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.
Kick. Rev. Go.
This sequence of words have been as common in my Thailand life as having rice on my plate. Basically, it happens a lot. Everyday I kick start my Honda, I rev the engine and I simply Go.
Anywhere. Many times my bike takes me to work, to eat, and to the nearest 7/11 for my sometimes much needed dose of ice cream. As my friend, my bike takes me anywhere I wish to go. All I have to do is; Kick. Rev. Go.
On my second day in Thailand way back in October 2009, I drove from Chiang Mai to Pai. The drive was around 140km and we were learning as we snaked our way through the countless mountains until finally coming across the little town of Pai.
Pai was cute. Pai was quaint. Pai was unique.
Despite the reservations I had, the words, “never try, never know” pushed me over the edge of reason and persuaded me to jump on a bike. To jump into the unknown. Back then these words meant a lot. Now, they mean everything. They allow you to digest certain fears of the unknown. And and and, if you don’t like what you find out, then you know, you have tried and you can always opt out the next time you are faced with that situation. Innit?
This first experience of roadtripping through Northern Thailand made getting the bus from place to city and city to place never seem the same again. So much so, we began hitch-hiking our way through some of Thailand because buses just seemed mundane, boring, regular and the easy option. So now, if I can, I kick, rev and go.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the art of staying in the moment.
Accepting what is.
Because it is already here.
I was unaware of the term: ‘mindfulness’ until I completed a 10 day Vipasanna meditation retreat and experienced mindfulness to a depth I was unaware I could. As I reflect, I guess I have always been a mindful person without really knowing it. I have always liked to escape the kit makking mind of either what was, or what could be. The ocean had everything I wanted as an escape from the stresses of life and when I lived on both the Isle of Wight and the city of Brighton it was a regular momentary escape for me. Whether wind, rain or sun, the ocean always managed to keep me present. Keep me mindful. In very similar ways to motorbikes, sunsets, sunrises and playing with my fire staff (check here for a viddy). They all make you appreciate the here and now, making every breath seem a little more important than the last. They make you appreciate reality for what it is. The the future doesn’t exist and the past is just a mental construct. Be mindful.
For exactly the same reasons for going to the ocean, I love getting on my motorbike in Thailand and just going. Staying mindful on a motorbike has its benefits for sure. Firstly, being aware of the present will certainly keep you on your tippy toes if any stray dog lacking in Green Cross Code knowledge attempts to cross the road in front of you. Also, you will be much quicker to react to the unpredictability of Songthaews randomly stopping for its pick ups and drop offs. With motorbike mindfulness, a heightened sense of awareness keeps you and your bike in much safer hands and although important, it is not the motivation behind this post.
Instead, mindfulness has so many other reasons why it can benefit the mind, heart and soul. The last several weeks I have been regularly driving from Chiang Mai to Phayao once a week for work. The drive is around 150km Most think I am crazy. Some think I am stupid. I think I am crazy. I think I am stupid. But it makes me feel alive and I love it.
Unlike most modes of transport, you are not strapped in surrounded by a hard shell designed in such a way to keep you alive. Instead, you are this soft tissued human, as vulnerable as a butterfly in the open breeze. As I drive, the constant thought that my body, my soft delicate skin is nothing compared to the rough, hard concrete that has the ability to tear me in two. With riding a motorbike, you have to face the fear of sudden death and when you have this intimately riding with you, you have an overwhelming sense of being alive. As humans, we are mere mortals and accepting this fear, being mindful I am so vulnerable, it makes me appreciate every moment. Every moment my skin changes temperature. Every moment I sense an unknown smell in the air. Every moment I glance at the beautiful rugged Northern countryside. Every moment I take a breath.
Kick. Rev. Go. I am alive.
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