After almost 24 hours of travel, including a pit stop in Tokyo, I finally arrived in Thailand. Luckily, I was able to persuade a desk agent to book me all the way there and back with exit row seating. Between that and the fact that I didn't have my two young kids to entertain for 24 hours it pretty much felt like first class. Our route carried us more or less over the top of the planet, chasing the sun all the way. Out my window, I was treated to hours of the frozen, splendid desolation of northern Canada, Siberia and Russia as we approached Japan from the north. The transition definitely created the impression I was leaving one world and entering another.
One of my friends from the Thai wat (temple) in Centereach had arranged for someone to pick me up at the airport and I was delivered to Wat Benchamabophit, also called the Marble Temple, so-called because the entire exterior is sheathed in white Carrera marble. It is a striking sight, especially at night when the luminous and brightly illuminated exterior of the temple presents a striking contrast against the black sky. That was my first view as we arrived and entered the walled grounds of the monastery.
The second thing I saw was the ghostly apparition of 5 large white dogs materializing out of the darkness. I heard them before I saw them and they were not exactly singing songs of welcome. Following behind them were a few monks dressed in the familiar orange robes. They greeted me warmly and the dogs melted back into the night.
We crossed the temple grounds and headed towards the residences. Silent monks slowly moved around the paths in walking meditation and large bats swooped swiftly around our heads. It was at once pervasively silent and noisy, the sounds of unknown animals and insects punctuating the stillness.
A few technical notes:I am composing these blog entries on an iPod and then uploading them when I am able to get wifi access. Downtown there are plenty of internet cafes, but around this area and out in the countryside they are more scarce. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to leave me a note.