Month: May 2011

Buddha’s birthday this month

Buddha’s birthday this month

Buddha’s birthday – Vesakha Puja – is being observed by most Theravada Buddhists this month, commemorating the birth, enlightenment and death (the passing into Nirvana) of Buddha.

In Thailand, Buddha images, large, small, or ruined, are sacred objects: for me some of the most beautiful images are those which are the most ‘damaged’: and I see that in people too. Just as the beautiful lotus grows from muddy waters, so too can we.

During  various travels in Thailand I wanted to know more about Buddhism, meditation and dharma, and have twice spent ten days in a silent retreat at Wat Suan Mokkhabalarama –  started by Buddhadasa Bhikkhu (1906-1993) one of Thailand’s most revered monks. His back-to-basics philosophy still draws Thais from all over the country to study Theravada Buddhism and Vipasana (insight) meditation at this temple. My teachers and kalyana-mita (a good friend to novice’s, a teacher or mentor) were the Venerable Ajahn Poh; Tan See Telapalo and nun, Maechee Pairor. Suan Mokkh, a forest Wat, has no Buddha images at their International Dharma Centre.

In Thailand, the reverence of ancient and broken Buddha images is extended to the making of Buddha images: on another trip I wanted to find where and who makes those images. Despite asking Monks, tourist guides, local hotel staff, and even the staff at the New Zealand Embassy, no-one could tell me where to find such a place or person.

As with all spiritual and life journeys the path to find such an artisan was not smooth. I followed many leads and explored many dead ends, finally – when I had given up all hope of discovering the artists – a Swiss tourist told me that six months earlier his cyclist sister had found such a place. The next day, after a journey of some hours on a motorbike, train, and then cycle-rickshaw, I found Sgt. Major Thawee and his Buranathai Buddha Image Foundry in Pitsanulok. He doesn’t speak English – my Thai is minimal.

Staying at a hostel one block away I spent a week watching the process (lost wax) from early morning until they stopped at dusk. After two days it felt the workers realised I was serious and respectful about watching and recording their work and they greeted me daily without laughing at me photographing things that seemed so normal to them. We chatted to each other despite each of us having very little idea what the other was talking about.

On December 24, 2006 at 7:43am – an “auspicious date and time” I was told – the bronze was poured for a Buddha which is for a temple in the forest near Chiang-kham, Phayao Province some 330-ks north of Pitsanulok. Phra Pairoj, the head monk from that temple and many of the locals who had contributed financially to the creating of this Buddha were there for the culmination of the work, and the blessings during the pouring of the bronze – finishing with a shared meal. As with many events I’ve attended in Thailand, I was the only ‘farang’ (foreigner) there.

Some of these photos will be on exhibition from 30th June – 3rd July, at Thistle Hall (Cuba St Wellington, New Zealand)

Most sacred Buddha in Bangkok

Quake photos: history gone, and CTV rubble cleared (11th May 2011)

Quake photos: history gone, and CTV rubble cleared (11th May 2011)

The traditional 'blue' of St Paul's Presbyterian church light standards. These stood at the front steps
the foundation stone of my old church
Diagonally opposite St Paul's, the CTV building rubble is removed as police cycle by
Ironic sign as the CTV building is cleared
My chemist shop & post office (1 min from my apartment) are gone. (Strategy Building)

These photos were taken during another one-day trip into the city – from my new home in Wellington. Sad to see more of my, and the city’s history disappearing. Read another post here and see earlier photos

travels with a passionate nomad …

Naked in Budapest: travels with passionate nomad, (AKA Heather Hapeta) will be broadcast from Monday, 16 May – Tuesday, 24 May, 2011 at 10.45 a.m. on Radio New Zealand National.

It has been adapted into 7 episodes and is read by the author.

It will be available to hear online at – as an MP3 file – and you can buy a hard copy at

Shearwater Lodge named in “top ten eco-lodges”

Shearwater Lodge, Kaikoura, New Zealand, has been  named in a UK magazine (Australia & New Zealand) as one of two New Zealand “top ten eco-lodges” in their Jan/Feb 2011 issue.  (Stonefly Lodge, Nelson, also in NZ’s South Island is the other one but I havent been there so can’t comment on it.)

I went hiking to the classy lodge a while ago and can, like the Australia & and Zealand magazine, well recommend it.

This area is home to the endangered Hutton’s Shearwaters which burrow below the peak of Te Ao Wheke, (The World of the Gods) the second highest mountain peak in the area. The birds only fly home at night and leave first thing each morning, spending their days at sea feeding on small fish and krill. (see more about my hike here)

Congratulations for the accolade!

YAY - down one more valley then up to Shearwater Lodge
Shearwater Lodge is now in our sight
Another good day in Wellington!

Another good day in Wellington!

Wellington ‘on a good day’ is more than just about the weather for me! New to this city, I’m always discovering more to love – here are just some from today (Friday 6th May 2011)

Sunrise starts the day off well at the top of Cuba Street

I go for a walk to the library, lunch, and to record a few murals in my Cuba quarter.

Watch my toes ... or else!
A tatooists' dragon
"This cat has been known to attack paparazzi" a local tells me!
A fellow blogger just has to feel the grass on Cuba St!

travel quotes I love

Travel quotes I love from Henry David Thoreau (American Essayist, Poet and Philosopher, 1817-1862

  • Maheshwar, India

It’s not what you look at that matters; it’s what you see …”

  • Takahe ... one of New Zealand flightless birds

“Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.”

  • Building a Buddha image

 “You must live in the present, launch yourself
on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.”

 Henry David Thoreau
quotes (American Essayist, Poet and Philosopher, 1817-1862)