40 days alone in Thailand

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By Tom Holmes

Contributing Reporter / Religion Blogger

I plan to use my blog as a journal describing what I experienced while travelling alone for 40 days in Thailand. Hopefully you will be able to resonate with some of my experiences and enjoy learning about a fascinating country and culture.

This was my seventh trip to Thailand. I have been either a member of or a working partner with St. Paul Thai Lutheran Church (formerly Thai Community Church) in Forest Park since 1992. Because of that relationship, I've been able to get to know Thailand, Thai culture and Thai people fairly well.

What led to this travel memoir was my being more or less alone in Thailand towards the end of a mission trip on Dec. 15, 2010 and the start of a conference on Jan. 25, 2011. I decided to frame that time alone as a kind of spiritual journey on which my traveling companions would be God and myself. Hopefully I would get to know both better. I plan to post about two entries a week, so you can follow my travels — both internal and external — in an amazing, wonderful and at the same time challenging country and culture.

I have provided a list of my travel memoir entries with links to each post below. I will continue to update the list as I post new entries. Visit OakPark.com/ThailandTravels for updates to this list.

 

Asian Lutheran International Conference
Posted on Tuesday, August 9th, 2011
At the end of my 40 days alone in Thailand I yearned to be back home, but then I realized that it was the familiar places and close family and friends which made me feel secure enough to risk being alone in Thailand.

 

Pongsak
Posted on Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011
Doing research on Pongsak made me think about how to deal with a multicultural society in a way that respects others who are different and maintains my own identity.

 

Banjob, Buddhadasa and Suffering
Posted on Tuesday, July 26th, 2011
Banjob's book, HOLY SUFFERING, proved to be a great dialog partner to Buddhadasa' HEARTWOOD OF THE BODHI TREE. The "dialog" between the two helped me discern what is most important to me.

 

Grace
Posted on Wednesday, July 20th, 2011
Everything went well on my first day in Bangkok.  Was it an answer to prayer or the result of karma?

 

Bridging the cultural chasm
Posted on Monday, July 18th, 2011
The irritation I was feeling with Thai culture was transformed to appreciation by the actions of Sanit and Nicky. 

 

Kreng Jai and Sanuk
Posted on Thursday, July 14th, 2011
I encountered two Thai cultural characteristics, which are delightful sometimes and make me uncomfortable at other times: kreng jai and sanuk.

 

Bill Yoder
Posted on Sunday, July 10th, 2011
A conversation with a missionary named Bill Yoder began to clear up some of my ambivalence about Buddhism and about my own faith.

 

Spirit houses
Posted on Monday, July 4th, 2011
While trying to digest two conversations about religion in Thailand, I happened to notice people prayhing in front of a spirit house, which added another helping of confusion to what I was already having a hard time processing. 

 

Missionaries
Posted on Friday, July 1st, 2011
Feeling like a little kid who feels disoriented in an unfamiliar place, I talked to some missionaries to help me figure out where I was. 

 

Making peace with being a foreigner in Thailand, Part II
Posted on Sunday, June 26th, 2011
My ambivilance about living in Thai culture made me think about my mixed feelings regarding my relationship with God.

 

Making peace with being a foreigner in Thailand, Part I
Posted on Sunday, June 26th, 2011
Living in a different culture is always a two edged sword for me. On the one hand, the differences drive me crazy. On the other hand, the differences feel like wonderful gifts. 

 

A gift for Kampan
Posted on Thursday, June 23rd, 2011
The need to buy a thank you gift for Kampan conjured up feelings about always being a learner in this foreign culture. 

 

Heartwood of the Bodhi Tree
Posted on Monday, June 20th, 2011
I began wrestling with a Buddhist thinker who was a lot smarter than me. 

 

Thai women
Posted on Saturday, June 18th, 2011
Because I was sick for a few days, I had time to think, and my mind turned to the subject of Thai women.

 

Believing is seeing
Posted on Monday, May 30th, 2011
Watching a pre-toddler at the Nan Guest House made me thinking more about losses as we grow older. Encountering an angry atheist supported my growing suspicion that what we believe determines what we see. 

 

Angels watch over me in Nan
Posted on Friday, May 27th, 2011
I had pictured my 40 days alone in Thailand as a kind of testing time. Instead, I was getting what I felt were one blessing after another. 

 

Meditating in Chiang Rai, life is like a tomato
Posted on Saturday, May 14th, 2011
As I sat in the Doi Chang coffee house in Chiang Rai, I compared myself to all the young, fit trekkers I had seen around town. How did I feel about being on the downside of life's bell curve while they ascending the upside? 

 

Learning to learn in Chiang Rai
Posted on Thursday, May 12th, 2011
Navigating through the high points and the potholes of Thai culture made me realize why adaptability is important if we want to survive in our rapidly changing world. 

 

A gentle roller coaster ride in Phayao
Posted on Tuesday, May 10th, 2011
My 24 hours in the small town of Phayao had its ups and downs which made me think about how to keep my balance in a changing world.

 

Incognito angel
Posted on Saturday, May 7th, 2011
My solitude at the Riverside Bar in Lampang was interrupted by what was a foreigner in Thailand like me. In a way he was. He turned out to be an angel. 

 

Alone in Lampang but not lonely
Posted on Wednesday, April 27th, 2011
On my second day in Lampang I was alone again with nothing to do. My experience of being alone, however, was far different than what I felt on the previous day. 

 

Alone, bored and frustrated
Posted on Thursday, April 21st, 2011
I was on my way on a solitary adventure to find out how I would react to being alone in small towns in Thailand. The first day didn't give me what I expected. 

 

The limits of intimacy and the impact of Western culture
Posted on Tuesday, April 5th, 2011
I was feeling frustrated at the lack of intimacy I felt between myself and Thai friends. A new friend helped me understand why and that Thai society is changing.

 

Forest monks, Thomas Merton and a chicken
Posted on Sunday, April 3rd, 2011
I was feeling frustrated at the lack of intimacy I felt between myself and Thai friends. A new friend helped me understand why and that Thai society is changing.

 

Confronted by my limitations at Wat Chedi Luang
Posted on Tuesday, March 29th, 2011
I woke up on New Year's Eve morning feeling ready for a challenge. By the end of the day what I experienced at Wat Chedi Luang gave me second thoughts. 

 

Pondering and Muay Thai
Posted on Thursday, March 24th, 2011
Losing my purse and then having it brought back to me the previous day had put me on an emotional roller coaster. I spent most of the rest of the next day pondering or trying to digest what I had experienced. 

 

Losing my purse at Wat U Mong
Posted on Tuesday, March 15th, 2011
I felt serenity when I was at the forest monastery called Wat U Mong, until I lost my purse. Then panic replaced serenity. How was I to deal with my helpless emotions?

 

Wat Chiang Man and a Pepsi
Posted on Saturday, March 12th, 2011
In a sense, my time of solitude in Thailand began on day number eight. Characters in a murdeer mystery force me to think about my own culture. 

 

Birds of a feather
Posted on Thursday, March 10th, 2011
The "Christmas" didn't do much for me even though the members were welcoming. Later in the day I went to an English speaking service, which I felt like I got more out of. Was this a step backward in my search for the true meaning of Christmas?

 

Christmas Day in Chiang Mai
Posted on Wednesday, March 9th, 2011
Trying to connect with God on Christmas Day by myself didn't seem to work. I hoped that being with members of the Nong Bua Sam Church later in the day would do the trick.

 

Searching for the true meaning of Christmas
Posted on Saturday, March 5th, 2011
I came to Thailand with the fantasy that somehow by being alone, away from all the cultural accretions that Western culture has laid on the holiday, I'd discover the true meaning of Christmas.

 

Good day alone, bad day alone
Posted on Sunday, February 27th, 2011
One day alone in Chiang Mai I feel on top of my game. The next day I feel like a rookie who has a lot to learn.

 

Wrestling With Bhikku Buddha Dhatu
Posted on Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011 
As I read Bhikku Buddha Dhatu's book on Buddhism, I found some points I could resonate with but on other points I wrestled with him.

 

Buddhist Cub Scouts
Posted on Saturday, February 19th, 2011
Nicky, M and some Buddhist Cub Scouts teach me another lesson.

 

Kampan's porch
Posted on Tuesday, February 15th, 2011
Was loafing on Kampan's porch in sub rural Chicang Mai wasting a day?

 

Five church Christmas celebration
Posted on Monday, February 14th, 2011
I experience a Thai Christmas celebration. It is not what I had expected.

 

Nicky and M
Posted on Wednesday, February 9th, 2011
Unable to find lodging on my own in Chiang Mai, I had to call two friends and ask for their help.

 

Charades and disco peeing
Posted on Tuesday, February 1st, 2011
I wanted to test myself by being alone for 42 days in the foreign culture of Thailand. For the first two days, at least, I felt like I had met the challenge.

 

Buddhism and Christianity the Same?
Posted on Monday, January 31st, 2011
A Buddhist monk in Bangkok told me that there is no difference between Buddhism and Christianity. Could that be true or was he way out there on the liberal fringe?

Reader Comments

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Comment Policy

cheryl james from riverside  

Posted: March 2nd, 2011 10:00 PM

God meets us where we are, as we are. Thailand is as good a place as any to feel the spirit. Be blessed each day, be enlightened in Christ.

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