Traveling in Asia can be fascinating since life happens out on the streets. People meet, talk, eat, sleep, and party outside. It is the total opposite of life in many western countries where most activity takes place indoors, and where streets are mostly devoid of people except for the ones in their cars.
In Asia you can just walk around and you will find something going on in most places. I live in Thailand which is primarily a Thai culture with some Chinese and Muslim mixed in. Malaysia however is a country (right next to Thailand) with three distinct cultural groups: Malays, Chinese and Indians. They all have their own languages, customs, festivals, religion and culture. Read the rest of this entry
The author, Shama Kern, demonstrating hamstrings work in Thai Massage
The easy and very affordable access to massage in Thailand is one of the bonuses for living here. Like everywhere in the world, the quality of massage varies greatly. I have received many great Thai massage sessions in Thailand, but I also had some rather bizarre experiences.
This story is from the lower end of the massage spectrum. When I think of it now, it seems quite funny, but when it actually happened, it did not seem funny at all. Read the rest of this entry
Thailand along with any other place on the planet has its good and not so good sides. That’s just how life works. We have have to look at the overall balance. For me, there are more good sides to Thailand than problematic sides. That’s why I live here.
It can be quite interesting to look at how one characteristic can be both good and not so good, depending on the context. The Thai people are generally quite patient. This can be very refreshing, especially if, like in my case, you came from the US where patience is not high on the agenda. Read the rest of this entry
If you read my previous article, you know that I escaped the seasonal pollution of my hometown in Thailand, Chiang Mai, during March and April and settled in Penang, Malaysia, for that period. Penang is a tropical island, but probably not the kind you might be thinking of. Here is what it’s NOT:
It is not a tropical island where you lie on the beach, slathered with sun tan lotion, while trying to accumulate the evidence on your skin for your friends at home that you have been on vacation.
It is not a third world place with old, rickety cars, pot-holed streets, and begging children.
This is not a story about tourist attractions in Malaysia, temples, cultures and festivals. It is a very human story, something that happened to me, and something that changed my way of thinking.
When I arrived in Penang, Malaysia, I spent quite some time looking for a good and reasonably priced accommodation. Finally I found the brand new and very clean Tower Budget Hotel which has a friendly and very helpful staff that made me feel like I was part of a family and not just some stranger. Also the location is perfect, right next to Little India, the most colorful part of Penang and my favorite area in this city.
But then something happened that made me wonder where I had ended up, and a peculiar story started to unfold. Read the rest of this entry
The author with a bottle of fresh squeezed orange juice at his favorite juice place in the Sunday market of Chiang Mai, Thailand
Singing the praise of Chiang Mai
I live in Chiang Mai, Thailand, one of my favorite cities in Asia. Why? The cost of living is one of the most affordable in Asia, you get great value for your money, there is lots to do, people are friendly, the pace of life is pleasantly slow, there is great mountain scenery nearby, and the weather is generally quite good. On top of all that Chiang Mai is one of the major healing arts and holistic hubs of Asia.
Different strokes for different folks, as the saying goes. Your definition of a good relationship may be quite different from those of a different culture. We all assume that our way of thinking is the only correct one. But this assumption can be shaken severely when you travel to other parts of the world. The concept of paying for a relationship may not agree with your way of thinking, but in Thailand this is quite common.
Putting the kids on the spot
I live in Thailand, and I am married to a Thai woman. She has two teenage children from a previous marriage. When someone finds out that their step father is a “farang”, a foreigner, typically the first (and mostly last) question is: “Is he rich?” Read the rest of this entry
Some places in the world attract holistic, alternative or ‘new age’ communities. This includes practitioners of yoga, massage, various healing arts, meditation, Qigong and many others. Some of those places are in beautiful surroundings like Sedona, Arizona or Bali, Indonesia.
Others are in places with a long history of spirituality like Rishikesh, India. Some of them develop in beautiful beach areas like on the Big Island of Hawaii.
And some are in big cities that offer facilities for a large clientele of practitioners, healing arts students and health and wellness seekers in all kinds of holistic branches. Such a place is Chiang Mai, Thailand.
The city has over a million inhabitants, but at it’s core is the historic old town, surrounded by a moat and old city gates. In that part of town you feel like time slowed down compared to the hustle and bustle outside of the old city.
There are many pleasures to be had in Thailand without having to spend a lot of money. I don’t mean to say that everything is cheap in Thailand because that’s not true. But if you go ‘local’, you can enjoy a good life for a fraction of what it would cost you in the west.
I usually go for an evening walk to one of the main streets nearby where lots of vendors set up their stalls every evening.
Street markets and road side vendors are very typical scenes in Thailand. Especially when I don’t feel like cooking at home, and I don’t want to go to a restaurant, the street vendors are the saving grace.
I picked up a bag of steamed sweet potatos, a noodle dish, mashed potatos with vegetables, three ripe mangos and a tasty dessert, and the total cost was about US $2. I took it home, and it was so much that I could not even finish it for dinner. Read the rest of this entry
Have you ever seen 10000 monks assembled in one place? Most likely not, but I was lucky enough to catch this unique and amazing event on camera here in Chiang Mai, Thailand. It really took my breath away seeing 10000 monks chanting and collecting alms. This was a profound insight into the Thai Buddhist culture and one of those events that you never forget.