Tag Archives: tour

Wat Phrathat Doi Sutep

Another day, another temple. The famous, the legendary Wat Phrathat Doi Sutep. Set high in the mountains outside of Chiang Mai, this is another of the must-sees that is listed in pretty much every single guidebook and/or website devotes to things Chiang Mai. Apparently, this location was chosen by a white elephant who was carrying a relic of the Buddha. He wandered around a bit, climbed a mountain, found a spot where he trumpeted three times and then died. And so, King Na Nuone, leader of the Lanna empire and one who could recognize a sign when he saw one, built Wat Prathat Doi Sutep on the site of the white elephant's death.

Getting to this temple nowadays is a bit of a process, but at least does not involve killing white elephants. We caught a tuk tuk from our hotel out to the University area and then from there, we sat at a songthaew stand, waiting for a full complement of riders. Once our group assembled — a Japanese family of three, a Thai couple, a pair of gays (one of which was wearing the best t-shirt I've seen in Thailand; multicolored appliqué letters spelling out “SUPER LADY BOY”), a young woman from Germany traveling solo, Tim, and yours truly — we loaded up and wound our way up the flanks of Doi Suthep. For the first time since landing in Bangkok, we cleared the layer of haze and/or smog that has followed is everywhere, and saw a blue(ish) sky!

The scene that greeted us at the foot of the temple complex was part Disneyland, part Chatuchak. Stalls selling everything from Buddhist tchotchkes to roasted chestnuts, watermelon slices to hill tribe clothing, lined the four lane road leading past Wat Prathat Doi Sutep and on to the highest point of the mountain, Doi Pui. Hordes of tourists were congregating around three points: the base of a giant golden statue of Sumanathera (the monk whose dream started off the whole Buddha's relic/white elephant adventure), the aforementioned market, and a ticket booth selling combined admission to the temple and a ride in funicular rail car, thus bypassing the naga-lined stairwell. The Japanese family headed to the market. The ladyboys hurried to the tram building.

Tim and I made for Sumanathera and then climbed the 309 steps leading to the entrance to Wat Prathat Doi Sutep.

Inside this temple was everything. When I say everything, I mean everything.

A burning Ganesh.

Bugs.

Big tacky billboards featuring the King of Thailand.
Ladyboys.
Pretty flowers.
Fresh squeezed orange juice.
Beautiful views of the rainforest.
Weird, kitschy sculptures.
The mess and clutter of everyday life.
Fruit that looks like testicles.
Tourists. DUH.
Beautiful Buddhist forms.
Shopping carts parked in unexpected corners.
Flip flops with the word “SPERM” embossed into their foot beds.

I guess that's one of the things I find interesting about Buddhism. There is room for everything. It's not about denying your body, or the griminess of earthly existence, it's not about attempting to be pristine or perfect. It, like the great mystical traditions, sees this human incarnation not as a punishment, but an opportunity. Yes, there is suffering, and pain, and inexplicable tragedy; there is happiness and joy and love. And when the right perspective is found, when all of these individual forms reveal their great unity, what is revealed is beauty. Everything, all together, is beautiful.

 

valley of the gods, moki dugway, devil’s canyon campground ~ utah ~ october 1, 2011

www.theendlessroadtrip.com ~ day one of a proposed 1-year long video journal project. here, we visit some of utah’s stark and (more…)

a visit to the durango and silverton narrow gauge railroad museum ~ durango, co ~ may 27, 2011

www.theendlessroadtrip.com ~ on a beautiful spring day, we visit the charming little town of durango, co. it was the first (more…)

thoughts on provincetown ~ october, 2010

THE SAN FRANCISCO OF THE EAST?

to celebrate our first anniversary, tim and i decided to go to provincetown. i had never been there before, but i had heard vague rumors about this p-town — “it’s the san francisco of the east!” — and despite this dire warning, in early november, 2006, we loaded up the truck and headed east towards the ocean. once there, we made a left.

we arrived and got ourselves set up at this very sweet little bed and breakfast. during the whole checking-in-and-chatting-with-the-very-nice-gay-owner process, a slow realization began to occur. although it was well into autumn — and therefore the off-season for provincetown — there was apparently some big event happening that very same weekend. what event? oh you know, the meet your man in provincetown weekend; the one where all these single guys from all over the eastern seaboard come to p-town in the hopes of finding the perfect one-night-stand and/or marriage proposal.

i don’t know what your reaction to this bit of news might be, but my own response might have been accurately described as non-plussed. to spend our first anniversary in a charming, gay-friendly town perched at the end of a terminal moraine is one thing. to spend it on a gay singles cruise is quite another. but what can one do? one has paid for the room and one has already learned and forgotten the names of not only the hosteler but two other guests. it is past the point of equivocation.

rather than go into long and dreary detail about the various things that happened during the meet your man in provincetown/wichland-inocencio anniversary weekend 2006, allow me to summarize my findings re: provincetown, ma.

what i learned about provincetown on my first anniversary:

  • mostly, it’s a lot of older white guys ~ if older white guys are your thing, you can’t do much better than p-town. it’s like palm springs, only wetter.
  • some of you might say, now whoah, they can’t all be older white guys. aren’t there also younger white guys? ~ to which i say, yes i suppose but how useful is that distinction really?
  • it is a very charming place ~ there are plenty of places to get organic, local coffee, dogs are welcome almost everywhere, and there are more tchotchke shops and art galleries than you could possibly want to enter, much less browse. let’s say you wanted a little embroidered patch, about the size of your thumbnail, shaped like the state of new mexico. i’m 100% sure you can find it in provincetown.
  • it is NOT the san francisco of the east ~ it is the ogunquit of the south.
  • it closes early ~ bars start kicking people out at about 12:45am, so if you’re going to meet cute with someone, you better work fast. no dilly dallying with things like conversation. just take off your shirt and start licking.
  • the best thing about provincetown ~ being with tim. honestly. several people figured out this closely guarded secret and tried to be with tim too. poor thing.

i willingly cop to any perceived negativity in the above summary. for those of you who know me, well you know; for those of you who don’t, oh well! i’m sure there are plenty of folks who think provincetown is the bees knees and the best thing since sliced bread. i myself am slightly uncomfortable there and this colors my perceptions. why uncomfortable? hmmm. maybe i’ll get into that another time. oh, one more important finding:

provincetown is NOT cape cod ~ there are lots of wonderful things in provincetown. there are even more wonderful things tucked away in the secret corners and hidden folds of cape cod. one of the best things about visiting provincetown is leaving provincetown.

almost 4 years later, tim and i found ourselves in provincetown once again. having been there once before, i felt better prepared than i had been during my first visit. this time around it was halloween, and the powers that be had decided that the most appropriate theme would be…wait for it…harry potter! hmmm.

this meant that tucked in amongst the folks dressed like bedbugs, chilean miners (there were veritable troupes of these guys), smurfs, drag queens, gladiators, cops, cowboys, zombie bedbugs, zombie chilean miners, zombie smurfs, zombie drag queens, zombie gladiators, zombie cops, and zombie cowboys were maybe 6 people dressed like characters from the harry potter movies. i counted 1 ron weasley, 1 hermione granger, 3 harry potters and 1 member of hogwart’s faculty. and they were pissed. one gentleman with long white beard and star-covered robe wandered past us and, giddy, i hollered, “professor dumbledore!”

“finally!” he shrieked “everyone fucking thinks i’m fucking santa claus! this is supposed to be a harry potter themed event, assholes!”

“whoah,” said tim, “that guy’s pissed.”

we closed out the night at the atlantic house, the best place to go dancing in p-town. the music was good, the folks were friendly, and until the shirts started coming off and the underwear contest started, i was more than content to just stand around and watch the gays grappling with their gayness. after that, i was pretty much ready to head back to the quiet autumn chill of our almost abandoned campground, a wonderful 10 miles away from this, the beating heart of gay new england.

if you’ve never been, here are some 360-degree quicktime vrs that capture some of the magic, charm and absurdity of provincetown. if you have been, here’s a reminder of the things you love/hate about our p-town. (just click on the large squares to get started.)

portuguese square ~ provincetown, ma (click on the above square to load a 360-degree qtvr. you can click and hold to rotate; click the +/- to zoom in and out)

pilgrims monument ~ provincetown, ma (click on the above square to load a 360-degree qtvr. you can click and hold to rotate; click the +/- to zoom in and out)

ross’ grill on halloween ~ provincetown, ma (click on the above square to load a 360-degree qtvr. you can click and hold to rotate; click the +/- to zoom in and out)

one last sad little story: as the meet your man in provincetown/wichland-inocencio anniversary 2006 came to a close, tim and i found ourselves tucked into our cozy room. we had abandoned the clubs early and wandered the moonlit streets of p-town, happy and in love, until we found our way back to the aerie house. we had no idea what time it was until our neighbor, a single guy, banged his way up the stairs, down the hallway, and crashed heavily into his room.

he turned on the television, flipped through a few channels and then popped in a dvd. in a few moments, the melancholy strains of the soundtrack to brokeback mountain began to thread their way into our room. this was followed by the sound of our neighbor, who had decidedly NOT met his man in provincetown, sobbing.

apparently, my friend, it gets better. let’s hope so for all of our sakes.

acadia national park ~ mt. desert island, me ~ october 2010


FROM SEA TO SHINING SEA

technically, i suppose that the endless roadtrip began with our departure from florence, ma. poetically, however, our westward trek did truly not begin until we had reached the eastern limit of the continent and said our farewell to the great atlantic ocean. this happened in late march of 2009, when we traveled the coast of maine for a few absolutely frigid days, stopping here, here, and here, before turning our eyes towards the mighty pacific. who could have guessed that it would be just over 1.5 years until we would find ourselves on the shores of the atlantic once again.

when i lived in western massachusetts, acadia national park seemed so very far away. prohibitively so. it was only after a few months spent driving the spectacular distances that mark the american west that i realized how erroneous that perception was. the drive from northampton, ma to bar harbor, me takes approximately seven hours and passes through at least 3 states: massachusetts, new hampshire, and maine. try and make it through three of the western states and it’ll take you at least twice that. hell, i’ve driven for 14 hours straight without making it out of texas!

so thanks to our time out west, when we finally returned to new england, the modest drive from keene to acadia was hardly daunting. however, also thanks to our time out west, my expectations for acadia were quite low. after all, we had spent the last half of 2009 visiting some of the most gorgeous and overwhelming landscapes that our country has to offer: rocky mountain national park, glacier-waterton international peace park, the cascades, crater lake, bryce canyon, the gila national forest, death valley. after the stunning displays provided by these entries in our national park service, what could tiny, well-trampled acadia offer? after the remote wonders of the canyonlands, what magic could a national park that hosts the voracious tourism of 2-4 cruise ships per day possibly hold?

so as we drove towards mt. desert island (it’s pronounced dessert, just so you know), i was prepared for pretty, but i was not prepared for amazing. and once again, my perceptions were proven to be hopelessly incorrect. for although acadia is well traveled and cruise ships do disgorge hundreds of clueless tourists into its wilds on a daily basis, it is also one of the jewels of our national park system. if you live in new england and you haven’t been yet, you should stop with the excuses and go. it’s worth it.

(caveat: we visited acadia in late september/early october, at the very tail end of the tourist season. if we had visited during the height of the summer season, i might have a very different take on the whole place. even as things stood, we did our best to stay out of bar harbor and away from the most visited sights on the island.)

originally, we had intended to camp for 4-5 days at the acadia’s seawall campground, just about as far away as you could get from the hubbub of bar harbor. but with the end of the tourist season, seawall was closing down for the year and we were forced to stay at a nearby private campground in the tiny town of bass harbor. it cost about the same amount as the campsites within the national park, plus it had the added bonuses of a) hot showers and b) free wifi. these bonuses barely made up for the industrial site (possibly the town recycling center/dump) somewhere within earshot. just about every morning, tim and i were greeted not with chirping birds or the gentle tap of deer hooves on moss-covered rocks, but with the echoing booms of dumpsters being tossed around like dice and the pernicious beep-beep-beep of a big truck in reverse.

the weather forecast for our time in acadia was pretty bleak. rain followed by more rain, followed by intense periods of rain, followed by the possibility of flooding, followed by partly cloudy skies and then a cold front and then some more rain. we put up a tarp over our picnic table and swore to make the best of a rough situation. the above video, shot on the network of carriage roads that criss-cross the non-quiet side of the island, reveals the rather bleak and inhospitable weather that greeted us. the few tourists that crossed our paths offered such cheery and upbeat sentiments as, “pretty miserable day for a bike ride!” and “i thought there were supposed to be some beautiful views out here!” and while it was not the picture postcard “ideal,” the low rolling clouds and creeping banks of fog gave the landscape a dark majesty that i found completely compelling. we spent the entire afternoon on our bikes, pumping our way up mountainsides and then enjoying the long, winding downhills that waited on the other side. i’m pretty sure that despite the bad weather, tim and i were sporting cheesy grins for the entire day.

for one stand-out day, the weather broke and gave us a perfect, sun-strewn day at acadia. tim and i made the most of it by taking mazy on a truly magnificent hike: along the shore of long pond, up the granite steps of the perpendicular trail (tim believes it must have been built by the ccc), traversing the peaks of both mount mansell and bernard mountain as well as the sheltered hollow of the great notch, before completing the loop that would bring us back to our starting point at gilley field.

the sheer range of terrain — from stairs hewn out of a rock face to mountaintop wetlands, from fern forests to granite outcroppings overlooking the ocean– made this hike memorable. we crossed paths with just four people during our hike. three were locals who made sure to tell us that we had found the best hike on the whole island. we didn’t hike many other trails on the island, but i’m fairly confident that they were telling the truth. mazy, who is at least 12 years old, was as spry as a young pup, despite the very challenging terrain. the only time she slowed was when she realized we were heading back to the truck. i have a very distinct memory of a look she gave me that could have been interpreted by a 10-year old: “we’re done already? oh, man you guys are sooooo lame!”

for all of our desire to stay on the so-called “quiet side” of the island, we did dip our toe into bar harbor long enough to join a group of folks on a guided kayaking trip. beginning in western bay, we followed the northwestern shore of the island, threading our way between islands and shallows, seaweed beds and seal colonies. in all honesty, i could have done without the new yorkers chattering endlessly about the price of real estate and making ridiculous comparisons between their second/third homes in upstate new york and the isolated estates that dot mt. desert island. but the cloudy afternoon gave way to a glorious sunset, and the chorus of water, light, and sound managed to still even these tightly wound souls. we paddled along, listening to the calls of osprey and catching a fleeting glimpse of a pair of harbor porpoises bounding towards some unknowable destination.

when we returned to the campsite that night, we were exhausted and satisfied, as content as we had been in a long time. we slept an unbroken, happy sleep; a sleep that stretched across an entire continent, connecting oceans.

the music used in the above videos:

in the road to acadia national park: turn, by big spider’s back
TurnsBig Spider’s Back
“Turns” (mp3)
from “Turns”
(Circle Into Square Records)

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in riding the carriage roads: big island love, by knowa knowone
Noble Savage - EPKnowa Knowone
“Big Island Love” (mp3)
from “Noble Savage – EP”
(Streetritual)

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in hiking with mazy: shipping out with sunrise, by the messenger & day of the weird beginning, by b6
The Best of Night Drive Music Vol. 3The Messenger
“Shipping Out with Sunrise” (mp3)
from “The Best of Night Drive Music Vol. 3″
(Night Drive Music)

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eXpoB6
“Day of the Weird Beginning” (mp3)
from “eXpo”
(Undercover Culture Music)

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in kayaking in early autumn: aquela bossa axé, by affosinho
Bossa DubasAffonsinho
“Aquela Bossa Axé” (mp3)
from “Bossa Dubas”
(Dubas Musica)

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riverfront park ~ spokane, wa ~ october 18, 2010

SPOKANE AND AGAIN

in early august of 2009, we rolled into spokane, wa from missoula, mt. it was not the best of times. montana had shown us a wonderful time — from the big dipper to the testicle festival, from tubing the clark fork river to reeling at the berkeley pit — but in retrospect, it is clear that this was the beginning of a difficult time. my magic phone, the fabulous object that i named excalibur, had stopped working, placing us in a sort of communication limbo. work had trickled to a stop, and the financial standing of the endless road trip began to seem questionable. what had been a full on “ride-like-the-wind” vibe was taking on a more somber, serious tone. chalk it up to money woes, broken toys, or the beginnings of the natural shift that comes at the end of a long and productive summer, our arrival in spokane was accompanied by a small gray cloud directly over my increasingly worried head.

as a result, my initial experience of spokane was rather abstracted. instead of being able to focus on the marvels of riverfront park and the turquoise chaos of the spokane river, i was stressing out about how much money we didn’t have and how i would be able to conduct my business without excalibur. i remember a bag of freshly made miniature donuts that managed to snap me out of this rather depressing headspace for a few minutes, but for the most part, i was tense and nervous, as if bracing for a sudden, unexpected blow.

my second visit to spokane took place under markedly different circumstances. i returned on a business trip, which means that although this second visit might have been equally abstracted, it was a much lighter abstraction. as a result, i was able to wander happily through all of the landmarks that i remembered — the world’s fair pavilion, the old clock tower, the pedestrian bridge over the spokane river — without the constant nag of worry and doubt. the air was brisk and edged with humidity. a band of hacky-sackers laughed in the distance, their single-speed road bikes strewn thoughtlessly on the emerald green grass. a family sat at the edge of a pond feeding/being attacked by flocks of birds. color bled at the edges of tree crowns. my stomach was full of sushi and miso soup. i was tired from a long week of travel and work, and i missed tim and mazy somethin awful, but i felt happy and content. spokane is a very cool little city.

what became apparent was that the only real difference between my two visits to spokane was what i chose to pay attention to. the first time around i was inhabiting the interior world of worry and doubt, scratching worst-case scenarios into the walls of my mind. the second time, i paid attention to the reality that surrounded me. the shell of my own solipsism had been broken. the funny thing is that both of these worlds — insidious worry and the remarkable present — are always present; parallel planes that exist in the same space but in different dimensions. one gives solace and one gives dis-ease. luckily, whether we realize it or not, we always have the agency to decide where our attention — that most valuable of resources — will be paid.

what probably appears below is a blank screen with a funny logo off to the side of it. click on the pane and hopefully, what will appear is a 360-degree snapshot of spokane’s riverfront park. click and drag on the window to scroll up, down, left and right. and if you want to zoom in to check out the hacky-sackers or the girl wearing pajamas and slippers, click the + button in the lower left corner. i’m pretty pleased with this little chunk of technology and i hope you enjoy it as much as i do.


music in the video: da me cinco, by blip blip bleep, courtesy of iodapromonet.
Alarm Clock, Snooze Bar, Get Up - EPBlip Blip Bleep
“Da Me Cinco” (mp3)
from “Alarm Clock, Snooze Bar, Get Up – EP”
(Undercover Culture Music)

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lincoln home national historic site, springfield illinois ~ 09jul10

SPRINGFIELD, SPRINGFIELD IT’S A HELL OF A TOWN

the state of illinois is home to one, count ‘em, one national park site: the lincoln home national historic site in the state’s capitol, springfield. luckily for us, this place was not too far off of the highways we were following in a mad rush to make it first to michigan to drop mazy off with my sister, and then to chicago to celebrate the birthdays of two of my nearest and dearest.

in fact, we were in such a rush that when we first saw the signs announcing the lincoln home historic area my first inclination was to demur. it was only when i checked my national park passport and realized this was perhaps my only chance to get the single stamp offered by the entire state of illinois that i faltered. we are witnessing, after all, the historic obama presidency, a presidency that has strong connections both to illinois and to abraham lincoln, and what better time to take a moment and reflect on the man that president obama so clearly admires?

we pulled into a shaded parking lot on a quintessential mid-western summer day: glowering sun shepherding slow-moving clouds in a sky pale with humidity. i ran into the visitors center to get my passport stamp…and then proceeded to get sucked in by the various displays, historical models and movies scattered about the place.

before we knew it, hours had passed. we visited the dean house and the arnold house (the only two buildings you can visit without the presence of a tour guide), encountered the lincoln troubadors (listen to the audio clip if you want to hear their rendition of a familiar classic), and watched a short documentary about lincoln’s train trip from springfield to washington d.c. at the great western depot.

we had intended to arrive at my sister’s place at a reasonable hour, not only to spend some time catching up with her and (her husband) tim, but also to get mazy settled in and to pack our bags for our early morning train trip to chicago. instead, we arrived at 12:30am to find the doors locked and the windows dark. we spent a good 15 minutes trying to figure out how to get into the building. we finally got to bed at around 2 in the morning, exhausted and heat-stoned. i blame barack obama.

this audio clip contains a couple of excerpts from the cell phone tour offered at the lincoln home site and a song performed by the above mentioned lincoln troubadors. enjoy!

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