Podcast: Whirling Dervishes of Rumi from Turkiye

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It was a rainy Thursday evening in Chiang Mai, and we’d heard the day before that at Payap University there would be a free performance by some Turkish ‘Whirling Dervishes’. They’re on a world tour sponsored by UNESCO, to mark the 800th birthday of Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi – the 13th century Persian, Muslim poet, jurist, and theologian.

Whirling Dervishes of Rumi from Turkiye

A friend of ours in Chiang Mai told us that this paticular group performed in London and sold out very quickly – so we thought we’d go and check it out. We turned up ticketless & wet at Payap University, waiting about 20 minutes outside, then were presented with our 3 tickets. We were sitting 5 rows from the front, in seats that would surely have cost $100 or more in the UK!

As we waited in the auitorium, the mostly Thai audience fiddled with their bleeping mobiles whilst a Turkish man explained in English some of the history behind the Whirling Dervishes. The performance then began with some music from a 6 or 7 piece group playing traditional Turkish instruments. Living in a musical void – Thailand, where all we ever hear in the way of music is karaoke pop, we were absolutely mesmerised by the beautiful sounds coming from the band (you can listen to a clip of the music below).

After a while the dancers came on, whirled around alot and left us feeling dizzy. They dance as if they are in a trance repeating the poetry of Rumi: “Come, come, whoever you are, come and come yet again, come even if you have broken your wows a thousand times, wanderer, idolater, worshipper of fire, ours is not a caravan of despair, this is the date of hope, come, come yet again, come.”

The show was amazing and if you ever have a chance to go and see “Whirling Dervishes of Rumi from Turkiye” -do go!

 

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, known more casually as ‘Doi Suthep’ is one of the most important temples in Chiang Mai, as well as one of the most revered among all Thais. It is about 15km from the centre of Chiang Mai.

Doi Suthep mountain itself reaches an altitude of 1,676 meters (5,498 feet) and Wat Phra That Doi Suthep stands on the flank of the mountain at an elevation of 1,056 meters (3464 feet). Because of this, it’s always pleasantly cool with some amazing views of Chiang Mai city.

View from Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai

This photo was taken from Wat Phra That Doi Suthep in the late afternoon. What a view!

According to legend, a Buddha relic magically replicated itself just before it was about to be enshrined in the big chedi at Wat Suan Dok. The “cloned” relic was placed on the back of a sacred white elephant, which was allowed to roam whereever it wanted.

The elephant eventually climbed to the top of Suthep Mountain, trumpeted three times, turned around three times, knelt down and died. This was taken as a sign that this was the spot where the relic wanted to be, so King Ku Na built the original chedi on Doi Suthep at the end of 14th century.

Getting there

Unless you are extremely fit, we wouldn’t recommend cycling. It has nearly been the end of me twice now – needless to say, I didn’t make it. Either get a Songthaew (one of the red pick-ups with bench seats in the back) all the way from the Chiang Mai old town, or get a Tuk Tuk to Chiang Mai zoo at the bottom of the hill and transfer to another Songthaew. It’s also a pleasant ride from town on a moped or motorbike if you are confident riding on windy mountain roads with psycho Songthaew drivers trying to run you off the road.

xtreme stopping smoking

Well, I’d been a smoker for roundabout 20 years when I stopped last month. I now know I will never, ever smoke another cigarette. I hear some of my old friends laughing at me when I say that….

My secret? I’ll let you into a sure fire way to quit forever at the end of this post.

I’d tried many different ways before, from Nicotine Gum to patches, reading the Allen Carr ‘Easy Way to stop smoking’ book five times, and going cold turkey. I have managed on a few occasions to stop smoking for anywhere from a month to six months, but then the usual situation started me again. The simple fact that I have programmed myself to not enjoy socialising, or ‘having a drink’ as much without a cigarette.

In the past I had, even after 6 months of not smoking, still been mourning my lack of ‘fun’ when going out, as I continuously spent my time enviously looking at other smokers thinking “I can deal with not smoking at all other times, but I just want one cigarette with a drink”. The result had been that I had conviced myself not-smoking was not worth sacrificing going out, and therefore friends for. I’d deviously talked myself back into the ‘benefits’ of smoking.

I’d begun to get quite depressed recently (the last couple of years) with the fact that despite my relatively healthy lifestyle in other ways, I was still trapped by the smoking habit. It was the only thing I could think of that controlled me throughout my waking hours.

A month ago I decided enough is enough and I stopped. Since then I have had insomnia, irritability, stress, and the desire to hide away in the house forever. I have pitied myself, constantly thinking “I’m boring…my life is boring…I never have fun anymore.” But…I know it won’t last forever, and I feel 100% healthier already. Tina and I have admittedly been at each others throats, but then we often are anyway – it keeps it all fun!

So, I said I’d let you into the secret for stopping smoking at the end of the post, and this is it:

Decide you want to be a non-smoker, and don’t smoke again. It might also help if you enjoy spending time alone as noone will want to be around you for quite a while.

It really is as simple as that.

Pun Pun Organic Vegetarian restaurant, Wat Suan Dok, Chiang Mai

You may also be interested in the podcast interview I did with the owners of Pun Pun (Peggy & Jo), where we discuss some of their views on sustainable living & organic farming, and talk about the courses they offer on their Pun Pun Organic farm outside Chiang Mai.

If you live in Chiang Mai, or even Northern Thailand for that matter, you may well already have heard of Pun Pun restaurant. It’s one of those word-of-mouth epidemics that spreads so fast that before you can recommend it to someone, someone else has got there first! Pun Pun opened a few months ago in a small area towards the back of Wat Suan Dok, which itself is located about 2kms along Suthep Road to the West of Chiang Mai’s old town.

Pun Pun restaurant, Wat Suan Dok

Pun Pun was set up by a Thai/American couple and sells organic vegetarian food, grown at Pun Pun Organic farm in the countryside outside Chiang Mai.

So what’s the food like? Absolutely amazing. Even for a non-vegetarian like myself it beats most other restaurants I have been to in Chiang Mai. Almost all dishes are 35 Thai Baht – about $1 – and the fresh fruit shakes are about the same price (The Passion fruit is recommended!) .

Atmosphere-wise, set in the middle of the Wat Suan Dok grounds, monks are continuously slowly wandering past, and the backrgound sounds are often interspersed with the monks chanting nearby. Finally, the friendly, smiling staff makes it one of our favourit restaurants in Chiang mai!

More info for those that need it:

Pun Pun’s opening hours are 9-7pm. They have a delivery service that costs an extra 20 Baht ($0.60) on top of the menu – the phone number for this is 086 573 7049 – the delivery service only runs from 9am-5pm. To get to Pun Pun, head to Wat Suan Dok then walk down the road to the left of the main temple towards the back of the temple grounds, it is on your right near the back.
Pun Pun’s website – www.punpunthailand.org.

Map showing Pun Pun restaurant & Wat Suan Dok


View Pun Pun restaurant in a larger map

Shoshana Restaurant, Bangkok

Shoshana is a small Israeli restaurant near the Khao San Road in Bangkok – it’s a popular hangout for the backpackers of nearby Khao San Rd. It is not really a place to go for a romantic dinner, but the food is very cheap and good. Felafel, Snitzel, Humus etc.

It’s near the Northern end of the Khao San Road (the Soi Rambuttri end) and down a little side street called Chakrapong Rd. We often eat there when we are in Bangkok as we can’t really get the same food at the same prices in Chiang Mai.

Here’s Tina looking satisfied having just finished a MASSIVE plate of potato salad, falafel and pitta:

Copenhagen, Denmark

In July, whilst on our trip back to Europe, I flew over to Denmark for the first time to see Tina and her family. We ate loads of food, saw lots of the sea and countryside, and met lots of people.

Copenhagen

Cycling around Copenhagen was fun, although I couldn’t get used to braking by backwards-pedalling on an upright bicycle. I nearly crashed twice on my first outing.

What were my general impressions of Denmark? “Blond, potatoes, friendly, bicycles, sea” would sum it up I think.

Website design – Karen Human Rights Group

Karen Human Rights Website designKaren Human Rights Group (KHRG) are a small grass-roots organisation documenting the human rights situation of people in rural Burma. KHRG is the organisation I volunteered with when I arrived in Thailand in 2005.

I undertook a redesign and redevelopment of the KHRG website whilst working for KHRG, which began with an assessment of the current website – looking at its design, speed of download & visitor statistics. A series of documentation was drawn up including sitemaps & wireframe diagrams detailing the proposed new design & functionality. This was followed by full page mock-ups in Photoshop.

I developed this website in HTML and PHP with a MySQL database storing report information. Delivery of the website was followed up with several training sessions, and a training manual containing all the information required for KHRG to update and maintain the system themselves. You can visit the website by clicking here.