Saturday, July 27, 2013

Journey to the year 2556

For many reasons we decided to forgo our annual pilgrimage to the mother land.  How fun to think that instead we engaged in time travel (to the year 2556) for our summer vacation, but we did!  How did we manage? Easy. We went to Thailand.

This photo was taken in the national park outside of Chiang Mai where we had an incredible adventure.  Our guide was answering the question "What does this sign say?" It's along the road to little village where a ziplining/adventure park company is based.  The company supports the village thru employment and they live a relatively 'traditional' lifestyle while benefitting from this small and relatively low impact tourism operation.  As far as the sign, it is basically just about the road, how it was funded, when it was started, when it was completed, how it is maintained.  Boring stuff, but this is when we said, "Uh, what do you mean it was started in the year 2552?"

Thailand (along with Cambodia, Laos, Burma and Sri Lanka) uses a Buddhist calendar as opposed to (or in addition to) the Gregorian calendar.  The simplified explanation is that the Thai Buddist year 0 is counted from the year Buddha attained complete nirvana, post 'awakening' (bodhi) and upon the death of his physical body.  In Thailand this was in March 545 BCE but for some reason was fixed at 543. The new year is April.  The calendar also factoring in the lunar cycle (counting the days of the month in two halves: waxing and waning) and the signs of the zodiac so the days don't match up always with the Gregorian calendar.  If we lived there we'd hopefully learn more about this.

We really missed out on a lot by not being able to read and not having someone to translate the many signs and brochures that were printed only in Thai script.  We left so many sites with unanswered questions and I'm sure missed out on so many things simply because we were basically illiterate there except when there was english script.  Where we were traveling and the kind of travel we were doing (not Euro/American backpacker tourism) the guides all said that their clients were 75% chinese 15% Thai and the rest Japanese, European with a few Americans.  Interesting.

One bit of script worth learning:

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