This post will take a little break from sightseeing for something a bit more spiritual I found along my travels. Ahead of Friday's post on my time in Sukhothai, this one will focus on one very small part of my days spent visiting temples and cycling around the beautiful Thai countryside. The evening I arrived, after a well-deserved rest following the horrible, sweaty journey there, I headed out to explore, find food and to check out the closes temple to my guest house. Not planning to enter Sukhothai Historical Park until the next morning, I decided to visit a temple that stood just outside the gates, in the centre of a picturesque lake, at sunset. It was pretty beautiful and the perfect time to visit as the place was deserted, but it was not the view that captured my imagination, but the decorations hanging in the tree surrounding the island. Each had been adorned with wise words of Buddha and offered advice, motivation or kind assurance that the reader was firmly on track. It was such a lovely idea that I couldn't keep it to myself. I know that we all have bad days sometimes and words like these can really help to put things in perspective or give you the boost you need to make a change in your life.Whether you're religious, spiritual or don't give any of it the time of day, I think everyone can relate to the values, the idea that you should seize control of your life and make it the very best it can be. It's something we all need to be reminded of at times, I know of so many people who are working in jobs they hate or feel like they are stuck in a rut, and yet they are too afraid to seize the day and make a change. I love the above phrase "Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions, all life is an experiment." After chatting to a friend I met the other day about my experiences of travelling alone, I was reminded again of how much of a leap I took when I came out here three months ago. As I said to him, it really doesn't feel like a big deal that I came travelling alone but at the time it was the scariest and biggest decision I have ever made - and yet it has had the biggest payoff and effect on my life of any choice I have made so far. It just shows you that to yield big rewards you have to make the biggest jumps. It doesn't just apply to travelling, I have met so many people while travelling who have been on the cusp of making big choices about university, careers, taking over a family business, making a big move across the country or the world, or even their relationships. All are unsure about making a it decision, but travelling is inspiring them to take that leap.
Hope everyone is having a good week - if you have any inspiring stories to share, why not leave a comment?
My final post on my time in Phuket is one about a particularly amazing experience that I was lucky to survive. I decided one evening to wake up early the next morning and hike up to the highest point of Phuket Town, Khao Rang, after a friend who worked in the hostel recommended I check out the sunrise. It sounded magical and I couldn't resist the opportunity to watch Phuket spring into life from the grounds of a temple high in the hills. For me, sunsets are beautiful and special in their own way, but best when shared with someone special, or a group who mean a lot to you. The sunrise is different, it is a moment for solitude and peace, a moment for silence to take in the world around you. As I said in previous posts, Phuket was a time for me to explore on my own, because one important thing to remember about travelling by yourself,mis that you're very rarely completely by yourself. It can be nice to get out on your own and be totally independent again, and this was my chance to do something alone.I woke up at 5.30am and quickly pulled on my trainers and grabbed my bag. Walking down the street you could see it had barely wound down from the bustling market that filled it each night, and yet fresh stall holders were already setting up and taking deliveries. Still dark, the road was bathed in soft light from the street lamps and the cars and bikes driving past - it's never quiet in Thailand. I made my way along the street, following my vague map and directions. At the crossroads I turned right and started the walk uphill, passing stalls and shops opening up. Finally I reached the end of the main roads and started to climb the hill alongside a small Thai woman who was on her way to another temple for morning prayers. Despite not speaking a word of English she seemed eager to chat and find out more about me, it was a lovely start. Thanks to a big of sign language and wishful thinking we managed to have a bit of a chat before parting ways.Not long after, I genuinely thought I was going to die. Okay, I'm being a bit melodramatic but seriously guys, no one warned me about the snarling dogs that would chase me along the street, or the monkeys that were eyeing up my bag and clearly thought I had food. Needless to say, I legged it. I love dogs, and I know some people say the dogs here just want to be loved and petted, but sorry I don't agree. Most dogs in Thailand just want affection and love, but these ones were psycho and were defending their territory. Natural instincts I guess, but when you have snarling dogs running at you in a dark road where there is no one else, it definitely doesn't make you want to pet them. I would have preferred a tranquilliser gun. Luckily I made it away with no bites or injuries, just the shakes. But when I reached the top of the hill and made my way to the temple, I heard more bloody dogs!I ended up having to leg it across the temple and up the stairs to jump over a locked gate just to escape the little buggers. But it was worth it, especially when I realised I was the only person at the temple - even the monks hadn't arrived yet. It took me about 20 minutes to reach the temple and by this point the sky was starting to turn pink, I sat down on the top steps of the temple to watch the most beautiful sunrise I have ever seen. Complete silence apart from the birds, it was perfect. I don't think my words can really do it all justice, but hopefully my photos will. It was just one of those amazing moments in life you wish you could share with others, but you know it wouldn't have been the same with other people there. After the sun had started to rise over the trees, the monks arrived - one was very surprised to see me already on the steps of a temple he obviously thought was locked up. But he did well not to break his vow of silence. Another greeted me with milk and cake, and was keen to chat with me about the temple, my travels and life at home. It was an amazing start to the morning, and after sitting in on morning prayers, I made my way down to the town - using a different road to avoid the crazy dogs.
Tell me about your solo travel experiences - have you ever visited a temple at dawn? Or do you prefer sunset? How do you cope with being alone in situations like this?
It may have been over 2000 years ago that Jesus' mama and papa rocked up to that little stable in Bethlehem right before she popped him out and those Three Wise Men turned up, but I still haven't managed to figure it all out. I'm talking about religion and spirituality - I always loved studying the different religions at school and particularly identified with Buddhism and Hinduism. Not entirely, I must add, and this has been my problem with religion ever since. I just find that I don't completely agree with any of them, and yet, I can't class myself as an atheist because I do believe there is something out there bigger than all of us. What exactly that is, I can't say.
I've found over the years it's helped me to pick out certain parts of different religions and almost mix-and-match to form my own belief system - to be honest, I think this is what many people do as taking the Bible literally word-for-word would be a bit silly if you ask me... (Burning Bush anyone?) This may seem a bit flighty to some, but I actually feel that it really works for me and that it keeps me open-minded. I love the parts of religion that don't centre around the gods but more around human behaviour and morals. I like the bits that focus less on trying to convince you of this higher force and more on how the universe works and the idea that we are all interlinked somehow. Because, Burning Bush aside, I've always believed the real magic is what happens between people - the way we interact and the choices we make.
This year I've been faced with a couple of moral dilemmas, challenges to my own belief system thanks to the behaviour of other people. I'm talking about situations where I have been asked to keep secrets that I didn't think were right, when I was expected to lie on behalf of someone else. I'm also talking about situations when I was called on to forgive people for horrible behaviour - we've all faced those. I've faced them all and come out with a clean conscience, but it wasn't easy. Sometimes we're faced with making a decision between a friendship and doing the right thing, but I guess we have to question whether the friendship had any real value if we were asked to push our morals to one side. I'm not saying that right and wrong are black and white, I know full well there is always a grey area, but we all have that gut instinct. And I always say, if something doesn't sit right, you know you shouldn't be doing it.
Two things I've always loved are the concepts of luck and karma. I really identify with the idea of karma, I feel that I have to because so often bad deeds seem to go unpunished and the good ones go unrewarded. But I have come to accept that perhaps they are, just much later on and by the time this happens perhaps we have moved on. I've always felt that we make our own luck in this world - that what we experience is a direct result of what we put out into the universe. Promise not to get too hippy on you all but it really does make a difference when you put good vibes out to those around you, and they really do come back to you. I wrote a post back in February about the Power of Positivity after I went through a rough patch at the start of the year, when I suddenly noticed that my awful mood really was bringing down the mood of the whole office. I hated that I could have had such a negative effect on those around me and it made me realise that I could never hope to be positive if I didn't make the first move.
Being kind, loving & generous is a perfect addition to any outfit - wear it well.
Since then, it certainly helps that I couldn't be happier at the moment, I have been dedicating myself to working hard and being the best I can be. And it really has made a difference. Not only is everyone around me happy and full of plans and excitement for the future, but that luck and happiness seems to be coming back to me. I don't know if it is just coincidence (I don't really believe in coincidences) but I seem to be on a bit of a lucky streak at the moment! Don't believe me? Well, in the last two months I have won cake tapas, tickets to see Bombay Bicycle Club and a signed picture, and a mulled winter cider kit. I have also been given the amazing opportunity to review a lovely London restaurant and have been shortlisted in the UK Blog Awards. Now I can't say that this is all down to good karma - but it definitely all seems to have come at once. My point is, work hard, be good and kind, and stick to your morals, and good things will come of it all. It seems to be working for me so far and, let's be honest, who wants to live with the guilt and unease of acting like a dickhead - especially at Christmas?
Have you been faced with a situation that has tested your moral code? Tell me about your lucky streaks!