A new life at 67.Can a woman start all over again?

You won’t believe it but I am going to Art Lessons here in Thailand.

I had read about an art exhibition of Impressionist Paintings and Watercolour in the local paper.

By the time I got around to visiting it the actual exhibition was over,but one morning a friend and I drove over to see what the small Art Gallery where it had been held looked like.

Six Kilometers over a pot holed road full of gravel on the back of a motor bike wasn’t really fun,but the lovely woods and hillside overlooking the sea made up for it.

We eventually came to Baan Sillipin,which actually means Painter’s House in Thai.

It was idyllic.

Set back from the road, a large old traditionally built Teak house greeted us.

It stood alone in the wood ,surrounded by tall tropical trees,their hanging branches and liana giving shade and a feeling of tranquility. Orchids of various hues had been planted in baskets hanging from the tree trunks and on the pond a couple of ducks swam contentedly.

We spent a while looking at the paintings in the gallery. Many very vivid with Buddhist motives,others paintings of western scenes looking somehow out of place here.

My friend being naturally more inquisitive than I am, wondered what was down the wooden staircase leading round the back of the building. We went down and found a large hut,of which the openings for windows and door were covered with mosquito mesh so we could see quite clearly there were people in there painting.

“Lets go in” he said

“No we can’t do that” I answered,knowing how painters don’t like to be disturbed.

In we went.

And that’s how I found Nang,my Art Teacher.A wonderful lady who is teaching me to paint in Watercolour Thai style.

It’s a different technique to the wet in wet method that I had got used to. It’s very bold for water colour,and in the beginning I was a bit sceptical,but it seems to work,especially here.

Last week I finished my first painting at Nang’s,and if I do say it myself I think it’s brilliant.

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It is stormy here in Thailand.

In Hua Hin,we don’t notice it much, except everybody seems to know somebody that is stuck at the International Airport in Bangkok.

I went with a friend to the Immigration Buro early this morning to make sure I wouldn’t have trouble leaving or getting back into the country again if I had to.

Afterwards we lashed out on breakfast western style in the beautiful grounds of the Hyatt Hotel,celebrating nothing except that he had managed to withdraw a large sum of money from his Thai bank account and changed it into gold in China Town.

That’s how it is here right now.

The train to Kuala Lumpur and beyond leaves Hua Hin daily at 18.11

Pour yourself another cup of tea, and let’s sit out the storm.

One of the most beautiful festivals celebrated in Thailand is that of Loy Krathong.

It falls on the November full moon night.

Loy means float and Krathong leaf bowl or wreath.

All over Thailand people make these wonderfully decorated floats out of folded banana leaves and artistically arranged jasmine,orchids and chrysanthemum flowers. Candles and sticks of incense are placed in them as well as a few coins as offering to Buddha and they are then lit and placed in the canals and waterways where they float away,perhaps bringing the wished for happiness and appeasement to their makers.

My Thai friend invited me to the festival.She had been helping the children in her daughters school, to make their Krathongs and I had watched and even tried the complicated folding of the leaves myself. Obviously it would have been insulting to refuse her,even when she told me that the three of us would go of course in the national costume. Have you ever seen the national costume!?

I was taken along to a shop where the beautiful heavy silk dresses and ornamental jewelry and tiaras could be hired.They are very expensive so few people have their own. The chosen dresses were then fitted,the bodice so tight we could hardly breath,and the long narrow skirt definately not designed to walk quickly in. We were to return on the afternoon of the festival to be made up,and our dressed in the traditional styling.

It took three and a half hours for them to turn us, into unbelievable looking china dolls,with a flawless make up,not only on our faces but on our arms and shoulders as well. We hardly recognised ourselves afterwards. Our hair was sprayed until it was so stiff that the sea breezes couldn’t harm it, put up and crowned with a gold Tiara and Orchids. Gold Jewelry was fitted around our waists, arms, neck and ears.

At last we were ready. My friend in a dress of burgundy and gold,mine the colour of the moon with gold,and her seven year old daughter in a lovely peach.

I soon got used to the nudges and stares, smiles and thumbs up. We were the absolute center of attraction.Everyone wanted to take my photo and the flashing cameras of the hundreds of Thai who weren’t in a costume made me feel like a Hollywood star on Oscar night. It certainly isn’t usual for them to see a blond “Farang” in the costume of old Siam.

Carrying our Krathongs we finally arrived at the canal and lowered them into the water.Slowly they floated away,the candles flickering in the moonlight.Our wishes going with them.

Will they come true? I hope so.

A lot of water has flown down the Chao Phraya since I last wrote a post.It doesn’t mean that I didn’t think about writing but I was experiencing so many different things,meeting interesting people and feeling a little like a Thai. No news is good news.

With the help of new friends I was lucky enough to get to know Thailand a little,from the side that the average tourist doesn’t see, and learn to love it for all it’s faults.

We Westerners mustn’t come to Thailand and try and teach them our ways,we must accept how the East is, and not try and change it, with time they will teach themselves. In so many things they are light years ahead of us and we could learn from them.

Today I saw my first Christmas tree outside the next shopping Mall.

Tall,and plastic and blue.

The Thai of course don’t celebrate Christmas.

It was for us.

Khob Kuhn Ka

Larger Than Life

It has been raining on and off for the last four days.We had a break in the clouds late this afternoon so I decided to wager the walk down the half flooded road towards the beach. With a bit of luck the rain would hold off for a while and I could enjoy a long walk along the seashore before it got dark.

And now I must write this down,because tomorrow I might think I imagined it.

There were only a few people on the beach and they were busy drinking beer or trying to get a sun tan despite the weather.

The sea had taken on the colour of the sky, grey. Mixed with the churned up sand it looked dirty and uninviting. The trees and bush bordering the wide beach had also been washed with a grey green paintbrush,and had I not needed some exercise I would have called it another day.

I had left the last sun bed about a kilometer back,and apart from a lot of washed up jellyfish and busy little crabs I was completely alone. Looking at my watch I saw I had about fifty minutes before the pitch black of a tropical night descended so I kept on walking.

Khao Tao Beach as it is known as, is wild, and it reminds me of beaches that I have seen in Viet Nam. No white sands and palm trees here, but it has something about it that I am beginning to treasure.

On I went but the further I went the more uneasy I felt. I told myself not to be silly, just a case of seeing too many thrillers on the TV,but I decided to turn back anyway.

And then I saw it, something huge,and brown ,camouflaged perfectly amongst the tree trunks and gracefully plodding towards me through the thicket.

An Elephant.

My heart missed a beat. I mean I would have expected a stray dog or two but not an Elephant!

With a sigh of relief my eyes then focused the red shirt of the man straddled over its neck holding on to a large chain. He waved at me, and they carried on through the woods.

They still use elephants for labour in Thailand, but I had only seen them in the north. Unfortunately they are clearing a lot of the woods around here for building purposes so I presume that is where he had come from.

They say Elephants bring good luck.I hope it’s enough for both of us.

As I wrote after my last journey to Thailand, I am not a fan of travel guide books. Although they can be helpful I find most of them too subjective and prefer to rely on a good map,information desks, history books and the wonderfully dangerous way of learning by doing.

Prior to my departure from Switzerland this time my youngest daughter gave me a hard covered book as a going away present.My first thought was; Oh no, I’m already over the luggage allowance, and I would have liked to have left it behind. Of course I couldn’t do that,it would really have upset her,so something else was left and I took along ;

“In Buddhas Garden” by a Norwegian Journalist called Tor Farovik. A journey through,Vietnam,Cambodia,Thailand and Burma.

I have found it difficult to put the book down.

Thor Farovik has worked as a journalist abroad for 25 years.

He has now managed to write a travel book,that is as entertaining as any good novel, embroidered by many quotable quotes;

” We shall not cease from exploration.

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time”

T.S Ellot

and at the same time giving us the past and present history of the four Asian countries without it being the least bit boring.

He introduces us to the Buddhist Philosophy,and makes it understandable. Environmental and political problems are not left untouched,as neither are his encounters with the people of the individual countries and the tales they have to tell. Last but not least it is a transport guide for the travelers who can’t or don’t want to fly around these countries.

I read this book in the German version,I don’t Know whether it has been published in English,but I am sure it has been since it was first published in 2006 by Frederking & Thaler.

I think it a “must read “for all venturers,and otherwise to Indochina.

I had just made myself a nice mug of Twinings Earl Grey Tea, and was sitting on the balcony considering whether I would wander down to the village “pub” later.

It had been a bit cloudy during the day,but no real signs of a thunder storm, in fact with the off sea breeze I found the temperature comfortable for once and had just come back from a visit to the beach.

Then the clouds seem to get darker and as I looked south over the woods I noticed something that for me was quite new.

In the distance was a wide band of fog, like London in November, and it was rolling towards us.

I sat drinking my tea and watched. Had it been coming up over the sea I don’t think I would have been so calm. But it was an incredible sight. The fog, as I could now make out was a belt of rain coming quickly in our direction

Suddenly a clap of thunder and it was upon us.

It rains hard in Switzerland during a Summer storm, but this was somebody up there emptying a huge bucket. I sat, still drinking my tea, completely awed by this phenomenon of nature.

Within seconds everything was so under water that ducks would have felt happy, and then within five minutes it had all moved on,and the pinkish evening sun was shining through the clouds.

It was time for a second cup.

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