the stupids step out

have you read or watched tales of such titles? it was a familial favorite in the helton household when i was a wee one and as such, a phrase that applied to many an outing. if you have not been so exposed, let this be your deflowering in the ways of all things stupid, and in september.

we left laos under the preconception of a miscalculation, one that could easily have been rectified had we simply deciphered the block lettered visa like normal, prepared travelers do. we have, after all, made our lives out of this trip. instead, we returned to thailand a week earlier than necessary, and with 3 days hanging out of the end of our new thai entry stamp like a seatbelt enclosed in the backdoor of a speeding sedan – scratching, denting, and annoying the crap out of owner and observer alike. but who the hell really cared; the potential penalties were in the future and minimal and the month was booked solid as we were gunning for a run through burma, among many other things. before i retell anymore however, let’s go ahead and number these things so we as a collective can observe their occurrence and latent thwarting.

starting 1 september, we were (in no particular order) going to:

1. meet up with maggie holden, a momma from the motherland who lives in chiang mai

2. do a meditation retreat

3. take a cooking class

4. do some substantial yoga

5. go to burma

6. rent motorbikes and freely explore the north

7. go to a muay thai boxing match

we are rather used to full-on 30 day segments and this one sure stood to empty us out of mainland se asia with a bang and on a buck. but, as already assumed, our trail got a bit twisted. to start with, our buddy had self-banished, taking on her own regimented asian hunt and leaving us to lonely planet’s list of ‘must see’ chiang mai. timing, timing, gets you every…time. next.

with buddhas beckoning every street corner, chiang mai is truly a setting for a mindful sitting. we were hoping to hop on that patient, meditative path but had a hard time coordinating all the earthly elements of length, strength, and level with the courses and retreats offered. one afternoon of particular frustration (buddha was known to be a cheeky bastard), we were moping down the boulevard ready to turn away from ‘the way’ when a jovial czech man of middled age approached us with 3 simple questions: do we speak english, are we interested in meditation, and are we free tonight? well if that just ain’t a lesson in the astral, i don’t know what is! upon affirmation we were given cards with an address, a phone number, a list of languages, a picture of a cat and a picture of a dog. that evening, our conjoined spirit was comprised of us plus 4: 2 european girls who were renting a room in the czech’s complex and taking massage courses, and 2 other random street snatches, aussie boys who were filming a documentary about thai boxing which will certainly feature your favorite traveling troupe.

our main man milos’s gathering commenced with an explanation, including a part about how we were going to see our souls that evening; he made sure to boast a 97% feedback approval. now, i definitely enjoy all that comes with a good relaxing sit, but i was beyond a bit skeptical about the soul part and its overnight enlightenment. especially when he explained that we do this by staring at a desk lamp and then turning the light off and staring at the wall with our eyes open following the trail of light, the bubble of our being. the beginning breathing exercises were par for this path, but then milos began chanting about forgiving the animals, spirits, humans who have done us wrong and about them forgiving us. and here it really began, as one of the girls started crying, understandable if a bit melodramatic but that was apparently only warm up. once blinded by our souls, she started her…well exorcism is the closest thing i’ve got in my vocabulary trace this trance. she was hysterical and convinced that a dark force was after her, withering on the ground and shaking spasmodically. and then, AND THEN, one of the aussie boys started crying out and sobbing and saying he could see what was after her and that he could help her. so they went towards this thing together, crying and fighting and swatting and screaming. about every 5-10 mins or so the light would be turned back on so as to trigger our soul seeing, but it’s pretty safe to say i had lost all focus on not focusing or focusing on our souls but not on other things or focusing on being open to what our souls wanted from us or whatever we were ‘supposed’ to be doing in our creepy little circle. at one point it became downright scary and it was then that milos turned the light on for good. she was entirely sweat soaked and her eyes were pretty vacant; i felt worn out for her. we debriefed but it seemed rather futile.

obviously, we returned the next night and while it certainly did not disappoint, it was not quite so born again buddhist as the night before. it sure made not talking for 10 days at a monastery seem like the less extreme option. next.

well, we were certainly due for some sort of success, and luckily taking a cooking class is as easy as writing your name and guesthouse on a piece of paper and paying. there is little to report from this omnivorous outing; our top chief was named boom, she was adorable, alex’s panang curry was better than my green curry but my pad thai was picture perfect, and we did not set any flammable human parts aflame. next.

concurrent with our failures were our walks around the city, which lead us down many beautiful alleys and to many closed yoga studios, none of which seemed to want customers until the high season arose again in october. so we promised each other we’d simply begin a morning stretching routine that was directed at the aches angered by the many sprung springs and overeager pillows on which we lay me down to sleep. the fruit of this labor has been about as sweet as a lemon and as successful as the potato in 1846. next.

we also spent our first days in chiang mai complaining that despite my fanatic intrigue in all things burma, there was to be no trip in 2009. you see, there was no land crossing that took us much farther than the border, and no wishful thinking was going to change them junta ways. even though the flights into burma were fair asian current, the visa was to be begot down yon south, and we were in no shape by this point to make those miles. so we were suddenly graced with the first 2 and 1/2 weeks in 6 months that we had not a damn clue what to do with. next.

among the many things ‘present’ in milos’s house was the indispensable knowledge that only a transplanted neo-native may possess of one’s land. we left his house the second night with an almost legible hand drawn map of the province and stops along the way. the course drawn was estimated to take one week via moto, a perfect dent into our newly acquired snippet. after reaching a stalemate in chiang mai, we finally set a date of departure and dreamed deeply of what tales we would tell of our scars after our inevitable transport tumbles. as it turns out, this manifestation may have been delayed indefinitely.

it is not rare to feel achy and nauseous traveling and it does not necessarily even mean you are sick. it is not comfortable being on the move; being away from home is often not the only discomfort. it is, however, scary as hell to wake up next to a breathing, blinking furnace as i did on the morning we were due to depart. and even after aleve, cold compresses, warm blankets, and hot soup, alex still woke up the next day radiating down to his toe tips. i made a few frantic calls to the travel insurance company and guided, loaded mr. delusional into the nearest tuk tuk to take us to our recommended hospital, paying blindly for whatever price was asked. out of all the places we’ve been, i have to say that we were damn lucky this happened in thailand as it is known for it’s facilities for foreigners (i know from experience it’s nicer than ireland) and he was taken care of beautifully. his diagnosis was, however, lost in translation, for we (me, he doesn’t really remember the first 2 visits) were sent away with extra strength tylenol and an appointment to come back and check for dengue fever in 2 days. well, as it turns out, he was actually sent away with dengue, bed ridding him for at least a week. and what a week it was. once the fever broke, the nausea set in, which certainly added an element of surprise and diarrhea (cha cha cha) to each evening and every trip back from the local food market. we passed the time between the 3 hospital visits by dramatically reading stephen king’s “salem’s lot” aloud. i’m sure the guesthouse thought us odd. next.

allowing for recovery and relapse, we used our time adage to our advantage and simply revamped our plans, cutting out our far reaching moto track and opting for something a bit more tame, such as the crunchy yet stunning village of pai. i mean, you can rent motorbikes there, or anywhere, and do day trips all up in them mountains, so why stray too far from dr. supachai and his supa dupa ways? and mark my words, that’s what we would have done if we hadn’t gotten all 700+ curves up there only to realize our reentry visas were actually valid for 15 days and we were of course on day 15. so we booked the earliest bus back to chiang mai, staying a mere 14hrs outside of that damned land, and from there we then booked another bus to mae sai, the border point with burma. turns out, we were going to burma after all. next.

tired and frustrated, we found nothing but cheap noodles, fake gems, and suicidal single rooms in those parts, but we made the best of it and got new stamps – that still managed to leave out those 3 doggone days in october. so we ventured 4 days later (we tried on the 3rd day, but the bus was already booked when we got to the station at 7am) to replace the new stamps with newer ones and to buy some chinese dvds. we were determined to make this famed visa run all in one day and only experienced a moment of doubt when the border bus steward made us believe that the bus was booked ‘everyday.’ well let’s just say that we finagled some fortune and found ourselves southbound. which of course came at a price for we quickly attracted a 25yr old thai business man who was so enthralled with our headachy silences that he pestered the woman out of the seat next to alex so he could sit and talk to us the whole 6 hrs back. and when i say whole, i mean whole, for here i will quote “i do not like to read, i do not like to sleep, i only like to talk because if i don’t talk i don’t remember things i have done.” next.

we did try once to make it to a muay thai boxing match, a nightly exhibition in every thai city, and somehow managed to go to the wrong ring. we decided to try again hoping our luck would take a leap after a long break from attempting anything. next.

we also failed a hair cuttery course.

we also failed a hair cuttery course.

yummy yummy

yummy yummy

one, two, three, FIRE!

one, two, three, FIRE!

yankee doodle thai-dandy.

yankee doodle thai-dandy.

alex's last non-tropical fever feed.

alex's last non-tropical fever feed.

a well met 'bow.

a well met 'bow.

a stupid.

a stupid.

really ambitious marketing.

really ambitious marketing.

we really did it.

we really did it.

a burmese postcard.

a burmese postcard.

these two will lead you on to heaven. lucky you.

these two will lead you on to heaven. lucky you.

alex gave himself an award for this photo.

alex gave himself an award for this photo.

she's coming home with us.

she's coming home with us.

alex makes a new friend.

alex makes a new friend.

you too can hold a burmese passport!

you too can hold a burmese passport!

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4 Responses to “the stupids step out”

  1. Mumm-Ra: The Ever-Living Says:

    “i do not like to read, i do not like to sleep, i only like to talk because if i don’t talk i don’t remember things i have done.”

    Reminds me of someone I know…. 😉

  2. I can’t believe u cooked Megan. I feel like it was just yesterday you were setting off fire alarms by setting the microwave on fire. Weren’t you just trying to heat up some water (in a metal cup)?

    Alex – hope you’re feeling better.

  3. Mommy Dearest Says:

    Well I see the Stupids are still stepping out and mixing up all the normal activities of life…… keep up the tradition….you all make a Mama proud.

  4. desk lamps that uses compact fluorescent bulbs are much better than those that still uses incandescent lamps*’:

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