Sprite & Jackfruit in Thailand

The rooms were small at our guesthouse near Kanchanaburi, Thailand, in June 1994, but the price was good: 100 baht, or about $4 a night for the two of us. The rooms were for sleeping. Otherwise, when you were at the guesthouse, you hung out at the patio overlooking the river. Here I am there, staying hydrated.

ThailandJune94.1I don’t remember exactly, but I think I was reading a loose Australian magazine someone had left behind on the patio.

Later in the month, we made our way to Chang Mai, in the north of the country. One of the things to do there is visit Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, which involves climbing 309 steps to the temple grounds. Somewhere along the way, we spotted jackfruit.

ThailandJune94.2Over the years, I’ve found that almost no one in North America’s ever heard of it. (But it’s not as if I ask someone every day.) I’d never heard of it before visiting Southeast Asia either. It’s a tasty fruit, one of the tropical fruits you grow fond of in the tropics. It also disproves the notion that you shouldn’t eat anything bigger than your head. More about it here.

Too bad my face is overexposed. Even so, Lilly saw the picture after I’d scanned it and remarked on my youthful visage, though that wasn’t the word she used. As in, I can’t believe you were ever that young. It’s a hard thing to imagine one’s parents, even if I wasn’t that young at 33.

Big Buddhas ’94

Go to Asia, see Buddhas, big and small. Or, to be more exact, Buddharūpa of various physical sizes. In early May 1994, we were in Hangzhou, China, and took a bus out to see Lingyin Temple, which I called “Lurgyin Temple” the last time I wrote about it (clearly a transcription error).

“The grounds featured a multitude of buddhas, most looking Indian in inspiration, some remarkably large, with huge feet and hands, carved into the side of a bluff,” I noted. “The place was nearly as popular as the West Lake, so the translation of the temple’s name, the Temple of Inspired Seclusion, didn’t apply any more, or at least on warm spring weekends.”

HangzhouBy early June, we were in Bangkok, where we saw more big Buddhas. Including a favorite of mine, the famed Reclining Buddha of Wat Pho. The image is about 16 feet high and 140 feet long, with the right arm supporting the head. Down at the other end, you get a good look at the enlightened one’s feet.

BuddhaToesThese are the feet and toes of Buddha. The bottom of the feet are inlaid with mother-of-pearl, as can be seen here, and supposedly there are 108 designs, though I didn’t count them. One-hundred and eight is an important number in Buddhism, but I’m a little fuzzy on the details, and explanations I’ve read and heard haven’t helped that much.

On New Year’s in Japan, Buddhist temples chime their bells 108 times; there are supposedly 108 earthly temptations to overcome to before achieving nirvana, one of which must surely be an obsession with pachinko.