Revitalised in Paradise


So, I left you as I was arriving at the Baan Hom Samunphrai “The House of Sweet Smelling Herbs”.

The two founders and carers for this place are Homprang and Christopher. I fell in love with Homprang the moment I met her. Unfortunately for me, she is married to this great guy Christopher. The first thing she did when she heard of my recent ailment was fix me a herbal rice soup with a mug of herbal tea. I was given a room and rested until dinner which was delicious as are all the meals here. Just being here on this two acre property is a treat. Lawns and trees, a pond, and old wooden houses that they bought locally, took apart and reassembled to Christopher’s designs with common areas on the ground and sleeping above.


My room was upstairs in this building.

The Meditation Sala where I played my flute.

Inside the Meditation Sala.

When I arrived, there was a class of four thai massage students in their last week. Three French and one American. (Classes are limited to eight students.) In my two weeks here, people have come and gone as students and as paying guests. We have our meals at a long table so that you get to see everyone as least at those times. We’re nine kms outside the centre of Chiang Mai, so, people don’t just drop in. Occasionally, someone will come all this way just for a massage. It’s worth it.

This photo is unfortunately blurred. Sorry. It does give you and idea of dinner time. Standing is Christopher. The second person in on the right side is Homprang. Lots of young women around me at that time. That pepped me up.

My first massage here was on my second day. It was a ‘two hour full body massage’. Well, it went for two and three quarters of an hour and was one of the best therapeutic massages I’ve had in my long career of enjoying what life has to offer. None of my massages here have been less than two and a half hours. The credo here is to keep going until the massage is done. Nit, the woman who has been my massage therapist is this thin little woman who is very strong with incredible endurance. The first three of my five massages were two days apart but I found that I needed an extra day between for my body to fully integrate the changes. My last two massages included being massaged with hot herbal compresses during the second half. Want to melt your bones? That’s the way.

I must remember to mention the herbal steam baths I have been relishing every evening. How am I going to get one of those into my backpack?

This is the plunge pool beneath the room where you receive massages. The door in the back leads into the steam bath.

I haven’t said much about Christopher and Homprang because there is so much to say about them and so much that can not be said about them. Homprang is this ball of energy and love who moves gracefully about with the ease of one who is in harmony with existence. She makes one smile in wonder. There is a brief bio at the bottom of the home page for their website. My next to last night I finally got Christopher to tell me how they met. He gave me her whole bio and it was a story that if you saw it in a film you wouldn’t believe it. Christopher is this soft spoken American poet who lived much of his life in Britian and is a wealth of fascinating knowledge about Thai culture and life. There’s a link to some of his poems and a brief bio on the homepage. The two of them join us all at the evening meal where we relax and wander in conversation. I am so happy to be one of their friends.

It only took me two days here to begin feeling sprightly again and every day since has been a day of increasing vitality. The last two weeks have been full of good company, loving care, transforming massages, delicious food and a peaceful environment.

If you are ever in Chiang Mai, visit this place. You will be happy you did.


Will The Real Mt Shasta Please Stand Up!

I am writing this to you all as an assurance that I did indeed experience Mt Shasta and surrounds and return to you all. My good friend, Sheelu, picked me up at my sister’s house and we drove through the 103 F heat to the Casa de Plunge. (Also known as The Lake House, it is the holiday home of my brother, John.  and his wife, Stephanie, on Lake Shasta.) The next morning found us driving up to the mountain that is so famous and well known in certain circles. the high point of ten day for me was the visit to Upper Panther Meadow. This is the site of  a spring that is sacred to the local Winimum Wintu people. It is the place of their origin. The meadow is also the home of a small flowering bush that takes two to four hundred years to grow to a height of four inches.

These flowering bushes are only four inches tall.

Unknowing people have trampled much of this rare vegetation. Twenty- five years ago, there was a ” Harmonic Convergence” in the meadow that destroyed most of these plants in the meadow.  Since then, signage has been erected and, the day we visited, there was a volunteer guide to tell us about the place. Something of interest was the Vole tunnels where they hibernate with separate rooms for their food, sleeping and shitting. In the spring, the rains wash through the evacuated tunnels and mixes the contents into a wonderful fertilizer for the meadow. Very cool.

Vole Tunnels

As we arrived, the guide was just finishing talking with three ladies in white. Just before they moved on, one asked him if there had been any recent ‘ascensions’. We were to find out that in 1930 , a man named David Lloyd, after drinking an elixer of St Germaine ascended body and all up into another dimension  in front of witnesses on Mt Shasta. OK. This only the beginning.
As we were leaving, a man in the parking area told us that Mt Shasta has entrances to the underground where the Lemurians live at the centre of the earth. I didn’t know about this piece of history, but, when Lemuria was destroyed, some of the Lemurians escaped through tunnels to the middle of the earth and the entrances are somewhere around Mt Shasta.  The reason that there are clouds swirling around the top of the mountain is so that you won’t see the UFOs as they fly into the secret entrances on the mountain. (There’s so much that they didn’t teach me about at school!)  This same man sleeps out and communicates telepathically with the UFOs. They reply by blinking their lights.  Maybe they figure that he can only send, not receive.
Now, I know there is a rumor going around that Sheelu and I were abducted by aliens while on Mt Shasta and I want to say that …. Mmmm … Arwagl …mndoobiel… Nngblta …. and that’s what happened. Other than that, we had a very good time on the mountain. I was tempted to either join the Lemurians  or  ascend but being such a Libran, I couldn’t decide, so, I’m still around in this dimension for a while yet.
Having settled those important questions, we moved on, over the next few days, to enjoy some of the vast amount of beauty that the region offers in this dimension. A visit to nearby Castle Lake where we jumped naked in the cold clear waters and hiked up a trail was a very refreshing treat.

Castle Lake

On our last day, we went a distance to Burney Falls where we had a picnic by the lake and, then, walked the loop trail for an experience of something amazing.

Over the stream below the falls.

As I stood captivated by the water roaring in true tumult above me, I reflected on how it just kept pouring and pouring, constantly fresh and new, different water from moment to moment. For thousands of years water has kept moving over these falls. I was reminded of the feeling I used to have as a kid in my bed at night imagining infinity.

Burney Falls

The falls comprise the above ground water that shoots over the top, but, there is also underground water that bursts out of the wall. Here is photo taken amongst the mist.

Sheelu and I eventually tore ourselves away from the falls and made our way to another great miracle. Having dinnern with John and Steph. Below is a photo of us all at the Dogwood Diner in Dunsmuir. A couple chefs moved up from the city to open this little place in this lovely little town just down the road from the mountain. Our laughing waiter brought us wonderful salads followed by extraordinary mains. I had a tart that was bliss melting in my mouth. It was an evening of relaxed story telling and the pleasure of the company of loved ones.

Dogwood Diner

Shojin Ryori

When in Japan, one could be forgiven for thinking that there is no tradition if vegetarian cooking. Even some Japanese think that vegetarians don’t exist I Japan. Being a vegetarian myself, I have learned to expect a very limited choice when eating out in Japan. However, Shojin Ryori is a long tradition of Buddhist vegan cooking in Japan.

You can find a few places that prepare Shujin Ryori in the guide books, however, the cost of a meal is far beyond my curiosity budget. One day, I will find my way to one of these establishments because of the traditional setting with the tatami mat floor, shoji screens, garden view, etc that is included. I’m sure that it will an event worthy relating to one and all. In the meantime, I’m happy to be able to tell you of my little Shojin Ryu adventure during my recent sojourn in Kyoto.

Mikoan Dinner Set

First off, I have to give credit to the Digital Nomads, They are an English couple who sold up two years ago to travel the world. When I was preparing for my trip to Kyoto, I did a search for vegetarian restaurants that I could visit and came across their blog entries. These two fellow vegetarians maintain an informative good looking blog as part of their journey. I had landed in the right part of cyberspace.

There are a few places that they recommend in Kyoto. Shigetsu, within Tenryuji temple serves the traditional Shojin Ryori all of the ambience and high price that puts it in my ‘sometime in the future’ list. Then, there is Mikoan.

Mikoan was the Digital Nomads’ favorite place to eat in Kyoto. I followed the link to the japanese only webpage that contained directions and saved as a PDF. My guest house hosts printed it out for me and told me the nearest subway station. I figured that I had time before the beginning of the Shakuhachi camp at mid- day to have a quick meal. Well… it was a hot and sweating Kundan who gave up in uncertainty and grabbed an egg salad sandwich and ume onegiri at a 7/11.

Being of good samuria stock (well maybe in a past life), after the camp on my way to the opening of the World Shakuhachi Festival, I stopped in at the Kyoto Tourist Information office at the main train station. A very nice woman gave me a tourist map and marked the spot. She also told me which bus to catch and showed me the route. I love the ladies in the tourist offices in Japan. With map in had, I caught the bus and got off at the closest stop. Walking back, I found my way to what I believed was the correct street. An enquiry of a shop owner sent me six shop fronts up looking for a lane way. I got to what I thought was the lane and turned left. It didn’t feel right. Backtracked and discovered that I had walked right past the sandwich board and the lane way. This lane was slightly wider than shoulder width between two shops. In the back, I came upon a house that looked like it was out of the 70’s. I walked through the front door and entered another world!

Mikoan is the kind of place where I feel comfortable. Perhaps it’s because it is so un-Japanese and, at the same time, so Japanese. The right side of the ground floor has been turned into a bar/restaurant. From where you step into the room to with in a couple feet of the back wall runs a beautiful thick wooden slab of a counter.

Looking towards the front door.

The left side is this tiny kitchen/serving area and the right side is lined with stools. There is just enough space between the stools and a bookcase covered wall to slip by. When you arrive, the proprietress motions for you to move down to the far end where there is a bend in the counter to accommodate a couple more people. The whole length has maybe a dozen stools. Besides the fact that it would be difficult to maneuver past and occupied stool, the end of the counter closest to the door appears to be the mama-san’s office where she stands and studies papers when she isn’t cooking or serving. If the place fills up, she lifts a pile of papers off for the final customers. Unlike the usual Japanese establishment, the entire room has no bare space except where your food or drink may sit in

front of you. Along the serving side of the counter and on every other available surface there is what might be called clutter. I would say that it is merely an abundance whose order is fully known by one person.

I ordered a lunch set. One of the few things in English on the menu. It was just what I wanted. Brown rice and various types of veggies prepared in traditional Japanese ways.

The next day, I brought a few curious fellow shakuhachi players with me. They were thrilled.

The final night of the festival, I brought even more.

The Dinner Crowd

It was so gratifying to hear people enjoying themselves and thank me for finding this place. So, you don’t have to just take my word. Try it out yourselves next time you’re in Tokyo. It is one of those uniquely Japanese experiences.

The Space Cowboy

I just returned from a performance by the Space Cowboy in the Byron Bay Community  Centre. I’ve seen him perform three times now. The first time was at the radio station. I was standing just two feet away when he bent a spoon that a woman was holding. He wasn’t touching the spoon. Just had his hand a few inches away. He makes spoons bend and twist. He uses spoons that the audience brings. It’s the real thing. Tonight he did it with a brandy snifter. A lady was holding it and the stem bent 45 degrees. He talked about a couple of the theories put forth by skeptics. He showed that those theories were incorrect. It’s the real thing, what he does. He does it all the time around the world.

Another example was when he started off the show with us tossing around a foam ‘brick’ to pick the participant for the trick. He then wrote a three digit number on a paper and, after, asked the guy to clear his mind and say the first three digits that came to mind. It was those numbers. As I said, I’ve seen him perform three times and he does these things easily. He makes you admit that there is more to reality than fits in the box.

He finished by swallowing a florescent tube with a mic attached to it’s end. You could hear his muscle adjusting as the tube went down and then his heart beating. Very dramatic.

He’s was born in Byron and gave his first performance at the monthly markets when he was eight years old. See him if you have a chance. He tours the world.

I’m off to pick a spoon to practice on.

Eating the Bay 5

The B Star Bar, San Francisco, CA

It was my good fortune that my shakuhachi teacher’s daughter has moved to San Francisco from Japan to attend University. That meant that Kaoru combined a teaching trip to LA with a trip to SF to see his daughter. He was staying with one of his students, Karl Young. I had been invited to have dinner after my lesson.

Karl and his wife Sue live in the Richmond District in a nondescript apartment building; until you enter the lobby. It’s all restored 1940’s architecture. A hidden jewel.  Sue and, then, Karl, then Emi (Kaoru’s daughter) arrived during my lesson. Karl ‘s lesson followed mine.  After lessons, we all sat for a while in a very lively talk about art while sampling an excellent chocolate beer.

Primed and ready to go, we are led by Karl and Sue a few block way to the B Star Bar. A small Burmese restaurant. We’re lucky in that there is one table available for the five of us. Karl and Sue give us advice, starting with the Tea Leaf Salad. We also order various dishes that we share or not. The restaurant stocks a Belgian Chimey Beer. A marvellous complex mixture of flavours. I need to do a beer tour of Belgium some day! The Tea Leaf Salad is mixed at the table. A few bites and I know why they insisted that we order it. Everything is superb. So many flavours mixed perfectly. I am swooning. As we are leaving, I say to the waitress, “I didn’t think food could taste this good.”

Five stars, must go!

PS- Up the street is the original Burmese Superstar that the B Star Bar is spun off from. Same food.

Eating the Bay 4

Hotel San Remo, San Francisco, CA

When I had breakfast at the Venus Cafe, I was on my way with my bags to San Francisco. I had arrived in the Bay Area in the belief that I only needed the two nights couch surfing accommodation that I had arranged. The day of my arrival, I had received information that meant I needed to stay another night. A quick hop on the web and through a Fodor’s recommendation found and booked at the San Remo Hotel in the North Beach neighbourhood of San Francisco. Other budget hotels I had tried were booked out. I’m glad that was so.

The San Remo was built one hundred years ago by the founder of the Bank of America after the 1906 Great Earthquake.  It’s located a few blocks from Fisherman’s Wharf, occupying the second and third stories of the buildingl.  You are buzzed into small foyer on ground level and then ascend a one and a half person wide staircase to the first floor of the hotel. It is beautiful with restored Italianate Victorian fixtures and architecture. You will not find a phone or tv in your room. There is wireless in the main hallways. Some rooms have a sink but the showers and toilets are located separately from the rooms on each floor as in a European pension. Here’s a photo of one view inside of my room.

The View From My Bed, San Remo Hotel

You can see the period furniture and the light from the central air shaft. It was comfortable room. The hotel was very clean, quiet and tidy with a welcoming feel. The staff were a very happy group who obviously enjoyed working in such an establishment. When I think of the concrete bunkers that so often pass as hotels these days, I appreciate the San Remo even more. Sure, the walls are thin and you have to go down the hall for the WC but for at least one night, as a special treat, I would recommend San Remo Hotel to anyone who is looking for a unique experience in San Francisco.

An interesting history page.

2237 Mason Street, San Francisco, CA

Eating the Bay 3

Venus Cafe- Berkeley, CA

The morning after Picasso found me walking down Shattuck looking for a cafe that had been recommended for breakfast. Getting farther and farther from downtown. Slowed down. Did I come too far? A few yards ahead, something different. Somehow inviting. The Venus Cafe. Read the menu in window and entered. Waitress with a bright smile took my order for a cappuccino that came just as I finished perusing the menu. Ordered the Warm Poached Egg Salad. “Two poached eggs on a nest of mushrooms with tomato, goats cheese, mixed greens with tapenade toast.” The cap was in a little bit smaller cup than I had been served at other places. Just a little foam on the top. Dark brown underneath. Full rich flavour. This is what a cappuccino should taste like.

My food arrived just as I finished the cap. The poached eggs had large round balls of yolk containing a deep bright color inside. They sat on top of the mixed greens with the nest of mushrooms under all. A light dressing. I was able to finish the toast this time. After I had cleared my plate, the waitress asked how I liked my meal. I said, “I wish I didn’t have to stop eating.” All other breakfasts will be measured by this one. If you are ever in Berkeley, check it out. They use organic and local ingredients.