A Travellerspoint blog

Retreat! Retreat!


Am going to write about my meditation retreat offline and in some depth, but I need to let it bed down for a day or two. It was a very 'loose' retreat, much more so than the last one I did. It also had both a record attendance and drop out rate - 141 people started the retreat, 80 finished it. It was very special (obviously not so special for those who left...). More soon though...

Posted by jjmaurage 06:33 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Beach for the Stars

And another one for the rest of us


So I've had 2 nights of boozing on my first beach of the trip - Tonsai (Ton Sai). Although it's on the mainland it feels like an island and I heard a few people call it 'the island' while I was there. The only way to get there is by longtail boat, which is almost a great way to travel.DSC00269.jpg I say 'almost' because the big diesel engines they use for them are incredibly noisy, but I find that you tune it out after a few minutes once you're distracted by the stunning scenery.DSC00270.jpg It's these limestone rock formations that have drawn a huge crowd of rock climbers to Ton Sai, and it's climbing that is really the basis of this beach's existence (incidentally, sorry the pictures are a bit crap, it's just from my phone and I couldn't be bothered to sort them in photoshop). It's only 1 beach away from Railay beach, which is a much more developed resort. I rented a kayak and went on an ATM run one day and was amazed at the difference. In many ways, Tonsai is a bit shoddy, dirty, down at heels but with loads of character (and 'characters') and Railay is just like wandering into a Disneyland version of Thailand - really clean and lovely and expensive, but not much like any Thai town I've ever seen. Prices are at least triple over here and the brick built bungalows looked very very nice. I guess I could actually afford to stay in places like that, but somehow I just can't bear to spend huge amounts of money when I don't need to. I like a simple wooden bungalow with a fan, cheap booze, a bunch of lone travellers who're quite happy to chat and some girls to look at. I have simple tastes.

I spent another night on the guitar the night before last, I met a Swedish girl Marie who was a singer, so we sat on the beach and sang (of all things...) Anthony and the Johnsons, which I love. Apparently his Stockholm gig was sold out in minutes, who would have guessed? Although, I suppose there is that winter depression thing in Sweden, I can imagine them all sitting in dark bars crying and singing 'I hope there's someone who'll take care of me, when I die'.

The one thing I discovered from my few nights on the beach is, I will find any number of distractions to avoid writing my book. I managed to write 2 new songs (which I'm really happy with) in the 2 days I was in Tonsai. I think that because writing songs is something I'm NOT meant to be doing (in my alloted writing time) that it feels MUCH more fun than it does normally. The problem is that each of my new songs are about specific girls, so if I'm going to play them anywhere I'm going to have to explain that some bits of the song are not true, just added under the terms of my artistic licence. When I think about it, all the songs that I've written have a specific girl at the heart of them...maybe that's normal though?

Top Ten Distractions from Writing my Novel

1. Girls
2. Boys (just in the talking to them way...)
3. Playing my Guitar
4. Reading
5. Writing Songs
6. Obsessing over weight and how much food I consume a day (I have only 2 meals now, in preparation for the retreat)
7. Writing this Blog
8. Insomnia (not as bad at the moment)
9. Obsession with running out of time to write the book and coming home with not a lot
10. Treating the 48 (and counting...) mosquito bites that continually itch

Next blog entry will be after my 10 day meditation retreat. 10 days of silence, no reading, no writing, no music, no booze, no meat, yoga and meditation all day, concrete shelf with a thin mat as a mattress and more insects, snakes, scorpions and stining centipedes than you can imagine. It'll be great. No really, it will.

Posted by jjmaurage 21:52 Archived in Thailand Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

You're Meatin' Heart

If there's one thing I just love it's barbecued meat on a stick from a street seller or night market. I've become obsessive about it. Even though I frequently have some really bad ones, the good ones are SO good that I'm prepared to accept the odds. I just bought three different types: chicken ones - they were bad....they were chicken livers and I just DON'T dig liver, except when it's made into a pate, pork sausage - very good and tasty - and then another round of chicken, this time ACTUAL chicken with pineapple. I don't bother with dinner generally, just meat on a stick. Better get it down me because in a week I'll be vegetarian and booze free for 10 days at the meditation retreat.

Posted by jjmaurage 06:58 Comments (0)

It’s Scott Bass

Loads actually


Travelling with a pair of electrically impotent double A powered speakers has – paradoxically - added a new dimension to my listening adventures. I recall a time, but a few years ago, in a very austere hostel in Gran Canaria and my friend - erstwhile audiologist and reformed musical fascist, Max - commented on the distinct lack of any actual bass, and therefore any interest in my diminutive little speaker array (incidentally, the manager of the hostel didn’t find them quite as inoffensive as Max, nor our response after he complained about the noise at 3am). Whilst it is certainly true that the speakers themselves aren’t capable of reproducing the very broad range of frequencies present within the modern musical canon, I know the albums I listen to well enough to fill in the bassline shaped fissures myself: right in my own mindbox. Clever huh? And fun. To me this makes listening to music more of an ‘active’ experience. Why have the speakers lazily reproduce the bassline when you can step up to the bar and imagine it in your head with all the rich, sonorous, belly-kicking grandour it so proudly deserves. Think my speakers sound shit? In actual fact it's YOU that's the problem; you're just not imaginiative enough.

This argument parallels my issues with reading the work of Tolkien (et al): I need an actual ‘role’ when I read; a ‘purpose’; an element that stops me from being little more than a passive observer of an artwork taking place in my general vicinity; which seems to care little – if at all - whether I consume it or not (they are cold books aren't they? so unresponsive) Tolkien tells me everything and even offers me bloody maps so I can imagine where it actually happened too (‘In the Kingdom of Oprah, by the straights of Tarragon, amid a sham of a mockery of a mockery of a sham sits bugger all’). When the book offers up such an avalanche of facts and figures, plot and sub-plot: what do I get to do? I know who a character’s mother is, who his friends are, his ancestry, his deams, his beliefs, his fears. I know what happened, what is happening and what will happen (for it is foretold…probably, it’s been a while since I read it) so in the end I kind of think that it - the story - doesn’t really need me: the reader. The story is so fully formed that it can take care of itself. In the meantime: I’ll be in the pub.

I prefer a book which allows me the space to complete aspects of it by myself; that takes me to a dropping off point and allows me the opportunity to create my own resolution; that lets me (the reader, not just me, that would be very selfish) close its narrative arc. In a traditional romantic resolution do you need to see the couple actually living happily ever after? Or is there a possibility that actually attempting to show the period after they realised they love each other will turn out to be rather tawdry. I mean, living happily ever after, it’s bound to be well boring isn’t it? You know when a friend says ‘we’re just SO happy, it’s amazing, just being together is enough really’. Well yes…for a while, but forever? Happily ever after? That's just NOT realistic. Even really happy couples don't manage to live 'happily ever after'.Living with someone is always going be a complicated and messy affair of sturm and drang; bob and weave...and Jekyll and Hyde. I think the open ending offers the opportunity to imagine a (purely fictional) resolution more powerful and rewarding than any that could be written. So here’s to the unwritten, the unsaid, the implicit and the ambiguous; although when I get to hear my music with actual basslines again I may well change my mind. I’m fickle that way (and in most other ways).

I did start off writing about Bass....I don't know how the hell I ended up ranting about Tolkien.

Posted by jjmaurage 22:47 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Pad-Lock this Way

Talk this way...

View So Long...and thanks for all the fish. on jjmaurage's travel map.

2 nights ago I get back from Penang and I WAS going to go straight back to my mountain resort hideaway, but then Scott decided that we should do a pub crawl round the bars of Krabi and despite my reservations I soon consented. Actually, it may have been my idea...either way it was consensual. We did a large loop of the town including the ubiquitous reggae bar, a ladyboy bar, a bar with nobody in it but is and a second reggae bar that had no music and was therefore rejected. How can you have a reggae bar with no music? That's just a 'bar' surely?

Many of the bars had guitars for people to play, which I had been trying (not very hard) to ignore but eventually they got the better of me and I was off on one of my all too common 4 in the morning singalongs with a mixture of Thais and Farangs. I particularly like the ladyboy who didn't really know the words but insisted on singing along anyway...and stroking my head, and before you asked NO I didn't. All right?

Earlier in the evning, I had, very smugly, found a much nicer guest house than the one I had been staying in...this was impeccably clean, hot water shower, nice linen, double bed: brilliant. Scott was staying in a 150 Baht room (that's 3 quid fact fans) with a shared cold water shower, a single bed and the smell of shit throughout (ok, I made the last bit up...). Around 5.00 am, singalong complete, I venutre back to my lovely guest house only to find it locked; but I have a key right? My key takes the padlock off, but the gates won't open. I try everything to open them, including brutal ultra-violence. I huff and I puff, but the fucker's going nowhere. It's now about 5.45 and I'm VERY tired and emotional. I can see my room in my mind's eye and it looks like nirvana. I stumble off to find somewhere else to sleep, everywhere is closed, but I basically shouted at a sleeping woman in the reception of a guest house till she woke up and gave me a room: a room which cost more than my original room and was filthy, squalid, smelly and this time really did smell of shit.

I haven't seen Scott since, but if you're reading this...you won that one.

When I went back to my original hotel te next morning and explained, they laughed and said I was stupid and whilst they didn't say it, I could tell there was no possibility that I might get my money back. I hate karma...I will NEVER be so smug about finding a good room again.

Posted by jjmaurage 21:57 Archived in Thailand Tagged lodging Comments (0)

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