A very belated Happy New Year and may it be very good for you in every way.
I have recently returned from a wonderful holiday with my younger son Angus, super daughter-in-law and grandchildren in Thailand.
Thailand is a lovely country sandwiched between Laos to the north, Burma to the west, Cambodia to the south and Vietnam which lies to the southeast. On the whole it is a peaceful country apart from the occasional religious troubles in the south.
It is presently in mourning for King Bhumibol Adulyadej who died on the 13th October 2016. Having reigned for 70 years he was the world’s longest serving monarch. He was the only Thai king ever born abroad (Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA) and he was educated in the USA and Lausanne, Switzerland.
It is customary in Thailand on the death of its king for the period of mourning to continue for as long as a year. He was much loved and respected, having brought great stability to the country. He was revered almost as a God by everyone. Indeed the royal family is considered to be above reproach and woe betide anyone if they are caught saying anything derogatory about them; the punishment is harsh and immediate, resulting in a prison sentence.
Angus works for WHO (World Health Organisation) in Southeast Asia and has travelled extensively in that area on different postings.
I had not seen my three grandchildren for three whole years, an agony despite chatting regularly on Skype. It was just wonderful to get to know them properly all over again. Skyping is just not the same - there are no hugs. Three years is such a long time in a child’s life, and it was a joy to hear about their ideas, ambitions and thoughts on life in general and how they saw their futures. Mind you, these can change as there are so many options for the young nowadays and the work ethos in Southeast Asia is exemplary, so no problems getting them to do their homework etc! My elder son Sloane, from Sydney, was there too, so the whole holiday was completely perfect (despite the fact that I got a nasty chest infection on top of one I had already had!).
Angus lives outside Bangkok, but as always we went up to Mae Rim, a little village above Chiang Mai. It lies beneath the mountains surrounded by magnificent views, lush green vegetation of every hue and winding canals, all blending together, the scenery becoming a wonderful tapestry, a Natural Work of Art.
Every evening, the Evening Star Venus, led the way shining brightly in the unpolluted sky together with the other stars, which the longer I looked at them, seemed to come alive and breathe, and which have been there since the world was in its infancy.
I had first visited Chiang Mai some twenty five years ago when it was a small dusty village with one main street with small ones leading off — now it is a vibrant, sprawling metropolis, heaving with people of all nationalities. The heat and smells are still the same, some good and aromatic, some bad. A stranger could easily get lost in the bustling labyrinth of streets. As ever the food, fresh from the markets, is delicious. However, sadly a lot of the street markets have been closed including the wonderful flower markets - quite why, we didn’t really know. Luckily an excellent evening market remained, starting at around 5.30pm and continuing until late. It was full of an amazing array of goods, colourful clothes and shawls made by the hill tribes, whilst others sold fake designer goods of all description. Children and animals mixing in with their stall holder’s families brought an atmosphere of gaiety and a sense of unhurried family life as one wandered around stopping here and there. Bargaining was fun as usual for both seller and buyer and is a natural way of life. The starting price is nowhere near what they expect you to pay in the end, if you know the ropes, and my lovely Thai daughter in law is an expert!!!
We also visited a most special temple complex called Ram Poeng in the Suthep District of Chiang Mai. Thai Buddhists are all of the orange robed Theravada Order, the Forest Buddhists or sometimes called 'Southern Buddhists'. The name means 'the doctrine of the elders' - the elders being the senior Buddhist monks. It was in a most lovely tranquil place set with shady trees and various different temples all with magnificent mythological beasts proudly standing guard outside. My grandson remembered being taught Thai mythology as a young child and so was a font of knowledge about which splendid beast was regarded as being the Guardian of the Rivers or another being Guardian of the Hills etc. We wandered around and could have stayed much longer drinking in the peace and solitude of the place. The Temple complexes have a special quality and atmosphere all of their own, just like churches, except that the area in which they lie is much more extensive and thus the setting carries a greater expanse of 'energy'.
I don’t know when I have enjoyed a holiday more and I carry such happy memories away with me that when I go to bed, I feel I can open them up like a book I know and love, choosing which chapter I want to read and experiencing the joy and excitement all over again!!
I am now back and continuing to work on my book that seems to be slow in developing but which will definitely come to fruition before too long.
I have just finished my annual article about the events of 2106. Do please visit it on my website. https://cropcirclephotographs.co.uk/riddles-and-rhymes/
My love and very best wishes for a wonderfully fulfilling 2017.