Fang, a small town about 150 kilometers north of Chiang Mai, was the next destination of my trip. During the bus ride I had a lot of time to think – and to write.
I‘m the only white person in the van cooled to refrigerator temperature. It smells extremely of perfume, which almost takes my breath away. Maybe that’s why Momo, a young Thai woman, gave me two protective masks. I absolutely need them, she assured me – she probably meant it more in relation to the corona virus and not because of the pungent smell.
I actually wanted to take the big, rickety orange bus to Fang, about 150 kilometers north of Chiang Mai. But just when I was about to buy the ticket, an elderly lady walked between me and the somewhat surprised seller. No, no, she said, I should definitely take the shuttle to Fang. She pushed me towards another gentleman and he motioned for me to follow him. We walked across the dusty bus station until he pointed to a shop, said “ticket” and waved goodbye.
The out of nowhere
It was dark in the room I entered, a few empty tables were standing around, what looked like a restaurant didn’t seem to be one. “Office?” suddenly said a voice out of nowhere on my left. The voice belonged to an older gentleman, he had put his feet on the table and had made himself comfortable on the worn desk chair. He motioned for me to go out tot he other side.
So there I was, looking at a couple of dirty shop windows across the street. Tuk Tuks, trucks, and motorcycles rattled past me at a daring pace. I just assumed that the characters on an orange background above the largest of the shop windows meant something like shuttle service, I went in and actually had a paper printout with my ticket in my hand a little later. And with this ticket, Momo and the mask, I‘m now sitting in the van mentioned above.
Fang is the destination of my trip, or more precisely: Wat Sriboonruang, the Buddhist temple of the city near the border with Myanmar, where tourists usually don’t go to. However, the temple has a Vipassana meditation center with plenty of space for meditators from Asia – and ten small huts for westerners. I want to move into one of these huts for a week to practice meditation under supervision.
Interpreting the signs of the universe
The really exciting thing is how the universe showed me the way here, I think, while the van is twitching over bumpy roads. I wanted to download a book on my e-reader for the long flight from Vancouver to Chiang Mai. But all those who were on my long wish list were not available. Stupid, I thought, and decided to just read anything related to Thailand. I came across “The Travel Episodes” (German only). Johannes Klaus, himself a world traveler, lets authors tell their own personal travel experiences. They are compelling stories. And while the first suburbs of Chiang Mai appeared under the plane, I read the last pages of the book, on which one of the authors tells about his experiences in Wat Sriboonruang. I was hooked. When I arrived at the hostel, I researched the Vipassana retreat, contacted Clyde, the monk in charge, the same day, and received his e-mail the following day saying: “Yes, we have room for you.”
So just a few days later I’m on my way to the place from the book. Only when the little van stops, the driver calls “hello” and points at me, I‘m torn from my thoughts. Shortly afterwards I stand next to my backpack on the sandy floor. I discover a huge golden Buddha statue that seems to be looking at us, the backpack and me, waiting. The beginning of a calm, spiritual, inspiring and exhausting week.
Cover photo: Sunrise over the lake at the Vipassana meditation center in Fang.