A Visit to Tu Hieu Temple

We are in Vietnam, in the beautiful and historic city of Hue. Today we visited the root temple of Thich Naht Hanh, the world renown Buddhist monk and mindfulness teacher.

This is the temple where Thay, as he is affectionately known by his students, received his monk and where he wishes to end his days.

We understand that Thay is currently in Bangkok for medical care but I felt his influence and presence at this peaceful spot.

We enjoyed our time here, walking mindfully throughout the beautiful grounds.

Portions of the temple closed to visitors and are reserved for the monks only. We understand there are tours and meditation teas available.

For today we felt very happy and blessed to just stroll around. We do hope to find and return for a meditation retreat soon.

Arts and Live Entertainment in Chiang Mai

One more thing to love about Chiang Mai is the wide variety of options for live entertainment. I recently attended a great evening of dance at the Woke Folks Festival. This four day festival is still happening now. Don’t miss it!

Krump Dancer KSee Battles at Woke Folks Festival
Traditional Dancers at Woke Folks Festival

BOLT’s favorite spot for a night out is Corner Bistro. We frequently go for Trivia Night and Friday’s Fries and Hip Hop are very popular. We recently attended Nubian Speakin’s Show Me Sunday.

This event was a truly amazing evening of comedy, spoken word and song! The best thing is that this fabulous event happens twice a month!

The Fabulous Nubian Speakin

Corner Bistro Owner, Kevin, Always a Wonderful Host

The Incomparable Comedian and Story Teller, Jazzie Mas

There is also a wonderful jazz scene in Chiang Mai. The last king was a jazz aficionado and you can always find first class live jazz right here in the city. I especially like the sounds at North Gate.

North Gate Jazz Co Op

If you prefer a more traditional type of entertainment you can experience Lanna style dance and music at a Khantoke Dinner at the Old Chiang Mai Cultural Center. There are also many venues where you can enjoy European classical music.

Lanna Dancers at Woke Folks Festival

So, whether visiting or living in Chiang Mai be sure to check out the many opportunities for some great entertainment. Chiang Mai City Life magazine or Facebook are always full of up to the minute entertainment news. Go ahead and life that Chiang Mai life!

Songstress Kiora accompanied by Idris at Corner Bistro
Flamenco! At Woke Folks Festival

BOLT in Chiang Mai: Stay or Go?

Kathy and I love Chiang Mai! It’s affordable, the Thai people are wonderful and welcoming, the food is delicious and we’ve found a wonderful community of POC ex pats. However, there are some challenges to living here full time as ex pats.

We’ve been talking a lot about those challenges lately and whether we should stay or go. We’ve decided to leave for a few months. Here are two main reasons why.

Burning Season

Every year for the months of February through April the air quality in Chiang Mai is some of the worst in the world. I’ve heard it compared to smoking two packs of cigarettes a day! My understanding is that this is due to the traditional practice of crop burning. I believe it is also caused by the amount of cars on the road and by industrial farming practices. In any event, the air is already becoming bad. It’s January 12 and today’s reading was already”unhealthy”.

Travel!

Chiang Mai kind of snagged us. We love it so much and got really comfortable here. But our intention is to travel the world. We’ve decided we’ve been here long enough (this time) and we are excited to be embarking on some more adventures. We’ll be in Vietnam in early February and who knows where we will end up after that. Suggestions? Follow us to see.

Missing Mom…

On January 5, 2015 we set the ashes of my mother, Muriel Crowe adrift at sea. It’s over 5 years since she died and I think about her and miss her every day.  Mom was a strong and courageous woman: a communist at the height of McCarthyism, a white single mother of a black child in the 1950s and a fierce anti-facist, trade unionist and civil rights activist. My earliest memories are of picket lines, protest rallies and poker games (where the talk was more about politics than cards). Almost until the end of her life she read the paper daily and kept abreast (and appalled by) the state of the world. We shared a love of reading, the ocean and swimming.

She was my first and finest example of living life on your own terms. I’m so grateful that she’s my mother! This quote was read at her memorial service.

Our Colorful Chiang Rai Trip

Chiang Rai is known for its colorful edifices. Our lovely group of 10 set off from Chiang Mai to explore the Blue and White Temples and the Black House. We left at 6 am for the 4 hour drive to Chiang Rai in a comfortable air conditioned van. Our driver, Pituk, was friendly and helpful. We made one stop half way there at a local hot springs. There we had a restroom break and were able to purchase some local fruits, goodies and clothes.

Arriving in Chiang Rai our first stop was Baan Dam. Commonly known as the Black House it’s a park containing a diverse and sprawling series of buildings, displays, sculptures and installations. The park and highly eclectic contents are the life’s work of local and nationally renowned artist Thawan Duchanee. We spent a delightful hour exploring the grounds and exhibits.Our next stop was for lunch. Lesson learned: don’t ask your driver for restaurant recommendations. Leelawadee was overpriced with not very good service. The food was delicious though and we had a nice view of the river.Full from lunch, we ventured on to the Blue Temple. For me this breathtaking temple was the highlight of our trip! I understand that this is a fairly new temple. It is built at the site of a ruin of an temple abandoned 80 to 100 years ago. In 1996, the villagers decided to rebuild a temple here. The construction started in October 2005, the White Buddha was completed in 2008 while the main hall was only completed on 22th January 2016. There are so many intricate carvings and paintings to enjoy!Our last stop was the White Temple which is the most famous temple in the Chiang Rai area. I’m sorry to say that the temple was closing when we arrived. It turns out there is a special event there right now where they illuminate the temple in the evenings. As we only had our van until 10 pm we had to leave for the 4 hour drive back to Chiang Mai before the illumination began. We did get some good photos, both of our own and a very kind Thai lady who shared hers with us.Overall our trip was wonderful. I especially enjoyed the time spent with members of our beautiful Chiang Mai community and visitors!

Running for Justice!

Today BOLT walked and ran for women’s rights and other social justice issues. It was a wonderful experience at beautiful Huey Tueng Tao Lake in Chiang Mai with over 800 people!

The event was sponsored by BABSEACLE. According to their website “BABSEACLE collaborates globally in the development of justice education and access to justice initiatives while simultaneously fostering generations of pro bono minded champions. BABSEACLE’s mission is to help establish, strengthen and support Access to Justice and Rule of Law in Asia and globally through justice education, including a core focus on legal ethics, professional responsibility and pro bono awareness raising.”

We hope you enjoy these photos of what we saw on this lovely morning!

Black Family 5K: We Did It!

GirlTrek.org

Early in November I got an email from GirlTrek.org. They inspired me to start a new tradition, right here in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Today, Friday, November 29 we gathered at a local park and got our walks/runs on. It was a wonderful way to work off our big Thanksgiving meals, talk and get to know each other better. The Brothers and Sisters of Chiang Mai were well represented! From Northern and Southern California; Louisville, KY; Washington, DC; Atlanta, GA, Chicago, IL, Philadelphia, PA, the Cayman Islands; Eritrea; Little Rock, AK; and Lampang, Thailand we showed up and out!

Hope you enjoy the pictures from this glorious day and of these amazing folks!

BOLT REVIEWS: Huay Kaew Arboretum

One of the big advantages to living long term in a variety of places is that you get to explore some of the less touristy attractions. The urban forest at Huay Kaew Arboretum was just such a find!

Kathy and I spent a lovely hour walking around the peaceful and shady grounds.

It was kind of a whimsical place too, with lots of apparatus for children to play on.

I especially enjoyed the signs on the many trees, telling us their names, ages and reminding us to not forget their importance.

There were lots of informative signs too.

Arboretum admission is free and very close to an the busy Nimman area. So if you are in Chiang Mai and want a place to get a good walk in, visit the Huay Kaew Arboretum.

BOLT Salutes Girl Trek!

I first heard about Girl Trek back in 2010. These 2 sisters were on the radio talking about how we, Black women, are dying! Dying from hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, obesity and stress. They had a simple message: walking can save us.

Girl Trek Founders: Morgan Dixon and Vanessa Garrison

In their own words: “GirlTrek is not a fitnesss organization, this is a campaign for healing. This is not recreation. This is a lifestyle. We walk to heal our bodies, inspire our families, and to reclaim the streets of our neighborhoods. We believe in the discipline and power of walking to transform our lives, enliven our communities, and restore our humanity.”

Inspired, I signed up right after and committed to daily walks. I also formed a Girl Trek team in the Los Angeles area and encouraged other sisters to walk for wellness.

Girl Trek is in fire! The organization has grown in leaps and bounds. They are now the largest public health nonprofit for African-American women and girls in the United States!

There are over 10,000 women walking with Girl Trek. Oprah is a sponsor, they’ve been written up in Essence, Ebony and have been on CNN.

Harriet Tubman is an inspiration for the Girl Trek movement. Their motto is “If Harriet could walk herself to freedom, we can walk ourselves to better health!”

Kathy and I participated in and completed their 100 mile challenge and are in their “Harriet Hall of Fame”. We received beautiful t shirts as gifts from Girl Trek!

I’m currently excited about the Girl Trek 30 Day Challenge: Walks and Acts of Service to Honor Harriet Tubman. I’m doing the challenge with my bestie and it’s great to share daily about how we met the daily challenge goals.

I hope this post will encourage you to check out Girl Trek, join and spread the word. #weareharriet

BOLT Reviews: Thai Plum Village

To honor the 94 Birthday of Thich Nhat Hanh we traveled to the south of Thailand. It was a wonderful and spiritually rewarding experience!

Thích Nhất Hạnh is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist, founder of the Plum Village Tradition. He is a leader in the engaged Buddhism movement and a teacher in the practice of mindfulness.

Thay (teacher) as he is affectionately known established many retreat centers the world over. He spent most of his life at Plum Village in France. Sadly, he had a stroke and is no longer able to speak. He has returned to his birthplace in Hue, Vietnam to live out his days.

The retreat center we went to is the Thai Plum Village. For 3 days we enjoyed various types of meditation; remembrances of Thay by the nuns and monks; talks on mindfulness; periods of noble silence and meditation walks.

O

ur accomodations were in simple and clean dormatory style rooms. We were served three delicious vegan meals a day.

The center is in a lovely part of Thailand, surrounded by national park land. To get there it was an 11 hour bus trip to Bangkok and then a 3 hour ride to the center. We will definitely take a plane from Chiang Mai to Bangkok next time. The long bus ride was less than comfortable.

Despite the difficult trip there, Kathy and I are making plans to visit again soon. We highly recommend Thai Plum Village for those looking for an experience in mindfulness. If you art not in Thailand, remember, there are centers the world over.