We dust off the sleep from our eyes, throw on our warm clothes and step out into the streets of Chiang Mai. The crescent shaped moon is very much alive and bright this early hour, illuminating the contrasting night sky. The time is 5:20 am in the morning. The day is Saturday, December 28th.

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Tuk tuks, songthaew’s (red trucks with benches), mopeds, buses and cars begin to fill the streets. Many make the pilgrimage by foot, while some arrive barefoot for this most auspicious occasion.

Today, is the celebration of the 10,000 monks procession. Buddhists monks from all around the city and throughout Thailand have made the pilgrimage to gather here on Changklan Rd in Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand, on this chilly winter morning. The monks have graciously come here today to receive gifts of alms from the people.

Alms are money or goods given to those in need as an act of charity. Monks receiving alms is as an act of merit making. The act of giving alms has been practiced by Buddhists for thousands of years. It is considered an act for doing good things and the belief that this will bring about peace and happiness.

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The procession begins with a series of prayers, chants and a group meditation. The crowd sits in two long extending rows that billows out into the city streets for quite some length. Young service men in uniforms keep the peace by holding space for all to flow harmoniously. Each holds in their hand a tightly rolled cylinder of plastic bags for collecting the alms from the monks when their alms bowls become full. The alms are gathered and will be distributed following the ceremony.

Gifts of food, money and bouquets of flowers spill out from the hands of the crowd. It is a joyous occasion. Barefoot, robed in orange and carrying a golden shiny bowl in hand, the monks move forward graciously in procession towards the crowd, one by one.

Novices and the ordained, the youth and elders appear in radiant form. Their skin speaks of health, well-being and a simple yet disciplined life. Their expressions and movements offer a glimpse into their unique nature. While similar in appearance, each monk truly carries an energy and vibration uniquely his own.

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There is something rather beautiful about being among and looking into the eyes of these wondrous monks. To share a moment in time, a smile and a loving gesture is a wonderful way to promote peace and harmony on our beloved planet.

LOVE,
ALISUN TREES

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Taking a cooking class in another country, exploring the cuisine of a foreign land, is a treat. Having a private lesson in an open-air kitchen, cooking the finest of Lao cuisine, is an experience.

Luang Prabang is a small city in Laos, whose borders were established by France in 1893. Sandwiched between the expansionist governments of Thailand and Vietnam, Laos cuisine is heavily influenced by those cultures, its geographic position along the Mekong River and its French heritage.

There are no shortage of cooking classes in the many restaurants that tend to offer both Lao and French menus. I took a three hour class at Burasari Heritage, which boasts an open-air kitchen along the Nam Khan River, a bustling, professional staff and a dedication to local, high-quality ingredients.

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Here is a magical tale of how a potent seed planted many moons ago, flourished into a beautiful day filled with love, sacred vows and a spiritual union, ushering two world traveling souls to show up in Thailand for their wedding day. *A friendly tip: You may want to take a moment to brew a tea, or beverage of your choice and settle in for the telling of this story. For an even greater visual experience, you may choose to go directly to our home page at owlandbear.org, where each photo will expand to a larger view, simply by clicking on each one. ENJOY!

“And a spirited away we go…”

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“That is splendidly wonderful news! How interesting that your marriage should be waiting for you in Thailand all this time,” says our dear friend Pausha in response to our surprise wedding announcement. Yes, interesting indeed. You see, ours was a wedding ceremony naturally and spontaneously unfolding right before our very eyes. A magical and serendipitous chain of events were set in motion by a potent seed planted several moons ago. While our plan to marry in Thailand was of no great surprise to us, the ceremony itself was literally designed overnight. At “Godspeed,” I might add.

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One relaxing evening in Chiang Mai, my fingers dance among the letters and keys of my beloved ipad. Chiang mai is known for it being a hub for the healing arts. So, with this in mind, I embark on a virtual adventure. Tap, tap, click, click, I am in. My fingers dance right into the cyber den and home of the well known popular destination, Wild Rose Yoga Studio. Intrigued by the colorful and well designed website, my eyes scan the page. Intuitively, I scroll over the information. I move my index finger to the right and then to the left, up and down and stopping at a sparkling gem appearing to the right of the screen. It reads, Nick Harris, reiki master teacher. I click on the link. A friendly face appears. Drawn by the energy I feel from his profile page, I feel inspired to reach out.

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Chiang Mai, Thailand

by Ali Sun Trees on December 28, 2013 · 2 comments

Chiang Mai is simply, “just one of those places.” Chiang Mai has that certain quality that leaves an everlasting impression on the soul. The city is a popular destination for the 21st century blogger/digital nomad/healer/artist/you name it/ well intentioned wandering soul. It is a hub among hubs. The city naturally ushers in expat communities worldwide to touch and tune in to the very fibers of ones authentic nature. The cafés, restaurants and city streets are a buzz with innovative projects and creative endeavors, lifting spirits worldwide.

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Married in Thailand!

by Tyler on December 22, 2013 · 4 comments

AliSun and I had a beautiful ceremony yesterday in Chiang Mai, Thailand. A few photos and stories to come. May your lives be as blessed as ours are.

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Dear Hani, Andrew, Aunt Ten and Ms. Hong –

AliSun and I are deeply blessed. What began as a hazy sketch of a trip to Asia a year ago crystallizes in a beautiful celebration of family under the starry skies of the Vietnamese coast.

The invitation is a delight.

Saw your itinerary, writes Hani. Andrew and I are celebrating our birthdays at our aunt’s resort. Would love if you could make it.

Our initial reaction is yes. We sleep on it. Still yes. I email Hani, We’re in. See you in eight months.

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I am sitting behind the hinged door on the right side of the 32 seat bus. Friends, family and luggage are piled in as we leave Aunt Ten’s condo in Ho Chi Minh City’s District 2. We head due east to Mui Ne, on the coast of Vietnam. We gather to celebrate the birthdays of newlyweds Hani and Andrew, conveniently abridged to the “90th”.

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My head leans against the window. Inside are sounds of laughter, stories, kids, eating. Outside, endless waves of motorcycles and scooters weave and dance the diesel two-stroke amidst the endless waves of cars and buses.

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NARA, JAPAN…

Straight from the mouths of Wikipedia…
Nara (奈良市 Nara-shi?) is the capital city of Nara Prefecture located in the Kansai region of Japan. The city occupies the northern part of Nara Prefecture, directly bordering Kyoto Prefecture. Eight temples, shrines and ruins in Nara, specifically Tōdai-ji, Saidai-ji, Kōfuku-ji, Kasuga Shrine, Gangō-ji, Yakushi-ji, Tōshōdai-ji, and the Heijō Palace remain, together with Kasugayama Primeval Forest, collectively form “Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara”, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

PRIMEVAL FOREST + TEMPLES + DEER + TREES + CHANGING LEAVES + GRACIOUS CULTURE + MATCHA TEA + ART + VIBRANT FOOD + WONDERFUL HOSTS + TRUE LOVE = HEAVEN ON EARTH

 

SPIRITED AWAY into the woods three miles high…met an ANCIENT TEMPLE in the PRIMEVAL FOREST…to find that I was the only single HUMAN BEING visibly present here in this UNIQUE MOMENT of time and space = FILLED WITH ABSOLUTE GRATITUDE

SENDING WARM HUGS YOUR WAY FROM OWL AND BEAR…
BEAMING LOVE and RADIANT LIGHT from the road to EVERYONE!
WE love sharing our adventures with all of you.
THANK YOU for being a part of the journey!
Peace and Love,
ALISUN TREES

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Dear BANGKOK,
Oh my, how you have you have taken me by surprise. I must say, you literally took my breath away. Not once, not twice, but at least three times. No worries, I have come to love you anyways!

In all sincerity, I feel absolute gratitude for meeting you in this growing phase of the moon, as you have helped me to grow and heal through one of my most hidden and treasured fears. A fear I thought forever outgrown many moons ago, to now resurface in the reflection of your diesel fumes, cigarettes and sweet perfumes.

The mask I brought “just in case”, I now lay to rest. My “Breathe Easy” mask does not seem to work for me here. The one, I researched and so precisely matched for my sensitivities, took my breath away much further than you ever would. I have cried, cursed and glorified you, dear Bangkok, all in one breath! I have come out the other end, though! However, if you must know, I am still a bit gun shy to venture among a wide variety of your most popular charcoal grey painted streets. Perhaps, you may want to consider investing in a few oxygen bars for your well loved sensitive guests?

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Three days prior to leaving Japan, I scroll through the news. One story catches my eye – biggest storm ever in all of recorded history to slam into the Philippines.

Here’s how to help victims of Haiyan / Super Typhoon Yolanda.

In addition to feelings of compassion and helplessness for the Filipinos trapped in the storm’s path, and a mumble under my breath, nope no climate change here folks, I realize that the storm path coincides quite closely with our flights from Osaka to Hong Kong to Bangkok on Monday.

Let me preface the following by saying that when I use “fortunately” it refers only to little ol’ us, and not the communities that were devastated by Haiyan.

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So – fortunately – the predicted path and speed of the storm as it passed through the Philippines, hit the Vietnam coast and turned northwest stayed accurate. My best guess, based on amazing resources like Wundermap, was that our second flight from Hong Kong to Bangkok was going to pass through the tail end of the storm. What flashed through my mind was how a boat cuts through the water, leaving a turbulent frothy wake, and that is what we’d be passing through. Honestly? Made me a little nervous, if only for an overly bumpy ride.

My hope was that our flight would be redirected around the back of the storm. We board our plane, which showed a destination duration of an hour and forty minutes – the normal flight path. Just before take off, the duration changed to 2:23, and a later arrival time. Ten minutes after takeoff, it changed again to 2:43, with the arrival time further pushed out.

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The logo in Thai Airways’ colorful interior carries a tagline… Smooth as Silk. The flight was indeed smooth, we arrived without a hitch. Greetings from chaotic Sukhumvit on Bangkok. Much more to come.

And more posts from Japan coming – just have to keep writing and formatting some photos from this amazing country!

Note on above map – it is only to give an idea of how we went around the storm. We approached Bangkok from due north, not from the east. And the position and size of the storm is also guestimated at best.

Note on the relationship between climate change and super typhoons: inconclusive.

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