Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tattoo Wizard

The other night I asked my taxi driver about the mask displayed on his dashboard and he told me that the face represents a Thai tattoo master named Ajarn Noo Kampai. The Ajarn, or teacher, is widely known for his sacred Thai and Khmer tattoos that are believed to protect the body (and mind) from harm. It turns out that my taxi driver knows the Ajarn and offered to take me to his house that night to witness his artful skills and accompanying shamanistic rituals. Even if I had had the time to experience the Ajarn working his magic that night, I probably wouldn't have signed up for the pain-inducing part. But maybe witnessing the rituals would have been enough to keep evil spirits away for a while.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Fruitless Taxi

Durian, the spiky-looking tropical fruit that originates from Southeast Asia, isn't welcome in certain public places. Hotels, airplanes, and even taxis sometimes have signs or stickers on their windows that inform customers to leave their fruit at the door because it has a strong unpleasant odor. There's an urban myth that claims that some people who consume durian in combination with alcoholic beverages die from a strange chemical reaction. So it's an especially good thing the sticker next to it forbids customers to drink in the cab.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Crystal Clear Buddha

There is something profound about a clear glass image of the Buddha. For one thing, it is evocative of the Buddhist practice of clearing the mind through meditation. And it also recalls the Buddha's achievement of nirvana, the transcendent state in which there is neither suffering, desire, nor sense of self. In Western culture, we speak about glasses that are half full in relation to a person's optimistic outlook. In Buddhist philosophy, however, it's more desirable for the glass to be empty.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Mystery Bag

I asked the taxi driver if he could tell me what was in the bag and he answered, "you know, the usual religious stuff like amulets and good luck charms". At that point, the conversation changed to a different topic and I temporarily forgot about the sack bundled up around the rearview mirror. A few minutes later, I coughed a few times and the driver reached into his bag and pulled out a throat lozenge. As he offered it to me, I laughed and asked him if he had a bottle of water in there, too.