23 October, 2009

Dear Diary: the Ubud Writers Festival was great, but gee it's good to be home

 Near our apartment is the Washy Mashy Laundromat.  Now that the owners have
a brand new electric washy mashy, they no longer need to wash by hand.
Returning to Chiangmai is a pleasure every time. Bali was fine, but Chiangmai with its multi-faceted life and cultures, is Home.

Marie is all geared up from the Ubud festival... stories streaming out of all her pores... and I've launched recklessly into a re-write of my latest composition... see the side-bar >>
Click here to get our goss and photos on the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival in Bali (this link will open in a new window for your convenience ...when finished, just close it and you'll be right back here).

Meanwhile, back on the ranch, Marie's former study has received a facelift:

 So where is her study now, I hear you ask? Check it out.

 Contrary to rumour, we're NOT having problems with the new computer... OK?

From the 14th floor, we look down on a new 8-storey residential building (Chiangmai Lodge) which has a cute little Sala on top. Recently the Sala acquired coloured floodlights and I thought my worst fears were going to materialize ...it was turning into a bar or nightclub (eek). But no, thank Buddha; silence reigns :-) ...so far.

However, there are some people in Chiangmai I really do wish would be silent - Christian missionaries. Their basic subversive agenda of Conversion hasn't changed since this photo was taken:

...but these days they're having to be much sneakier due to their growing unpopularity. In the photo below, for instance, is Chiangmai's "Hilltribe Handicraft Training Center" (note the American spelling). Nary a steeple nor cross in sight, but hey, don't be fooled. And how very patronizing is it to assume that the local Hilltribes need training in their own culture!! We regularly see dour extremist Christians in floor-length grey pinafores and prim bonnets in charge of very young Hilltribe children. The going price per child in the US is about $30,000. Hmm, the word "pretext" comes to mind...

(Notice the Devil's tail poking up in the foreground)

And to vandalize Thailand's Buddhist culture without thought to the consequences is shameful. The very fabric of Thailand's society is woven from the delicate silk threads of Buddhist philosophy. Unravel those threads, and there will be serious social distortions, even if you've been indoctrinated to believe that you're replacing their System with something that's culturally superior. Now that would be arrogant and eurocentric in the extreme... yes/no? Maybe the hardest but most helpful and caring thing that Christian missionaries could ever do would be to leave Thai solutions to Thai people and rack off back to Texas. Evangelizing in someone else's home is also known as neo-Colonial exploitation. Better to acknowledge the mistakes of History.

 Thai Buddhism's artifice and ritual is visually boggling, matching any of the glitz, smoke and mirrors of High Anglicanism, Catholicism, or even Capitalism. On our travels around Chiangmai we saw this white Wat - which is, as it turns out, was much of a tourist-oriented commercial establishment as a real Wat.
But Yea, to be fair, where in any Christian doctrine is there any admonition against alcohol to match this ?
Anywhere else, the whisky bottle would have already been stolen.
Assisting the multi-headed Naga serpent to protect the Buddha.

Stairway leading up to the Chang Dao cave entrance

Marie at the Sri Satchanali ruins, near the 700 year-old old capital Sukhothai.
Limestone formations on the ceiling of the Chang Dao caves.

An abandoned building not far from our condo. Horned Greek satyrs 
dance around the satellite dish. Plato might have approved, methinks.

Yes, the Cult thrives. Daily we must drink the Blood and
eat the Body of our Lord Panda. This is Her Will.
Grease be with you. Abears.

And for all you Foodies, some refreshing new menu items spotted recently around North Thailand and Bali:
...... Fish Dancing with Free-Water
...... Corn Flex with milk
...... Fish's offal salad
...... Salt-Crap Lon

The best 2 of these have been added to my tasty Asian Menus collection, gathered over many years of travel through Asia. The list can be viewed here and will open conveniently in a new window for you. I always record such delicious-sounding menu items exactly as found, with all capitals and punctuation. Sadly, spelling errors are increasingly rare as restaurants all seem to have Spellcheckers these days.
Damn - an era is passing.

Here in Thailand, it's time yet again for the Loy Kratong festival  with its banana-leaf candle-boats ("kratongs") crowding the rivers, and picturesque hot-air lanterns filling the sky. But, of course, the glossy tourist brochures don't tell you about the injuries from firecrackers. If you're squeamish, I strongly advise NOT clicking here.

I can only agree. I can't resist peeking through forbidden keyholes either. Shame that computers don't have a key marked "UnSee".