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An early start to go to the Vietnamese Embassy to get visas. We decide to walk home. Phnom Penh streets are in a grid so it shouldn’t be too difficult to find our way. First serendipity – we stumble upon a local market. Something authentic. And fun. Photographing makes people smile. Always after the fact. Oh well. They don’t expect tourists. They don’t expect to have their photo taken. They probably wonder why. To them it’s all just ordinary. To us it’s different, exotic, fun. We all smile. This is how to see a city. Just walk and follow your feet. I bet that market is not listed anywhere in any tourist guide.

Next serendipity. We’re getting hot and a bit weary. Don has a thought – it’s time for a break, something to drink. And there, suddenly, right beside us is a lovely, serene, fenced, garden café, quiet, off the street, comfy seats. Almost nothing on the street to indicate it’s there, but the thought arises, and then almost immediately, so does the place to rest. And the music? A Fine Romance. Indeed.

We’re at breakfast at our hotel in Bagan, Myanmar and have planned a whole day out to see the stupas and temples travelling by horse and buggy. We were discussing what to do about lunch, whether or not to get the hotel to make sandwiches for us, an idea Don didn’t like. I admit I also was not really enthusiastic about the idea given the quality of sandwiches we’d had so far in Myanmar. So I let go. I said okay we hand it over to the Universe. We stop thinking about lunch, we don’t order sandwiches that will just get cooked in the heat of the day anyway, and trust that when we’re ready to eat we will be at a place where we can get a lovely meal. We let go. At the time we were ready for lunch we were taken to a place called The Moon Café in Old Bagan and had the best meal we’d had in Myanmar, after 8 days and 24 meals.

We’d been bickering a bit about what to do in Chiang Mai where we had very little time. After talking things through we decided that we’d both completely let go (especially me) of any ideas of how our time there “should” be and just let it unfold. We decided to set out the next day with absolutely no agenda, no hopes, no plans, no expectations. We’d just let our feet take us where they wanted to go. Completely relaxed. And suddenly we found ourselves in one of the smaller, lesser-known monasteries. An older monk, covered in tattoos, sitting quietly in the garden certainly caught my eye. Then a younger monk began chatting with us to practice his English. The older monk, who spoke no English, indicated for us to sit. The four of us sat and chatted for over an hour, and we discovered that it would be fine for us to sit in their temple for evening chanting and meditation with them. We went back the next evening for that. Such a deep meditation. Much gratitude for being able to listen to their beautiful chanting, and to meditate within the energy of that sacred space and with a group of Buddhist monks. And afterwards a senior monk, through an interpreter, invited us both to come and stay at the monastery. To live there. For free. We didn’t understand if the offer was for the time we would be in Chiang Mai, or for something more long-term. Either way we were leaving Chiang Mai the next day, but maybe one day we’ll take them up on their offer.

It’s amazing what happens when you let go. This kind of serendipity seems to come frequently, when we let go. In letting go the creative energy is free to flow.

Photo of the day: The tattooed monk of course. He’s been a monk for five years. All the tats were done before he became a monk. I get the feeling he had a pretty wild life until something hit home about needing to make some changes. Or maybe he just likes tats.

And the younger monk who began talking to us. He said he’s been a monk since he was a child.

All words and images by Alison Louise Armstrong unless otherwise noted.
© Alison Louise Armstrong and Adventures in Wonderland – a pilgrimage of the heart, 2010-2015.