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Not going to write a long story about this (although it’s actually a great story), but on June 20th 2007 I got married again! Poo – my girlfriend and fiancee since July last year – and I decided that it was time to legalize our relationship. We both wanted to do this for a long time, but I was actually hoping that it would have been possible to wait so that our Lama Ole Nydahl could marry us, when he was in Copenhagen June 18th and 19th. But he didn’t have time until the summer course in the Buddhist Center of Lolland in July. And that meant that it was too late, as Poo’s visa otherwise would expire on July 9th.
So we had to do now. Later we will properly do it again with Lama Ole and again later when we have the actual wedding party with familly and friends in Thailand.
But for now our day was just together with a few good friends, my mother and sister and her husband. It was in the local cityhall and didn’t take more than 15 minutes, including the glass of port they served. And then we went up the local town square in Hillerød, when we had a nice lunch.
It was a very beautiful and nice day. And I’m so happy to be married again. Especially to such a beautiful and wonderful wife, which I love very much!
It’s been a loooong time since I’ve updated my site. I’m sorry! But I’ve been very busy. Traveling a lot. Too much. But also many other things.
My last post was about my trip to Mumbai in India in January. After this I was back to Thailand to meet Poo. Then I was home but back again in February. Here my trip was to Bangkok, 2 days to Hong Kong (nice city – my second visit), Bangkok again and then Singapore (first time – quite ok city) to finish off in Bangkok. In March I was home in Denmark most of the time. But in April I was back in Bangkok. Work, but also vacation. Poo and I was invited to our friends Nicke and Eads wedding in Phuket (April 7th). And then I had a 2 days visit in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia (good city) before I was back in Phuket. Here it was time for Songkran, the Thai new year festival, where everyone is getting really wet and drunk for several days. A lot of fun!
After Phuket I went to Taipei in Taiwan for a few days (working). Here I was up in the Taipei 101 Tower – the tallest building in the world. With that, then I’ve been in the 5 tallest buildings in the world. 101, Petronas Tower, Sears Tower, World Trade Center (ok – it’s gone now – but it was) and Empire Trade Building.
When I came back to Bangkok after Taiwan it was time to say goodbye to Poo’s family. She had her new visa to come back to Denmark and would meet me in Copenhagen when I came back to. But first I had to go to Mumbai again!
Finally I came back again to Denmark on April 26th – but that was one day before plan, as our meeting in Mumbai was faster than planned. So I had one day to prepare for Poo’s arrival on April 27th.
It was so good to have her back in Denmark! And the girls was also very very happy to see her again.
In May I wasn’t doing any travel. At least not until May 29th. – here it was back to Kuala Lumpur over Bangkok for 4 days (weekend also) and the to Taipei again. Going back I could not get a seat on the flight to Copenhagen on June 5th. – so I had to say one night in Bangkok. It was almost like coming home! NICE! I also had a lot of things to do in Bangkok. Go to the Embassy to get some documents for the visa application for Poo’s children. And then a lot of shopping. Poo had given me a long shopping list of things I had to buy. Although I didn’t manage to find everything, then I did buy a lot, and she was very proud when I came home with all the items for cooking (fresh vegtables, noodles and many different fish souces). In fact when I left Denmark my bag weight was 15 KG – going back it was 47 KG!
Last week I was in India for the first time in my life. As part of my job I visited the head office the subsidiary of ISS in India.
I flew Lufthansa over Frankfurt and arrived in the airport in Mumbai around 1:30 am. And wow! India is very different from anything I’ve seen so far. I should I say heard! Actually both! The noise there is very different. It’s like no Indian can drive more than 10 meters without using their horns. And then there’s of cause the way they drive!!! It goes very good together! I’m surprised that no more accidents actually happens, and that traffic despite that sometimes flows!
I stayed at the JW Marriott hotel. A nice international hotel, that looked just like every other international hotel (Sheraton, Grand Hyatt, Hilton, Intercontinental etc.). The only surprise was actually the price. About USD 400 per night! That’s rates that are around USD 100 higher than in Bangkok. But it was a nice hotel, very high service.
And it was also the location of one of Mumbai’s best discos – The Enigma – where a lot of the local Bollywood stars comes. We (Mikkel and I) went there two nights for a short visit. When we first came there, it felt almost like going back to the early 80’s. Not only because most of the boys there, where dressed like that (actually more like how they looked in the Spanish Disco’s in the 80’s), but also for the way they where dancing. It reminding me a lot about the school parties I went to in 5-6 grade! Get the picture?
Well I stayed there until Friday, but besides a few short trips in the area of the hotel, I didn’t really go sightseeing (plan that for next trip). But I did get a good taste for the Indian Cooking. Before this trip, I’ve never really been eating much Indian food, although there are quite a few good places in Copenhagen.
Friday I left again for Bangkok, where I besides meeting Poo in the weekend, have alot of work on our project.
January 10th we had decided to go to Laos to see the capital Vientiane. From the border at the Friendship Bridge in Nong Khai there is only 22 km. to Vientiane (http://wikitravel.org/en/Vientiane).
But first we had to get the visa taken care of. We, that was my mom, Poo, Eye, Jay (Poo’s cousin), Poo’s dad and me, had our driver drive us to the bridge, where an agency handled the papers for getting the visa to Laos. They charged about 100 baht per person, incl. photos for the visas, and then we hired a car to drive us around in Vientiane the first day, incl. transport to and from the bridge.
An even though we now had the papers, then it took us (only my mom and me – the Thai’s could go more or less directly though) over 30 minutes waiting for the Laos immigration control to create the actual visa, plus they charged us addition 35 USD.
So it was almost 1 pm before we could drive into Laos.
First we looked around in a large public market center. It was marked with both the national flag and the red communist flag with the hammer and sickle. As neither of us had ever been in Laos, we started by exchanging some Thai baht to the Laos Kips. For the 15000 baht, we got over 4,000,000 kips! Later we actually found out that we had absolutely no reason for changing, as they everywhere in Vientiane accepted baht as well as their own currency.
After the market we paid Patuxai or Victory Gate a visit. A local rendition of the Paris‘ Arc de Triomphe. From the distance a beautiful monument, but when you got real close it was just a “monster of concrete” in a very bad condition. In fact it was written on the monument that it was started in 1962, but never really complete due to the unrest in the period! As the only one, I went all the way up the 7 floors, to get a nice view over the city.
Later we checked in to a nice hotel next to the Mekong River. It was very nice rooms with real WC’s, not the hole in the floor we almost had gotten used to in Young Chuem. Dinner was taken at one of the many restaurants at the Mekong River and the food was as in Thailand, just cheaper.
After breakfast we had hired a minibus to pick us up again. We was first taken to a small temple, where we enjoyed a few minutes of rest and offered some flowers, incense and candles to Buddha.
Haw Pha Kaew was the next stop. This temple used to house the famous Emerald Buddha, which is in the temple in the Grand Palace in Bangkok. It used to be the royal temple in Vientiane, but now it only serves as a small museum. Like many other things in Laos, this temple sure has seen better times.
On the other side of the road we saw the Wat Si Saket temple. This is said to be the oldest temple in Vientiane. A very nice temple, after Laos standards!
Finally we paid a visit to Pha That Luang, the national symbol and most important religious monument of Laos. This big stupa is said to hold some Buddha’s bones.
After a lunch we decided to turn back towards Thailand, and around 4pm we were back in Thailand.
It was fun to visit Laos. It felt a lot like Thailand, just poorer and more dusty everywhere. I’m not sure if I want to go back to Laos at some point or not. It didn’t really appeal to me.
On the next day, January 9th we were planning to go Nong Khai (http://wikitravel.org/en/Nong_Khai). But on the way Jay suggested us to see a very special local temple, not far from there. So we went to see this temple. In its self it wasn’t anything special. But it was located just by the Mekong River; in a place many people call the navel of the Mekong, because everything dead floats in there.
Also the place had some very special big rocks, who had been there for millions of years, as the river before had a little different path.
We also talked to an American who was there to assist a Thai monk who lived in America, but now was back in Thailand to oversee some of “his” temples. It was all new temples, and this one build in connection to a hotel.
Later we drove to Nong Khai. Here one of the first things we saw was a restaurant called “The Danish Baker”. But first we were headed for the “Indo-China Market”. Here we was seeing all kinds of special Isaan “stuff” like a lot of silk work, food and so. After a hours walking around we paid “The Danish Baker” a visit. Here I had their Danish meatballs (frikadeller) and Potato Salad. And they were really amazingly good.
On our way back from Nong Khai we wanted to see the temple Wat Phra That Bang Phuan. It is a beautiful and ancient Indian style stupa. It is said to hold some of Buddha’s bones, and hereby be one of the most sacred sites in Isaan. Somehow I enjoyed the visit to this temple much more than the other sites. Maybe because we were among the only visitors at the time. It was very quiet and very nice. And walking around the area just made me feel good!
So we arrived in the village Young Chuem on January 7th about 11:30pm. Here we were to stay in the house of Poo’s cousin Jay. She lives here with her mom and dad. Her two brothers don’t live with them. The younger brother lives and work in Bangkok and the other with his wife in another village. And the dad we basically only saw to the meals. At all other times he was out at their farm, just outside the village, where he was taking care of the animals.
In the house both Poo and I and my mom had a room on the first floor of the house. Each room with a mattress on the floor and a mosquito net. Primitive, but quite ok! Poo’s mother and father, and also her two children stayed in the house of the grandfather.
We didn’t really have any dinner that night, so Poo and her cousin were now cooking it for us. The kitchen of the house was not really a kitchen after the normal western standards! It was a container with open fire (charcoal) where the wok was used to cook the food. No kitchen tables! All was done on the floor! To someone like me and my mother with our Danish backgrounds, this was something of a sight!
But we had a wonderful dinner before we went to bed.
The next morning my mom and I had our own falang breakfast with the toast and coffee we had bought on the way. The others were eating their own typical Isaan breakfast, primarily consistent of the so-called sticky rice. A special sticky rice that you eat with your fingers and roll into small balls and dip in different other “stuff”. Also they had different types of som-tam. This is their local always seen Isaan papaya salad.
After breakfast we went over to visit the grandfather. He lived about 100 meter from where we stayed. Here we were met by a large group of family. Brothers and sisters of both Poo’s mother and father all live in the village. Many of them had already arrived to see and welcome the falangs. The grandfather is 78 years old, and very sick. We never really found out what exactly is wrong, but it is both something with legs – he cannot work anymore, and also some other parts. But at least he’s not having big pain anymore, as he gets some strong pain-killers.
It is obvious that the family here in Isaan is very poor. And it is understandable why so many want to leave the area, the poorest of Thailand. Poo’s cousin said that she and her mom only were able to make about 4000 Baht per month, on the blankets they make on the “porch” of the house! That’s only approx. USD 110!! The average Thai income is about 6000 Baht. In Bangkok they are able to make a lot more, especially if they work in the tourist areas where tips are an important part of the income.
We went on a tour de Young Chuem. Here we saw the house where Poo used to live, before they moved to Bangkok, when she was 4 years old. The family now had a small restaurant – that is they made a few different types of food with sticky rice and had a table where you could sit and eat. Again very primitive!
The family actually offered us to buy the house back again. And we would only have to pay 6000 Baht!! That’s not even 200 USD! For a whole house! Well I don’t think I could live in that house, I would have to make a new one instead. But even that is not so expensive in Isaan. They say that it typically costs between 100000 and 200000 Baht. And you do see many new houses there too. Must owned by girls married to a farang (falangs cannot own land in Thailand), or girls who have been working years in the “adult entertainment” industry, typically in Bangkok, Pattaya or Phuket, and now have redrawn and live of their falang “sugar daddies” who each month still send them money!
But we also walked a little outside of the village. Here we saw the land that Poo’s older sister and her French husband had bought. A very beautiful piece, with access to the local river. Here they are planning to build a house and retire in a few years.
Well it might be beautiful and very quiet up there, but I could never imagine myself to live there full time!
In the evening the family had prepared a real welcoming party for us. At 5pm we were called over to the house of the grandfather. Here the local “lay-priest” and the family was waiting. We – Poo, me and my mom – were seated on a chair, with our hands in Thai prayer position. The hands was put on a long white cotton string, tied into a big and beautiful flower stand, made of yellow flowers and banana leaves. A local tradition in Isaan.
Then the “lay-priest” started to read long text in Thai, and the family started to take small white cotton strings with knots and tie them round our hands. Some also “attached” with hugs and special welcoming blessings. And sometimes the “lay-priest” said something special and the whole family screamed out the same. Poo translated it for us as “Welcome to Isaan!”.
The tradition with the strings is not only a Isaan tradition, but is used in many Buddhist tradition all over the world (yes also in my own Buddhist center in Copenhagen). The knot contains a blessing, with the wish of happiness and success. And in Isaan an important wish is about having a lot of money.
After 30 minutes the show was over, and the family all sat down on the floor in the middle of the house to eat. We were still seated on our chairs and was also served the sticky rice and different other treats. And at around 8pm the only one left, besides Poo, me and my mom, was Poo’s parents, her cousin and a few more. So we also headed “home” for some coffee.
But it was a very nice evening. And a big experience for us all.