Simon Family World Trip

Now in Nepal!
Journal Entry for February 16, 2000

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Thailand - February 16, 2000
What is Buddhism? - By Patty

We spent the first two months of our trip in Central Americaá Mayans, wild animals, Spanish Catholicism mixed with ancient Mayan beliefs, beautiful fabrics and masks and plenty of rice and beans.

I had been to Asia twice before with Dick so my thoughts were very curious and excited to see yet other cultures so different from our own!

I don't know much about Buddhism but as our trip unfolds in Thailand, Laos and Cambodiaá between jet lag and adjustmentá in those first few days I begin putting together some of what this ancient religion means.

It begins with the orange-clad closely shaven monk walking down the street barefoot. In the early morning dawn hours of Chiang Mai, you see them with big silver bowls obtaining their days meal from all the local people (in Laos the women of the household would kneel at 5:30AM on woven mats outside their doorsteps and scoop a handful of cooked rice for each monk that passes by). What moves me the most is the instant concept of 'helping your fellow neighbor', of sharing your earthly possessions so freelyá of brotherly love. One does not see it so blatantly in the US. It is done much for formally and removed in the States through soup kitchens and relief agencies, etc.

The next thing you see are the shiny Wats - big, gold-domed highly decorated with green mirrors and ceramic tiles. Balustrades of dragons and snakes great you and carry you up to see a huge Golden Buddha flanked by incense and artificial flowers. You must remove your shoes to enter this monastic complex, which endears you to an instant sort of reference even if you don't know exactly what you are revering.

One morning at our hotel, I noticed one of the women's jobs was to adorn the small shrines that are located in the corner outside of each Buddhist's property (even the huge modern shopping malls have huge shrines) Sometimes they are miniature replicas of each building. I was told they are called "Spirit Houses" to keep all the evil spirits housed outside of the real house. Little statues of animals, Buddhas and people with artificial flowers and garlands decorate the shrine. The women each morning put out fresh yellow mums in vases, trays of real food, which included baked chicken, rice wrapped in banana leaves, fresh fruit along with burning incense and a cup of water in case the spirit is thirsty. A prayer is said with folded hands. Little strings of jasmine and rosebuds were hung. I read they symbolize the beauty that life holds and as the flower diesá the impermanence of life going inevitably towards death (We were also reminded on two other occasions when our driver in Bangkok had a car accident with us wiping out the front of a taxi and when a host of a dinner decided the first course should be steamed 'duck tongue').

As I was walking with the kids, I mentioned that everything they are seeing has some sort of religious symbol - some meaning about life. As I was thinking about all that we had witnessed (there was even a shrine inside our hotel), I thought that Buddhism, because of all the shrines everywhere, keeps the religion central to life. It dwells on the beauty of nature and the peacefulness of your soul (you see this in every monk you see living so simply and quietly). As I ponder my own centeredness, I cannot help but think that Buddhism does show you the skills by which to attain this sort of centeredness. The quiet, the natural beauty, the meditativeness of living, the kindness toward your fellow man.

Because of this religion, as a traveler, I feel a sense of comfort and contentment. I was thinking about all this when several days later, Alex, our oldest, said, "Mom, I don't know why but I feel so much better here than in Guatemala. I feel safer. I feel I can walk down the streets in the evening." I smiled because it was not just a feeling I had about this countryá our children thought so, too!

Simon Family Itinerary as of
March 6, 2000

Nov 27 - Dec 20 - Costa Rica
Nov 27 - Maria Alexandra Aparthotel, San Jose
Nov 28 - Lapas Rios Hotel
Nov 29-Dec 1 - Tulemar Bungalows, Manuel Antonio National Park, Quepos
Dec 2-7 - Lookout Inn, Carate, Osa Peninsula
Dec 8-10 - El Sapo Dorado Lodge, Monteverde
Dec 11-12 - Arenal Lodge, Arenal Volcano
Dec 13-15 - Selva Verde Lodge, Serapiqui
Dec 16-18 - Mawamba Lodge, Tortuguero
Dec 19 - Maria Alexandra Aparthotel, San Jose

Dec 20, 1999 - Jan 6, 2000 - Guatemala
Dec 20-22 - La Quinta De Las Flores, Antigua
Dec 23-26 - Mayan Inn, Chichicastenango
Dec 27 - Aurora Hotel, Antigua
Dec 28-29 - Jungle Lodge, Tikal, Peten
Dec 30 - Aurora Hotel, Antigua
Dec 31-Jan 3 - Posada de Santiago, Santiago Atitlan
Jan 4 - Casa Azul, Antigua
Jan 5 - Hotel Viva Clarion Suites, Guatemala City

Jan 6-18 - Honduras
Jan 6-8 - Hotel Plaza, Copan Ruinas
Jan 9 - Hotel de Paris, La Ceiba
Jan 10 - 17- Plantation Beach Resort, Cayos Cochinos (Hog Islands), Bay Islands

Jan 18-24 - Guatemala
Jan 18-20 - Hotel Viva Clarion Suites, Guatemala City
Jan 21 - Volcan San Marcos (Camping), Lake Atitlan
Jan 22 - Santa Catarina Hotel, Lake Atitlan
Jan 23 - Viva Clarion Suites Hotel, Guatemala City

Jan 24 - Mexico

Jan 24-29 - Houston
Jan 24-25 - Drury Inn, The Woodlands
Jan 26-29 - Holiday Inn Select, Houston

Jan 30 - Los Angeles
Jan 30 - Embassy Suites Hotel, Los Angeles

Jan 31 - United Airlines Flight #1, Somewhere over the Pacific

Feb 1-6 - Thailand
Feb 1 - Quality Inn Suites, Bangkok
Feb 2-3 - Taepae Place Hotel, Chiang Mai
Feb 4 - "Guesthouse", Karen Village
Feb 5 - Taepae Place Hotel, Chiang Mai

Feb 6-10 - Laos
Feb 6-9 - Lang Xhiang Guesthouse, Luong Probang

Feb 10-13 - Thailand
Feb 10 - Overnight "Express" Train to Bangkok
Feb 11-12 - Ambassador Hotel, Bangkok

Feb 13-16 - Cambodia
Feb 13-15 - Ankgor Hotel, Siem Reap

Feb 16-March 3 - India
Feb 16 - Ashoka Palace, Delhi
Feb 17 - Surya Hotel, Delhi
Feb 18 - Jaypee Palace Hotel, Agra
Feb 19 - Hotel Sariska Palace, Sariska National Park, Alwar, Rajasthan
Feb 20-24 - Hotel Samode Palace, Samode, Rajasthan
Feb 25 - Samode Bagh ("Garden" - Camping), Samode, Rajasthan
Feb 26-28 - Hotel Gorbandh Palace, Jaiselmar, Rajasthan
Feb 29 - Camel Safari, Jaiselmar, Rajasthan
March 1 - Hotel Gorbandh Palace, Jaiselmar, Rajasthan
March 2 - Overnight "Express" Train to Delhi

March 3-13 - Nepal
March 3 - Hotel Shanker, Kathmandu
March 4-6 - Raddison Hotel, Kathmandu

March 13-22 - Bhutan
March 22-April 12 - Nepal
April 12-May 4 - Japan
May 4-May 20 - China
May 20-31 - Egypt (We may bypass Egypt and fly directly to Johannesburg, South Africa)
June 1-Aug 21 - Southern Africa and Europe (Probably ending with several weeks in Norway)