82. Great Timing

Great Timing: Amy and I haven’t put nearly enough effort into timing our stops with local festivals and happenings of interest. We certainly meant to, in the way that we also meant to take garlic pills and malaria tablets every day, but it’s a detail that’s been lost in the typhoon of our on-the go technique. Naturally, we’ve missed nearly every interesting festival on our route by about a day. In some cases, by hours. And then we arrived in northern Thailand’s Chiang Mai, just in time for a major festival, a lecture by a famous Zen Buddhist master and a 6.1 magnitude earthquake that shook the water out of hotel pools. Finally.

The festival was called Intakin, and it’s an opportunity for locals to make offerings of food, holy water and piles of colorful flowers to a local deity who is meant to usher in the rains of the coming monsoon season (inset). We love the idea of anything that brings the temperature below 100 degrees, so we joined them in praying for rain and gorging on glossy fried noodles. I also ate cooked bugs, small grubs and crickets, I’m working my way up to the giant cicadas. Which is to say I’ll never eat the giant cicadas.

The lecture was given by a Vietnamese monk named Thich Nhat Hanh (above). He’s known for having been one of the most powerful Asian voices against the Vietnam War, was once nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Martin Luther King Jr. and he commands a substantial following of peacenik Westerners in addition to scores of Southeast Asian Buddhists. His talk, about inner peace through meditation, was given in English at a temple/university complex where we happily sat with a couple hundred foreigners, locals and young monks-in-training on the unforgiving temple floor. I nipped out a little early to get a banana crepe from a nearby vendor, but I think I got the gist. Something about breathing and appreciating the sound of geckos.

The earthquake was fun. We were on the third floor of our guesthouse when it happened, centered less than 100 miles away in Laos, and the building swayed more than my dad at my sister’s wedding reception last year. Our attempts at self-preservation were well coordinated, as usual.

Me: Ohhh, I feel wobbly.
Amy: The building is moving! It’s an earthquake!
Me: That’s not good.
Amy: Shouldn’t we get into a doorway or something?
Me: I think that’s for tornadoes.
Amy: Wait, it’s stopping. Or maybe it’s about to get worse.
Me: Let’s go outside and look at stuff.
Amy: Ok. I think I hear people swimming downstairs.

In fact, no one was swimming, but there was a woman trying in vain to squeegee a large quantity of water back into our guesthouse’s swimming pool. As she explained, with very wide eyes, the shaking was enough to make waves that rocked several inches of water out of the pool. Marvelous.


  1. Anonymous says:

    Thich Nhat Hanh!! That guy is a awesome, I remember reading the Heart of Understanding in college and being completely blown away. That’s so cool.


  2. Anonymous says:

    I was swaying to the tunes being spun by the DJ I’ll have you know!