POSTCARD #122: Chiang Mai: Jiab suggested we hire a car with driver and go to Doi Ang Khang, the mountain, for some fresh air and hill walking – beneficial for health for someone in my condition. Do I want to do this? Ask a question, and the answer comes with it – as if it were part of the question. The answer is in the asking. So off we went. M sitting beside me in the car and I had my passport in my jeans pocket. She felt the hard square shape: What’s this Toong Ting? I said it was my passport. M knocked on it with the knuckle of her finger:
It’s playing with the idea that Thais cannot pronounce properly the ‘th’ sound in ‘Thank You’. Then another one:
What kind of dessert do ghosts like?
I don’t know.
Ice cream (I scream).
That led to the pronunciation, and difference in meaning between ‘dessert’ and ‘desert’. For example, the whole central part of Australia is mostly a vast area that consists of nothing but custard and bananas and blobs of ice cream, fruit and currants.
It was a four-hour journey, pretty scary steep incline of roads and sharp bends kept us alert. Also gulping of air to get rid of the ear pops until we finally got to the top, into the hotel room and M runs through all the space, jumps on the three beds and into the bathroom. Mirror takes up the whole wall. I see her looking at herself – not satisfied. Ah well, we don’t usually fall in love with our reflected image, there’s always something judgmental – things that are always not as good as they could be (the Buddha’s teaching on Suffering Dukkha). The antidote is alert watchfulness, mindfulness, sati; mindful of being mindful, remembering to remember to remember. Learning how to learn.
Lunch came and before we could start to eat, M had to take a photo of it and send to her friends. It’s an amazing thing that we use the wonders of technology to send an image of somebody’s lunch over the Internet; a created postcard sent and instantly received. Then the actual lunch is eaten and gone forever. Except that M wouldn’t eat enough, and Jiab said something about she was too thin. I could feel the hopelessness in M, like… please don’t tell me this again! So I said I thought M looked nice, thin, elegant: What does elegant mean Toong Ting? I said she looked like a movie star, beautiful… then after that I kinda regretted saying it because she started acting strangely. We got back to the room and she’d hardly look at me and at the same time cuddle up against me. But it was soon forgotten when we got out and started the walk up the mountain.
The first stop was the pagoda, one hundred and ninety steps up and down. I couldn’t quite figure out why it was there, except that everything is a metaphor. Trees wrapped in coloured cloth, auspicious meanings I understand only because I’m expected to understand (to be continued)
“our world and the beings in it in all their diversities are but the illusive manifestations of mind. While the illusion is taking place, it is “real”, but its essence is unreal like a dream. Therefore regard all phenomena as insignificant, similar to a dream, and rest your mind in this perspective in the moment.”[ The Seven Points of Mind Training of Atisha]