Jan 7th, 2015
The next day, when I was fighting ferocious mosquitoes in my dreams, I was awakened by the morning chanting of the monks. They were praying, at — 5:12am! It was not difficult for me to return to my dreams. Their chanting was neither noisy nor annoying, especially with the special scent of Buddhist monasteries in the air.
When I eventually woke up again and went to the toilet, I saw a woman in the corridor , not a nun by the way, sitting on the floor, making some garlands for offering from a big pile of flowers and paper. I supposed that she was helping around in this monastery. She noticed me and burst out laughing at my disheveled hair and barely open eyes. I said hi and smiled. Soon I saw the young monk and another monk dragging a big heavy box towards that woman in the corridor. I immediately ran up to help them. He nodded to me with a grateful smile. Not just this woman, just beside the monks’ dorms, there were many secular people living there. Sometimes they would come to the corridor, just in front of “my room” for the tap water, the toilet and even the kitchen.
All together I stayed there for 3 nights. That was enough time for me to notice those monks were much more constrained than those locals who lived in the neighbourhood. These locals surely heard of me from the monks and every time they saw me, they would smile as if to say that “so you are the Chinese guy they were talking about”. They would say hi from very far away and openly laugh, would invite me for meals while the monks were more taciturn, less communicative and they did not express much emotion. I knew something about the Buddhist philosophy and the rules Buddhist devotees should follow. They had to carry themselves solemnly, not to much involved with secular affairs and with tranquility and harmony — sudden laughing loudly in the corridor would be improper and invite disapproving looks of other monks. I deemed all these totally understandable yet a pity. I imagined the possibility of creating a new school of Buddhism, a happy clappy one, where the devotees would be freer to express themselves and show their love for life, the world and people.
Although the young monk left both the key and the lock on the door for me, I still left the room open in case someone might need to enter and then I went to the embassy of Bangladesh. It was about 12 km walking. When I finally arrived there and just about to start filling the visa application form, the reception girl asked me
–“Do you live in Thailand?”
–“No, I am a tourist here.”
–“Oh, then you can’t apply for visa here. You have to apply for it in your country of residence.”
My answer to this sudden thunderous news was — “Ah!”
I knew that Pakistan has the same policy, but I did not know Bangladesh also…… That was disappointing. I walked back and accidentally passed the embassy of Nepal. Since my itinerary for my South Asia trip included Nepal also, I went inside to apply for visa. It would take only one day!! WOWO!! Again, like all the visa application forms, it required information like occupation, name and contact of my employer and address in Nepal. I simply made up some answers, knowing that they most probably would not check these details. For a moment I had the crazy impulse of writting something ridiculous for these questions, such as “profession — ghost hunter”, “employer — God Himself” and “address in Nepal — on the very top of Mount Everest” but eventually I was too sane to do it.
Doing visas were annoying. It required so much money, time and effort, but I was having something much more annoying on that day — diarrhea. Yes! I should say that diarrhea was the most annoying thing for traveling! If you have a cold, you will suffer from a running nose, then just take a plastic bag and a roll of tissue with you, you can stil go on a journey, but if you have diarrhea, oh man, you can not go anywhere! Every 10 or even 5 minutes you would have to unleash the internal explosives in a toilet or some quiet corner in the nature. WOWO! Not amazing! 😉 That prevents you from taking any vehicle! God…… When I travelled in South East Asia for two months, it was the biggest problem for me! In the beginning I did not know how it was caused, but later I started to notice the only two possible conditions giving me diarrhea — cold water and sleeping in a much too cold environment. Most of the time it was cold water as my sleeping bag was really more than warm, actually mostly too hot for South East Asia. I did drink cold water all the time when I was in Europe and Middle East, but never had a single problem. However, in South East Asia it was different! If the water was too cold, like with ice inside, it was guaranteed that I would have diarrhea! I already felt the cramping stomach last night, but after sleeping with my thick sleeping bag in this well-sealed room without the slightest breeze in the monastery, I got better this morning. When I was walking to the embassies, I was constantly exposed to the powerful sunshine. To avoid dehydrating and provide energy for my body, I bought bottles of Coca Cola and drank them after they were sufficiently heated up. In this way I efficiently suppressed the disturbing biochemical reactions in my belly. However, that afternoon, when I was on my way to the Grand Palace again, I got really thirsty and I knew that in the temple just beside the palace, there were people distributing tourists free drink water. I went in, pretending to be a native Thai and got the free drink, although the woman distributing free water looked at me dubiously. It was ice cold and more than half of the bottle was literally ice. I drank just some sip and the quiet stomach started rotating, cramping and producing some revolting biochemical weapons…… I HATED it. Why the hell did they do that?! According to health science, drinking cold water is bad for your body. You body will need to heat it up to body temperature before making any use of it and the temperature shock is surely no good for your health! I tried to stuff the incoming internal disturbance with bananas, which were perhaps the most common fruits in South East Asia and commonly known for effective in combating diarrhea. However, it got worse…… The Grand Palace was closed again. On my way back, I wanted to use the wifi of the only cafe near the Grand Palace to check out the location of the Couchsurfing meeting which would take place that evening. In Thailand it’s always ok to use the wifi in restaurants or cafes even if you did not buy a thing there. People in general were nice in Thailand. However, the more touristic an area was, the less nice the locals were. Instead of getting free help, they were expecting you to be ripped off to the last bit of your bone and to be sucked the last drop of your blood. I asked in this cafe if I could use their wifi for just 5 minutes and for the first time, I was treated so rudely in Thailand. The boss, a middle-aged woman, refused very straightly and literally screamed a “NO” with an ice-cold face and no light in her eyes. I cursed her on my way back to the monastery. I could not eat anything anymore that evening. I still wanted to go to the CS meeting. After trying around, eventually I found free wifi in a restaurant on a boat and located the venue of the CS meeting. I had used Couchsurfing for more than 200 times and I LOVE Couchsurfing. No matter however better or worse it have become since the earlier days, it is still the biggest online collection of open-minded people of our planet!! I sincerely think that the whole Couchsurfing community should win the Nobel prize for peace. Seriously, no one, no one has done more than Couchsurfing to promote mutual understanding and trust of total strangers of different countries, cultures, ages, religions and ecomoic and social status. In our time, when trust has become such a difficult thing, especially between strangers. Most people, especially those snobbish “decent” people so often give their judgements simply by one’s appearance, by how decently one is dressed. Most people do live in their comfort zones and inside this zone there is no place for strangers. Strangers are ALL dangerous to them. If a stranger tries to talk to them, they will run with such unspeakable fear!! It’s ridiculous and it’s sad, for themselves, for the strangers and for the whole humanity! It will be a bit too much to generalize, but Couchsurfing people stand out as a pose of contrast to this and as hope! That’s why I love Couchsurfing so much, not just because it provides the chance of free accommodation, but because of the sheer trust between strangers, which has its root in the generous love and faith for human race. If you think about it, especially if you are ever in the situation when you have a hard time in a strange and unfriendly place, it is not just wonderful, but actually TOUCHING how much Couchsurfers trust each other! I used Couchsurfing almost all the time when I was travelling in Europe, Middle East and China. However, South East Asia is different, in Laos, Cambodia and most parts of Thailand CS hardly exists…… I had missed the feeling of being among Couchsurfers too much to not to go to this meeting even if I had a uncooperative stomach and I would have to walk about 5km from the monastery. When I was about 2 km on the way, the stomach got not just very revolting, but also painful…… I literally could not move any step anymore without sticking one fist to my belly. Shit…… I had to call it off, so I slowly moved back to the monastery. No, no Couchsurfing meeting for me tonight…… 😦
Later in the evening, I told the young monk about the thunderstorm in my stomach. His face instantly turned very serious and went searching for medicine for me. Soon enough he came back with a bottle of pills. I held it under the yellow light and tried my best to read the instruction. It turned out to be for something opposite of diarrhea…… I gave it back to him and said no, it was not this one. His face turned even more severe this time and went for another round. When he came back again, he brought a bottle of milk, with some medicine inside. I read the instruction. It was not clear if it was for diarrhea but it was surely better than the previous one. I thanked him and started to rammage my backpack. Last time when I had a serious diarrhea was last year September in Turkey. My hosts, a Dutch-Turkish couple went out at night to fetch medicine for me and they came up with a bottle of pills, which soon cured my trouble. I remembered that there was still one pill left in the small glass bottle somewhere in my backpack. After a thorough search, I found the little bottle! I held it under the yellow light to see if it already expired. Yes, it expired! No worries. I was pretty sure that it would still work! Except for cold water, my stomach was generally very powerful and tolerant. It was an “open-minded” stomach, just like myself. 😛 I never had food poision while traveling. The last food poision I had was when I was in primary school in China. I could eat rotten things and still stay ok and I always enjoyed street food without any problem. I took the last pill. Then I opened the milk bottle which the monk gave me. The milk tasted …… interesting…… 😛 I did my best to drink some. Then I tried my best to sleep. I was planning to try table diving that night but I could not even move out of that room…… I forgot how I eventually fell asleep but I did fall asleep after several rounds of releasing the internal explosives.
Jan 7th, 2015