When you have only one day to visit an entire city, where would you choose to go? And this is not a rethoric question, it’s reality. I was born a traveler and I will die like a traveler, that’s why, whenever I am in a new place, I am always open to add to my journey things I am attracted too. Chiang Mai had initialy two days on my itinerary, but something inside was telling me to go to the Blue Temple in Chiang Rai. I’ve seen some pictures of the surreal blue color this temple has and I suddenly decided to go there. And once you go in Chiang Rai to see the Blue Temple, you have to see The White Temple As well. But the story of this magic place can be found in the previous article “White Temple and Blue Temple, Two Wonders of the Modern World”.
So, that’s how I ended up in Chiang Rai traveling for 7 hours by bus and jumping from a temple to another to enrich my soul experience. And to be honest, that was the best choice of my trip to Chiang Mai.
Coming back to my question above. Usually, what I do when I have only one day to visit a new city, is to go in the city center, have a quick look, spot the most important places other people have apreciated and walking there using a map. On my way there, I always choose to take local rutes to see how the local people are living and what are their preocupations during the day. And before reaching the famous place apreciated by the tourists, I always enter two or three “normal” temples or curches, where the locals are going to pray, and have lunch where local people are eating. This is the fastest way for me to undestand the local culture, and this time I followed my routine and this is how the day looked like.
Once out from the hotel, I jumped into a local bus to reach the city center where I had breakfast in the Sailomjoy local restaurant. The people were smily and kind, and while I was eating, behind me was this altar where they lighted incenses and put some offrands. So, I felt somehow blessed as my day started a bit rough that morning.
With a smile on my face, I started my journey towards the temples. Chiang Mai is full of temples, so it is impossible to have a hard time finding things to see there. The first one, was poping up after less than 200 meters, Phan-Ohn Temple, a Buddhist temple full of messages written on small pieces of wood, hanged on the trees.
The next one found on the way to the highest temple of the city was Wat Phan Tao, made of wood.
After having a look inside, and seeing how a pagoda is built, I went directly to Wat Chedi Luang, built between 14 and 15 century, being at that time the highest temple in the region: 82 m hight and 54 m diameter on its fundation.
My way led me to the next objective of the day Wat Phra Singh temple. The main structure started to be built in 1345, and the temple itself buries the ashes of the Mangrai dinasty.
The last one was Wat Suan Dok meaning “flower garden temple”. The building of this temple started in 1370 and today is accomodating also the Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University.
This temple had a nice gift for me. While I was walking around taking pictures and analizing the architecture, I steped on a jad bracelet with an elephant in the middle. I took it from there and I was surprised to see the jad little stones and the elephant. The entire day I was “chasing” emerald Buddha statues and elephants as I am fascinated by this green color. And at the end of the day I found this bracelet. I cannot wear as my skin doesn’t tolerate any metal, but for 3 days I had it on my arm, till my skin started to scream.
I ended the day having dinner in a local restaurant with a great Phad Thai, a pancake directly on the street while I was waiting to jump into the bus heading to the airport.
Morale of the day: there is no “short time” or “too late” if you really want to enrich your life experience. You just have to take the first step and the others will follow naturally.
Coming to Thailand and not visiting some cities from the northern part of the country to better understand the culture, it’s like missing an internal organ from the body. That’s why, I booked the flights for Bangkok and Chiang Mai, and the bus to reach Chiang Rai.
Chiang Rai it’s famous now for Wat Rong Khun, known as “The White Temple”, a big modern white structure built by Chalermchai Kositpipat, a faimous Thai visual artist. The actual version of the temple was built on the old fundation of Wat Rong Khun and it’s not finished yet, the due date being settled for 2027. The artist choice for white color, was to reflect the purity of the Buddha, and for glass, to reflect the Buddha’s wisdom and teachings.
The structure itself it’s a modern representation of the current temptations of the world represented by sculptures and paintings of Superheroes like Batman, Hell Boy, Iron Man, etc., and the salvation that mankind can find taking the Buddha’s path towards the Buddhism teachings. But beyond the modern art promoted by Chalermchai Kositpipat, the temple it’s a place for Buddhism teachings and meditation, open to anyone willing to follow this path.
The next temple I had to see, was Wat Rong Suea Ten, known as The Blue Temple. This one is less famous because the main structure was completed in 2016. However, the energy one can feel inside, is really special. Similar to the White Temple, The Blue Temple was built on the ruin of an abandoned temple, and it’s not finished yet , except for the main building and the Pagoda behind it.
The temple is dominated by the huge white Buddha statue representing his purity, and highlighted by the blue color used for both the interior and the exterior of the temple. Inside, the contrast between white and blue gives you a surrealistic image. It’s like the peace of the entire universe takes shape in the Buddha’s statues and becomes part of you. It’s like you finally found a materialization of your inner being and have an unique chance to look in its eyes.
The feelings I had in this temple are unique and difficult to be explained. One must see it and experience it in her / his own body and consciousnesses to be able to understand what I am trying to say. So, if I would have the chance to go back to Chiang Rai, I would definitely spend some days in this temple.
Both temples are amazing and I recommend to anyone going to Thailand to jump in a car from Chiang Mai, travel for 7 hours to Chiang Rai and back, and see both structures. The difference between them is that The White Temple looks more touristic and the visitors are so many, while The Blue Temple is more like a home for your Soul.
Morale of the day: sometimes worth to do an effort like traveling for 7 hours with the bus, then jump in a local bus just to experience something you don’t see in your daily life, and you might not have a second chance to go there in this life.
After walking twice the Way of Saint James (Camino de Santiago) in Spain and Portugal, I know very well that when you start your journey with another person, you accept the challenge of sharing his / her experiences as well. So, I accepted to do this trip with a friend and after a full day on the Ocean visiting the Islands, we decided to build a more adventurous day, walking to see another beach, approximately 4 km away from Patong.
The journey was not easy, as we started walking around midday, after having a late breakfast. And when I say “not easy”, I mean it. I love walking when it’s hot outside, but the 90% of the way was without shadow at all, and we had 38 degrees Celsius, feeling like 45. 😳
We were walking up and down on the mountains, under the heet, but the beautiful scenary was like a fresh breeze helping us to go ahead.
Exhausted, we reached Freedom Beach around 1 pm, after crossing a small and beautiful forest and escalating some rocks to be able to reach the most beautiful part of the beach.
We’ve spent the entire day there, till almost the sunset. The water had an emerald color and was extremely inviting, so the first thing we did was to take a swimm. After so much heet, that bath in the Ocean feeled like a real divine blessing. Later, the palms offered us the perfect shadow and protected us from the hungry sun rays.
While we were walking on the beach, we found this small and cute crab crossing the beach and making his own way towards the shadow.
Around 6 pm, we decided to hit the road back to Patong. Following my friend’s idea, we tried a new path along the forest. We’ve noticed the way was heading in the other direction, but my friend kept hoping the new path will meet the one we did when we arrived at Freedom Beach. The nicest thing was walking bare foot and feeling the dust and the small rocks under your own feet.
At a certain point we were sweting while climbing the mountain and we transformed our bodies into a great luxurious dinner for the mosquitos. Awful feeling! Soon everything was dark around us and the sound of the forest changed into a new song while the leafs starting to move like in a horror movie. We put our shoes on, and proceed quickly towards the light.
Soon we reached the first local houses in the forest, and 20 minutes after we were back on the main road to Patong, walking along with cars, tuk-tuks, motorbike and all kind of local vehicles.
Morale of the day: when you are looking for an adventure, you may find it right over the corner. So, always be careful what you wish for! 😜
When you say Thailand, you suddenly think about beautiful white sand islands. Everyone remembers the famous movie “The beach” with Leonardo di Caprio and is sending you messages like: Your pictures made me remember “The Beach”!
I must confess I did not see the movie, but I had to see the beach itself. So, I booked a tour with a speed boat to see: Phi Phi Islands, Khai Island, Monkey Beach, The Vikings Cave, and Maya Bay, where the movie was done.
The nice thing is that when you book a trip, they are coming to pick you up from the hotel, even if you book a shuttle bus to get you back to the airport.
So, my adventures started at 8 am, when the driver pick me and other people up from the hotel, to drive us to the boat in Phuket where we had a snack before starting our journey on the Ocean.
After half an hour, our first stop was on Khai Island, where I tried snorkeling for the first time in my life. Once you try it, you will fall in love with the sea life! It was so amazing to see the fishes swimming near me. They were curious and they really looked playful. Khai is a very small Island, but looks like a real Paradise and I almost forgot I cut my hand and my leg in the slippery rocks, following the fishes. 🤪
After an hour and a half, we reached Maya Bay, and we’ve seen the beach where the famous movie was shot. The beach is now a restricted area, closed by the government, so you cannot go on the beach. However, the boats can stop and you can swim in the Bay or do snorkeling.
Another “first time of my life” happened there. I tried to swim and to have a look at the sea life there, and it was amazing. Scary, but amazing! Scary at the beginning, because I have this fear of profound water higher than my own height. The good news is that after winning the battle with my mind, I was able to put on my snorkeling mask and have tale a look. The water was so clear, and the fishes so colorful, so this experience made my day!
Vikings Cave was the next story. It’s a cave where even today some gypses are still living there, harvesting birds’ nests. The cave received this name based on the paintings that were found on the walls of the cave: different kind of boats, some of them representing a Scandiavian boat.
Next stop was at the Monkey Beach, where we had the chance to see and feed some monkeys near the boat. We were not allowed to jump on the beach as they me be unpredictable and if they bite you, you can get infected. However, witnessing one of them eating the bananas we were throwing from the boat, was a great experience.
The last stop was on the Phi Phi Don Island, where we had lunch and I had the most delicious potatoes with some red sweet sauce. We had almost 2 hours to visit the island, which I did and I had the chance to discover the mighty forests and especially the mangroves. For one that was crazy about world geography, it was great seeing them and adding another “checked” to the list of my dreams as a child. I had a good walk on the Island discovering new things, and after that I returned to the boat.
Another hour of “flying” on the water and my day ended gloriously with some dreams coming true and some mind blockages overcome.
Morale of the day: beyond the thinkable is the unthinkable. Take a step towards it and your deepest fear will become your greatest success!
Third day in Thailand, was about food and sunset. This time, the food was painful. I had again grilled squid with garlic in another restaurant, and I asked specifically to have everything prepared not spicy. Guess what? They gave me two sauces, one sweet that was in reality spicy like Hell for me, and the other one, just garlic sauce, with some black pepper inside. This was the perfect combination to transform my mouth in a room of fire. And to calm down my taste sense, I added some French fries that helped me reduce the spicy flavor. The food was looking very good, but the spiciness reduced the sight effect.
The good part of the day, was to go on the beach and just relax watching the sunset while swimming. It was a bit cloudy, but this was the most important detail the local nature added to our pictures.
Swimming under the sunset, was a perfect feeling! The sun is kind, the water is warm and the scenary looks like a fairytale.
Sitting there, listening the sound of the Ocean and doing nothing, just be one with the nature, raises you to another level of conscience. You feel directly the power of nature, and the amazing taste of freedom. You understand there is nothing that can separate you from the creation itself, and all the worries are left behind.
This brings you to a self realization at a deeper level, that your life follows the same cycle. The manifestations of certain actions or situations are born like a sunrise and are dying like a sunset, over and over again.
Second day in Patong was meant for body resting and city exploration. After a long travel without sleep, jet lag and a full day on the beach swimming and disconnecting from reality, my body was craving for a good sleep. Waking up at 10 am, was a good just for an hour, when a crazy tiredness kicked me right in the head. Fighting against it was not a good idea, so I abandoned myself to a peaceful sleep till 1:30 pm. The first thought after so much sleep, was to go and see a temple. I never thought it would be so hard to find a temple in Patong. But the reception guy explained us that temples and the crazy life that Patong is offering to the tourists, are not going hand in hand.
Nevertheless, I was not ready to abandon the idea, so I kept pushing them to show me the closest temple on the map. That’s how I found out there was only one temple for monks, that could be closed. No door can stop me when I really want something, so I went directly there keeping the faith that I will be able to see something beautiful. And I did. I found this Buddhist temple. The main building was closed, but there were these small buildings outside, places for praying and worshiping Buddha.
The place had a very good energy, and at a certain point I was taken by surprise by a cat, asking for cuddles. It is amazing to see that in the Buddhist temples and praying places animals are allowed to stay and enjoy the energy created there, combining their presence with yours, celebrating together the power of creation.
After burning some incense to honor the Buddha’s statues, my steps led me to the next holy place, a Muslim Mosque. I had a great feeling being allowed to enter the Mosque, as in other places like Bangalore, India, they were not accepting women at all. So, I really enjoyed the place, I took some pics and let my feet guide me to the next place.
This time, my body choose to eat. I only had some fruits in the morning, and at 6 pm, my physical body said “stop and eat, now!”. And I followed the request exactly as it came. The food was exquisite! I had grilled squid with garlic, french fries and some toasted bread with garlic. Yep, I love garlic, what can I do?! 😜
Next stop was at the Banzaan Market where I had this huge ice cream in a coconut with a lot of toppings like fresh fruits, nuts, jelly, chia, corn and other things I can’t even remember. This is one of the things one should try when in Thailand.
The morale of the day: when you feed your Soul with good energies, the body is charging as well. However, never forget the importance of a good meal feeding your physical body and keeping it in a good shape.
For me, a Paradise is a piece of land where I can express my inner peace exactly as it is. And this time, my Paradise is called Thailand, more precisely, Patong Beach. After a 14 hours journey changing two flights and catching less than two hours of sleep, landing in Thailand, was a dream come true. Outside the airport, at 7:30 am, 30 degrees Celsius were kindly expecting us. Leaving Bucharest with only 14 degrees and landing in the Southern hemisphere in a place difficult to breed, tired and sleepy, was not easy to manage. But, fortunately, I have a high adapting level, so once in the hotel, after having a generous breakfast, I went directly to the beach. Swimming and sleeping there, under the Ocean music, was another dream that took me only two hours to making it happen.
And suddenly, my inner voice was singing unwritten songs while my mind was finally resting and taking a well deserved nap. In front of such beauty created by the mighty nature every thought is melting down and disappears. There is no reason to keep thinking at usual stuff, because you are completely out of your ordinary day. And the Ocean has this power to erase every single thought and instantly the Silence mode is installed in your head for the entire day.
I must confess that living in this ”movie”, even my appetite was canceled. I felt no need to eat. Just the urge of swimming, sleeping and drinking a lot of water. I was actually flowing through the day like water itself, consuming water and becoming water. And that gave me the a new level of understanding the ”panta rei” concept. When you flow through your life like the water is flowing and creating her own path among obstacles, you are becoming aware of all the steps you take for building your moment here and now. Deep inside, you feel how each moment takes shape under your inner eyes and forms your life, like all the drops are forming the Ocean you are looking at.
Maybe the place is not looking like a Paradise for other people, but for me, it is. Actually, I think the Paradise is not external at all. The Nature beauty makes you think it’s there, but your level of awareness witnessing this Beauty, makes it a real Paradise.
I wish to all of you, reading now my thoughts, to witness your own Paradise at least once in your lifetime! Meanwhile, here are some pics from mine. 😉
We all have dreams that we choose to share or not with people around. My dream started 4 years ago (2009) when I read about El Camino de Santiago de Compostela. An 800 km-long path people used to walk on since Middle Ages to see and pray to the tomb of Saint James, one of the 12 apostles of Jesus. Together with the Jerusalem and Rome pilgrimages, the Way of Saint James was one of the most important pilgrimages Christians used to do. But to be honest, the religious meaning of this way didn’t attract me at all.
I was fascinated with the idea of taking some weeks off and just walk. No job, no unsatisfied clients or people knowing me around. Walking and thinking was the perfect dream I had! Making it happen, seemed the most impossible thing at that time. Even now, when I am writing this story I cannot believe that things happened so unexpectedly and quickly, just when I needed this adventure the most. This is the first thing I learnt deep inside: when you have a dream and you really wish for it to come true, things happen in a certain way to help you achieving it. And indeed, certain things started to move in the right direction even if I didn’t appreciate all of them as positive at that time. And now, I know people came actively into my life playing a special part in helping me living my dream, and I thank all of them for their contribution.
I guess you are wondering about the difference of 130 km. This has also a story behind. As I said, the religious part of the Camino didn’t impress me, so my first objective was not Santiago. I always dreamt to see Cape Finisterre and the Atlantic Ocean, the place where people used to believe the world ends. So, to be more precise, I walked “El Camino de Finisterre” starting in France in Saint Jean Pied de Port, climbing the Pyrenees on the Route Napoleon, reaching Spain in Roncesvalles and going further through the 4 regions of the Northern Spain: Navarra, La Rioja, Castilla y Leon and Galicia.
First thing I learnt during the first 2 hours of walking was listening to the rhythm of my heart and harmonize body and soul with the heart beat. In the beginning, you always want to be fast, but each heart has its own rhythm. Respect it and you will for sure reach the end! This is linked with the respect of the others rhythm. Walking too much together creates a magic relationship, but not always a good one. Everything lies in one’s own rhythm and you have to respect others rhythm while you respect yours. So, walk, and let others walk!
The Second lesson Camino taught me, also came in the first day when climbing the Pyrenees and walking 30 km in a windy and sun burning day, between snow-bound and muddy paths. Never carry on more than you can manage! We tend to overestimate our capacities and grab a lot of things in the backpack based on “just in case…” idea. Wrong! There, you are forced to decide between putting your physical capacities at risk, or leave parts of the useless weight behind. The decision is not difficult at all when you feel like hit by a train and the bothering thing is that you have been really unlucky and survived to feel the pain.
Yes, pain is also a companion on the Camino. Sometimes the muscles are not functioning anymore and the legs refuse to go on. You may experience walking only 2 km with 1 leg and 2 trekking sticks for more than 1 hour. But the best part is that when a funny guy wants to help you, and then he realizes the only thing he can really help you with is not possible as you are in the middle of nowhere and he cannot carry you on his back, he offers you chocolate. I will never forget that funny Austrian smiling face saying: “Here, have some chocolate!” It’s everything your soul wishes for: someone near who cares about you, and some chocolate to raise the sugar level in your blood.
The nicest thing is that you are never alone on the Camino. Life is always giving you what you need. When you are sad, you have to dine with a funny group of five people who are making you laugh for hours. Roberto and Luigi, two Italian guys, so different yet so close to the Camino’s spirit; Bernard, the German guy, walking for three weeks with Roberto and Luigi, who had already received an exotic Italian influence; Lyne, the nice and funny French lady, and a very good English speaker, searching for inner balance; and Elena, the Romanian girl always laughing loudly and healthily. Roberto made me laugh a lot. He had a nice way of telling jokes that you couldn’t resist laughing at and he had the power of sharing his positive spirit. Luigi had a wise way of seeing and analyzing the differences between prejudice and reality and I was really proud of him, seeing that the Camino changed his perspectives. Bernard was a nice and funny presence, so un-German like, but a deep soul. Lyne, elegant in the way she was walking, with a strong desire of finding equilibrium. The funny and playful Elena whom I met again later in Bucharest and we both realized then that we need another Camino to end our stories.
When you are alone and tired in the middle of nowhere, it’s rainy and windy and foggy, and fear is your only companion, a smiley face comes out of nowhere, asking you where are you going and decides to come with you. This was Riccardo, an Italian with a Scottish face guy I met when everything seemed to be more and more difficult to handle. He used to walk fast even in the rain, and he made me laugh a lot during the evening in Santiago. Those two hours spent in the Seminario Major’s kitchen looked like celebrating a victory. We didn’t have too much, no fancy food, but we had our souls full of energy. I will never forget how we started to speak a so called Latin-Italian adding at the end of each word “-um” according to the certificate we received in Santiago where our names were written in Latin: Dianam-Mariam Georgescum: “Andiamum insiemem a Finisterrum!” – Let’s go together to Finisterre! Childish, I know, but funny. I was laughing and crying in the same time! And we started another three days of walking together to Muxia where we decided to split.
When you are hungry and you have only a small tuna can and some chocolate in your backpack but you really need a hot dinner, a Danish guy asks you to join him and eat rice with mushrooms he has just finished cooking. Having nice people around, all the “shitty evenings” suddenly become brighter!
Camino teaches you to appreciate life and be happy. Sad experiences and old wounds are accepted and rapidly healed. You realize that you don’t need too much to be happy and go on. You just need basic things as “The bare necessities of life will come to you”.
A lot of positive messages are written on the Camino. Part of them may become mantras in difficult moments as this message I found on a wall: “Nothing is going to stop me. Even if my body falls broken, my mind and my spirit will carry me on.” And they did. They carry me on walking slowly with my right leg stuck for some days.
Camino also reveals evolution. You walk across the Northern Spain and if you are living each moment, you notice cultural differences between the four regions. You feel the evolution of the language. When you enter Galicia, suddenly you don’t understand a thing. The dialect is similar with some dialects from the south or north of Italy and at a certain point seems like Moldavian. It’s really amazing and the experience itself makes you richer.
Camino teaches you about diversity. You meet different people from different cultures and you think the language could be a huge barrier. In reality, you can understand people speaking Korean if you really want to, as you can use body language and mimic. So, language barriers are not real. Psychological barriers are indeed dangerous. Putting labels on people just because they have a certain behavior or they are coming from a certain country, it’s not healthy at all. The nicest thing is that you learn to accept others while they are teaching you a lesson you need for your own evolution.
The Europeans used to think that, where the sky meets the ocean, it’s the end of the world. And there is Finisterre or Fisterra (in Galician dialect), the end of the Camino and the best place of reviewing 32 days of walking and just living on the edge. Your own value system is different now, you feel like a new person, one that is more focused on living her own life and mission. Unseen wings are already mature and ready to fly while freedom becomes your best friend.
The end always looks like an end. But beyond the thinkable it’s the unthinkable that always reveals a new world to whom wants to see it. And after this Camino, the horizon is hiding a new Camino to be discovered. Life is a sum of Caminos we choose to take and each of them is a mix of joy, pain and full happiness.
Ask me to stay When I want to go I might change my mind And you’ll never know. Ask me for a hug When I want to run I might change my mind And become a sun. Ask me for a kiss When I’m like a stone I might change my mood And become your dawn. Ask me for a date Even when you think You don’t have a chance Take the step and… blink.