments with the sand tickling my toes. As I watched came thoughts, dwellings and memories attached to the past. I let them. I appreciated them and I respected them. I wanted to know them. After a brief visit to the past, it was time…
… time to close my eyes.
Once my eyes are closed, it is a commitment I give to myself to stay in the present. I find peace in the present as if nothing can harm you. Often my mind wanders and I slowly reel it back in with no question. It wanders once more, again with no frustration or questions I pull myself back to the present. With this, my consciousness had rapidly shifted from the past to the present as the heat of the sun hugged my body and the wind blew on my face, neck and arms. I was sucked in to the ocean and skies presence. With each minute that passed, the warm hug became lighter, became cooler. I could sense the sun sinking into the sea. Two transitions were happening.
The sun was sinking and the emotions were rising.
They were rising from my gut, to my heart and out via my tears; the release I was hoping for. (kinda like squeezing the last little bit of juice out from the lime. Although, there is a lot more juice left in this lime). So… as I digress, it seemed the inner me was in conflict. It seemed there was a battle between two forces: my consciousness and my ego. My mind, my ego wanted me in the past, it wanted me thinking I was not alone, it was stubborn, it was sad. It wants to keep me sad. Maybe I had found some identity with this sadness over the past 9 months. Maybe my ego is sad, maybe sadness is now my ego’s addiction. Maybe not. I believe there was once a time when I needed to feel such intense pain and sadness. It is this pain that is allowing myself to bounce back and grow. Now, after nearly nine months of feeling such emotion, I struggle to fathom a purpose. I let go of alcohol and it’s distractions as it didn’t serve me. It is time sadness gets the same treatment. I am letting it go, or at least trying to.
I remained present.
The deeper the sun fell, the more focused I was. I was determined to remain in the present with a middle finger and a rational, “fuck you!” to my ego that wanted to keep me caged in the past. Raw thoughts and memories came up bringing intense sadness that gripped my heart and gut. Over the last few months, especially after learning Vipasanna I have learnt that with any storm, there is always a calm. I observed and accepted the storm of tears and the calm inevitably came; the pain and sadness was released from my body. I was finally in peace. I sat, still being tickled by the sand, and remained still. My eyes opened.
The sun had sunk. The day had passed.
I was content.
Most people when their VISA is coming up to expiration, they jump in a little, crazy, capsule of claustrophobic’ness and shoot up to the Thai-Burmese border town of Mae Sai. Pick up circa 7am, drop off circa 7pm.
Most of the day is spent in a poorly window’d, much smaller than big minivan, driving as if, both the van and the driver were spiked with Yabaa (mad drug). Once there, you say, “Hey!” to Burma, buy some cheap spirits or Chinese imitation electricals, and then solemnly return to Chiang Mai an an equally uncomfortable and depressing atmosphere of smallness.
This ain’t my cuppa tea.
Just the words;VISA run kinda sounds exciting. Well, the word ‘run’ gives this sense of freedom and experience; ask the chickens, they know! It is only VISA that has necessity and bureaucracy embedded within it making it sound like a boring chore of an expat in Thailand. You want advice on how to get a VISA from Mae Sai?
Ensure the stamp has an experience embedded within.
What better experience than taking my motorbike. I am a chicken out on the run. Prior to leaving, I was debating on whether to take Nong-B, my beloved ridiculous ‘bat bike’ of a bike, or my rented 110cc Honda Wave. The reasons being that Nong-B isnt that mechanically sound right now. As I am driving 300km into the thick of Northern Thailand then I don’t fancy it going pear-shaped (for Adam, that means wrong). On a long drive like this, I feel like a want a proper bike.
If you read my previous post (motorbikes and mindfulness), I mentioned the alive’ness I felt being this vulnerable, mortal being cruising along at 80km/ph with the fear of sudden death perched on my shoulders constantly reminding me that my soft-tissued skin was nothing compared to the hard, concrete skin of the road.
How can I feel more alive? Kick, rev, bite and go faster!!!
So, I chose Nong-B, my 19 year old Honda NS150 that I purchased for 7,500THB (that’s around 130quid and Adam, quid is not a fish). This was a NTNK (never try never know) decision. Stupidly thinking if it breaks down along the way, then at least I will know the 7500THB was worth it or what needs to be done to make it more reliable.
This was however, until I drove past Bikky Chiang Mai motorbike rental shop on Huay Kaew as I was leaving the city. The compulsion to stop and look lead me to rent a Honda CBR 150R. Hahaha….. I left Nong-B, 4000THB deposit (that wasn’t mine) and my license as deposit.
Kick. Rev. Bite. Go.
I was on my way from Chiang Mai – Mae Sai with the newly rented CBR, my nutshell, and my camel shorts habitually stuffed with unnecessary items. A post will be coming soon regarding these camel shorts.
Now, let me digress for a few lines. The last 5ish weeks I have very rarely drunk alcohol. The last 3ish weeks I have been meditating 2 hours a day. This has seen my mind change. It is beginning to flower.
I was aware.
I was mindful.
I was sharp.
With this and the teachings from Eckhart Tolle’s amazing book, ‘The Power of Now‘, my ability to stay present and conscious now came more easily and less likely to be distracted by the mind. My senses were more aware. All 6 of them were alive as I snaked my way through the countless mountains and provincial towns of Northern Thailand. The focus was my respiration. I did not alter my breathing, I simply watched and observed it. How fast was I breathing? Was the breath cold or warm? What smell was being channelled through my nostrils and hitting my olfactory system? Was the smell pleasant or unpleasant? I know what you’re thinking and it was not a distraction. This focus on my breathing kept me exactly in the present moment. This presence opens up your consciousness and you become so much more aware of your surroundings. You begin to appreciate the blossoming trees, the passing Buddhist temples, the blueness of the sky and the shadows on the ground creeping across the road with every minute of the day.
“The present moment is all we ever have” – Eckhart Tolle
I finally arrived in Mae Sai with only a few stops to refresh my contact lenses and take a shot with my rented Honda CBR with a temple as my wallpaper. I arrived, tired and back-broken, but alive. Not only was I alive, but I arrived feeling alive. The stamp now had an amazing experienced embedded within in it rather than a choreful, crazily cramped and claustrophobic car ride (Wow! Try saying that with a lollipop in your mouth).
The return to Chiang Mai I shall leave to your imaginations.