Friday, July 2, 2010

Asia by Motorcycle

Text by Dharmachari & Macpherson; photos by Paulo Kawai

It's time to hit the open road again. Arriving in Thailand, we'll set our sights on the north. Chiang Mai, Thailand's second city, is a welcome relief from Bangkok's Khao San Road (apparently the local joke for a diarrhea diet of green milled rice). Khao San is the start of any shoestring trip to mingle with travelers from all over the world. It's a wonderful place for an entire trip, if one only had a week to explore. And no motorbike is necessary (or possible given the deadly traffic).

Westbound ... by Paulo Kawai

Arriving in the north by an inexpensive "luxury" overnight bus, we turn in one of our passports for a Honda 100cc Dream. Gas is cheap, and helmets are a really good idea. Tucked underneath is a pair of expensive earbuds connected to a cheap Walkman from the bazaar. It's thumping a bootleg version of The Cardigans' Gran Turismo, particularly "Marvel Hill." Why? Because "I don't need this, I don't need this, I need more!" Beware the energy vampires; you may find out you are one.

Rice fields II by Paulo Kawai

It's the way to start any trip. A few bowls of vegetarian green curry over brown country rice, packets of savory cashew nuts, king coconuts, a bag of mangosteens -- and the road is calling. Nothing makes sense back home. The whole world is breaking apart -- from poor Sandra Bullock to bore Al Gore, from the economy to every other family caught in the stress of the Light Chaos, which Galexis warns most of the world is now entering.

The end of the year's longest day ... by Paulo Kawai

Maybe it's the Moon (it's probably the Moon), suggests David Icke in his new book. Whatever it is, it seems high time to get off the merry-go-round, drop out of the rat race, and do some good. Far away in northeast Thailand there is a forest monastery that welcomes Western practitioners, the legendary Wat Pah Nanachat. It was established with an international meditating clientele in mind, in the Ajahn Chah forest lineage that produced such greats as Australia's Ajahn Brahm.

Buddha painting II by Paulo Kawai

Then it's onward to Burma to dodge riot police and batons. In India the motorbikes get bigger and the chances of survival slimmer, and one can wander like a sannyasin. But eventually in Nepal there will be peace and maybe a trek to basecamp, just to say we've been, or hanging out in expat Tibetan villages. There are always hourlong flights to the top of Mt. Everest if we're in a hurry. There's really no reason to come back any time soon. In search of shamans and shramanas (wandering Buddhist ascetics), of experiences and enlightening truths, it's hard to make a wrong turn. Every road leads somewhere.

Phi Ta Khon  by Paulo Kawai

Dalai Lama, China, Tibet
(Mario Tama/Getty Images)

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