The Great Chiang Mai Get-Together


It’s part of why I came back in February — I’d heard about the flowers, didn’t imagine it was a festival to rival the you-know-which-state’s State Fair.

I left from here with the kids … 



Lots to see and to do,  as the students set up their booth- full of purses, backpacks, key chains ( which some village people make for the kids to sell)…& food.       

  No more photos of the kids, who finally packed it in at 10pm, but speaking of food–

En route to a booth



   Light batter, rolled sausage(hot dog)



 Hard-boiled eggs-on-a-stick




 …and on and on it went.  


Beyond food, jewelry, clothes…

 Jackets selling fast, as the Mercury dipped below 80 in the a.m.  

Finally- I left at 7:30, it started at 9(-ish) – The Flower Parade. 

Some  random photo videos here —


  Yes, that is his brow being wiped – by 10, it was getting warm.


   Replica of The Three PrincesMonument…

LIVE replica–

Many,many more flowered floats, but IMHO —BEST IN SHOW….  

PS So, perhaps it’s  not like the Minnesota State  Fair at all  — have I been away so long, that it just felt like it for awhile? Probably. 

Or as one MN friend who knows this place well has put it, “You’re becoming allergic to Mai Pen Rai…”  Someday, I’ll explain, or try to. For now, experiencing it (Mai Pen Tai) as I am, it is enough to say I’m finding life here boulversant/amazing. 



7 Gopurams: Trichy’s Sri Ranganathaswamy

This  temple complex is more like a small city, with its 49 separate shrines and 7 gopurams: the last one,  added about 30 years ago, at 73m. is one of Asia’s tallest temple towers.

I wandered through streets of shops selling the area’s famous kitchen ironware, and clay incense-holders  and ghee-lamps,  as well as  geegaws of all sorts.  It wasn’t too hot yet, so I took my time, milling along  with women in red saris (a wedding? temple visit?), men in dhotis long and short, motorbikes, auto-and a few bike-rickshaws. 


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Leaving, I looked back and my eyes and camera lens landed on this man – sadhu? shopkeeper?


In Tamil Nadu, 4 Days and Nights of Pongal + A Child’s Way

 Overnight, elaborate  RONGOLIS, drawn with brilliant colored powder, appeared  in front of village houses and shops: the  great  Harvest and Thanksgiving feast of Pongal, Day 2. 
  At the ashram cowshed: Pongal altar, and Shantivanam ‘s young prior, with the pujari on the left.  


After this  chanting and blessing with fire – aarti (arathi/arathi/aarti) – of the Pongal Rice…  

  …Sister Mercy, Ananda ashram’s St Francis, performed the ritual Pongal Rice feeding. 
And afterwards,we humans enjoyed the sweet rice. Amma- Sister Mary Louise – shared hers with 6.5-yr-old Abishish.

Earlier, he had been the attentive attendant bell-ringer as his dad and the pujari  blessed the cows.  

When he’d had enough, Abishish became full-on 6.5 years old again.

Towards sunset, I heard him ask for Amma’s blessing.

And so it goes!   


 That then, this now

Last night, Elizabeth, Roy, and I enjoyed one last fling, Chiang Mai’s  Night Market   

As far as I can tell, they’ve reached their next port of call. Missing them already, but the adventures continue.

 It’s Sunday, so I returned to SEVEN FOUNTAINS this morning, and a Feast of the Holy Family homily which I think only a Jesuit could give. He spoke of how M,J,&J — and other Jews — continued to make this  trip to Jerusalem because they continued to believe in freedom, even when they weren’t experiencing it themselves, at least not at that moment (those pesky Romans). It was not much of a leap from there to the Finding in the Temple, and then (in northern Thailand, where we are) from the Finding in the Temple to the situation (& incidents) in nearby Myanmar.  

So, no photos , but a great time during and after Mass. But I digress. 

 To get to the retreat center, I’d  chosen  a   Red Truck driver who became lost; then there was about a mile of bumper-to-bumper traffic on Huai  Kaeo Rd. Consequently,  I  arrived at a packed Mass as the homily was starting. I flashed my cane, and a young man in the last row – the one with  cushioned chairs – literally leapt up to give me his seat. After the homily, when  the woman next to me stood up to sing “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear,” I stood up, too, so she shared her hymnal. It was somewhere in the 5th or 6th  verse, and the line “…and ever over Babel sounds,” that I smiled to myself, looked around…  and realized I’d landed in the choir . 

Oh, well. It was a fine seat, as I say, so I stood up and joined in for the rest of the songs, too – all Christmas Carols, all wonderful to sing. After the Recessional – a belted-out rendition of “Go, Tell It on the Mountain,” my beautiful Thai hymnal owner  leaned over to ask if I’d be there with them next week…. I said no, but I’d be back for the month of February, and she smiled: relieved she’d have a month to prepare the rest of the choir? I wasn’t quite sure.
Afterwards, in the guesthouse at Seven Fointains,  I met with a lovely Jesuit who assures me that my notion (Rosellen’s advice, really –) of reading the book by — every left wing Catholic’s second favorite Jesuit author — James  Martin, on the Spiritual Exercises, is a good way to prepare for a short retreat @ 7 Fountains, and then a February blitz on (in?) the Exercises. Well, we’ll see. 
I ended the morning  and began the afternoon @ the Orange Mac Cafe, a place which, even while missing from this  Chiang Mai coffee shop list, has the best iced coffee in Chiang Mai. IMHO.

Our Royal Progress: pre-and-post Christmas in an Eastern setting

–Lampang – Chiang Mai (Thailand)

 Two days before Christmas, Supon’s bamboo papermaking showroom and workshop are the launching pad for Elizabeth: a year’s worth of art. Roy and I looked on as Soupon packed her order and discussed  mulberry-bamboo percentages, fiber-length…  

Despite posted restrictions, we had a fine Christmas Eve, Riverside. 
Christmas Morning, we tried for the Lampang-Chiang Mai bus.   

ended up in a taxi (no complaints).

Then Roy took charge of the Christmas meal, which was  a Progressive Dinner .  Yes, you read that right ( parked riverside). 

Even if you’re  not a Foodie, I think these plates – I didn’t bother to snap E’s salmon or my curry – give a sense of the next place he chose.   


We ended our Christmas at Anantara. The former British Consulate (it  was Roy’s evening, after all), now a sprawling luxury hotel, is a hoot: rich teak everywhere, and deep green walls in the bar — Japanese minimalist in other parts — and  attentive, early-20th c. -uniformed  wait staff. Poor photos because I was trying to be subtle.


  I gave up all pretense of subtlety for this video —  

and to all, a goodnight!

And now it’s Boxing Day, with my Chiang Mai neighborhood (“mine” for another week) and its uber-tattooed western 65-year-old men on their Vespas. My guesthouse is across from one temple and w/in a couple blocks of others, lovely and cool spaces…and look who showed up in a Sri Lankan RC church!!



Rock Star Tiffany

In Trivandrum, I had the honor of 94% humidity, yes, and a very budget guesthouse, true. However, I also had the honest-to-God huge and absolutely  unadulterated honor of meeting and working for too short a time with the indomitable, young (28!) founder of Jyothirgamaya, a nonprofit which empowers low-vision and blind people…Vision Loss Resources, Indian style!

 Tiffany is a machine — amazing to see her on the phone working on fundraising one minute, teaching a mobility or Voiceover lesson, the next.

 Tiffany moves fast and deftly, in the classroom and in the street (SO fast, I’ve no “outdoor” photos of her!).
Vinitha prepares incredible Kerala food every day at the hostel near the Center – and huge hugs for Tiffany.  

While I was there, one of the young women at the Jyothirgamaya Center got a job, packed up her belongings in the hostel, and headed out —   


“Yes-yes, come-come”


That was the Sister of Charity when I called to see if I could go out again to volunteer for awhile the orphanage. If you ask me some day, I’ll tell you about the nuns, children, and  workers I met at Jeevan Jyoti, but no photos of any of them (impossible, really, at so many levels)

GETTING THERE: The hotel doorman hailed a tuk-tuk this time, and after clattering around and through colonial Connaught Place for 10 minutes, my driver pulled over, hopped out, and brought in a man who looked old enough to be his father, saying,  “My cousin Ma’m. Same price.” I never saw that driver again. 

Anyhow, I did  what I  often do here:  morphed into Queen Victoria, who in another context is [probably inaccurately] credited with saying, I closed eyes and thought of England.  


Driver #2 asking directions

This  fruit and vegetable seller was our 2nd stop for directions; the 3rd was a car labeled “Tourist Police,” and the 4th occurred after I noticed that the sign reading “Mother Teresa’s” (where we’d turned RIGHT ) had had an arrow pointing LEFT. 


Once back in Connaught Place, and anxious to put off packing, I walked again through some of CP, eventually stopping for dinner at United Coffee House (great chandeliers).


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