mercoledì 29 agosto 2012

Luang Prabang: candles, monks and gold dragons 9.30 pm. A full moon night.

Luang Prabang, Laos 

The sound of raining is mixing with the note of gong from Buddist temples, while the city is preparing to rest. Here life unfolds with other times, other rhythms, a different consistency. Small candles illuminate gardens and stone guardians of Buddha temples, their faces lost in an ethereal smile.
Monks walk around dressed in orange, their head shaved, their dark eyes speaking. Three coats, three baskets for offerings, a belt, a razor, a toothpick, an umbrella: they are not allowed to own anything more.
They walk barefoot, quiet in the streets.
At dawn, they receive offerings in a silent procession through the streets of the city.
In silence they pray, bowing in front of high statues of Buddha.
You can see them learning English in their monasteries, running under the rain or chatting under a tree, smiling at curious foreigners. They work in their courtyards, make jokes with children, getting angry with dogs, smoking a cigarette in a moment of privacy.
On the other side of the river there are restaurants and clubs, shops and bars with live music, selling crepes and pancakes, coffees and Lao Beer. Laundry services and wi-fi, Tour operators organising eco tours, trekking, kayaking, massages and aromatherapy, cooking classes and elephant riding: the other side of a city of temples, candles and gold dragons.

giovedì 16 agosto 2012

Flying thoughts, between buses and boats ...

We wait on the bus: it will leave when full. Many women on board, young girls coming home after school, ladies with shopping bags and an old man with a military green hat, the word “Vietnam” on his t-shirt, a packet of fried bananas in hand.
The women talk, leave their plastic bags on the bus and continue shopping while waiting for the departure. They pass each other leaflets and visiting cards: I imagine them sharing advices on hairdressers and phad thai shops.
Looks, smiles, a few universal gestures: coming back to the essentials on a old bus with no door.
A bow to the king, who looks at us in front of the market: we are finally ready to go.
Let’s the journey start.

Crossing into Laos: slow boat from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang, sailing on the Mekong with Italian, Spanish, Hawaiian ...
Water, wind, sun: so many hours together with strangers, which are strangers no more.
Finding yourself talking about God, in the middle of nowhere, remembering the things that really matter.
A small village to stop for the night: the boat for Luang Prabang docks here every night.
It has brought Internet, cappuccinos, mini-shampoos and hostels that at sunset contend for the arriving tourists. However, not far from the port old wooden houses remain, together with wild gardens and exotic flowers, with cocks giving the good morning and a lush forest.
The brown waters of the Mekong flow quiet underneath: it will be a beautiful day tomorrow.

mercoledì 8 agosto 2012

Chiang Mai's Memories

Silence within the walls: the recall of a near hoopoe, temples hidden behind white walls, suddenly standing out against the sky. An old, knobbed woman on a street corner: she looks at me, begging a smile, immediately returned.
Statues of elephants and temples of dragons: too beautiful to be captured by a photo. Buying sparrows and turtles in a temple, and then taking them to the river with a prayer.
Loosing yourself cycling through the small streets of Chiang Mai: a city of shrines or temple of a city?
A mass in a Thai church: certain glances looks the same in every corner of the world, some gestures as ciphers of a universal language. Voices of monks behind the windows, measured bows, words whispered with folded hands: "Kob Koon Ka", I repeat.
Suddenly a fragile silence, emphasized by the delicate sound of small bells… Forests and mountains as far as the eye can see: the sun colouring of gold sleepy dragons, as the light fades away in the sky, in a shimmering rainbow broken by the sharp orange of a Buddist Monk, passing away with a smile…

giovedì 2 agosto 2012

ยินดีต้อนรับ Bangkok

                                                                                  Bangkok, Thailandia

ยินดีต้อนรับ Bangkok

"Can I help you? Are you studying your guide book? I always did the same at your age ".
Thus Thailand welcomes me, through the genuine smile of a young woman of Bangkok, who is travelling across the globe as me.

A pink taxi from the airport to the city centre: a trip on seats with the face of Hello Kitty, passing shopping centres, Mac Donald’s and highways. Then a minivan takes me to Chinatown: no posh stores, no air conditioned restaurants, no girls with Longchamp anymore: far from Siam Square, centre of “the Good Bangkok” there’s a different life going on.
I walk among temples, statues of Golden Buddha smiling, reclining Buddha, emerald Buddha, food stalls and nests of birds, thai massage and rainbow ice-cream, tea vendors and pomegranate juice.  
Taxis, old, coloured buses and tuc tuc (the asian version of tricycles), fish markets and fruits street traders.
In the meanwhile, a fat fake gold pig wishes good luck moving his little paw.
The lights of skyscrapers light up in the distance, in this hot night in a city that never sleeps.
It looks like rain: Chinese monsoon is coming…

It’s 5.40 am: I can’t sleep.
I take a trip to Talad Noi, the local market of Chinatown: fresh fish, salted animals, papaya, chicken wings and slices of watermelon: toothless old ladies say goodmorning to me.
For 15 bahts (less than 40 euro cents) I make the first purchase of the day: two excellent ham sandwiches with salad and crab: today I will have my lunch box, as has Thai people do.
I take a boat and at 7am I am at the Wadi Arun: a scent of jasmine and the sound of bells, in this temple still empty ... My eyes are wide open while I stare at the prang that rises to the sky: a spiral 79 meters, colourful ceramics in the quiet serenity of dragons and guardian spirits.

At 8am I head for the Royal Palace: so may tourists on the horizon, umbrellas in their hand, bottles of water in their backpacks: it’s a hot, humid summer day. A slice of watermelon and a cold coffee and I am ready for the Emerald Buddha, remembering of his life in search of freedom from world and passion...
What is there a path to salvation? Seeking for nirvana or choosing an existence as Bodhisattva, who renounce to nirvana to help others achieve it?
Enjoy the treasure or abandon it to share our discovery with others?
Go back to the world after founding the light to illuminate the cavern?
Outside the Royal Palace a market of amulets seems to suggest that the answer will not be easy ...