As I move through different parts of Asia, into different cites and districts, as I meet different people, I am ever reminded of how fundamentally some believe in the powers of fortune. Here are some of my glimpses into the world of fortune as they’ve brushed up against my experience.

At Asakusa Temple

At Asakusa Temple

1) Asakusa Temple, Tokyo, Japan:

My first encounter with fortune came at the temple in Asakusa, Tokyo. I had read in some guide books about receiving your fortune at the temple and as I saw various people minding these small drawers to the side of the main plaza, I assumed it had something to do with this. So I went over to the long row of drawers and simply opened one to receive my fortune, written on a small piece of paper. Luckily it was in printed there in English -though the exact translation is perhaps questionable.


Fortune No. 76 Regular Fortune:

“To be rich or noble are given by God, you can’t get them by your own endeavor, and knowledge. Although you work hard with your best, it doesn’t come out so well without help of the God.

Coming fortune in future depends on all what you have done at past. If you be have your best to others, you can be rich and get honor by people.

Your request will be granted. The patient get well soon. The lost article found. The person you wait for will come. Building a new house and removal are both good. It is good to start a trip. Marriage of any kind and new employment are both well.”

I’m inclined to believe that all of the fortunes are similarly positive and generic. Yet, there is a little rack beside the wall in place to tie up bad fortunes and burn them. There were many burning when I went, so I suppose it’s indeed a good one. Additionally, I found out later that I was to pull a stick from a container in order to first receive my fortune number -rather than randomly picking a drawer. So I’m not sure how that effects me and if it perhaps nullifies the fortune. However, I feel happenstance drove me to this particular drawer; and so, that’s right enough for me.

IMG_10042) Chinatown, Bangkok, Thailand:

My next fortune came from a fortune telling machine beside an elevator in Bangkok’s, Chinatown. At first I passed them by on the way to a bathroom, but on the way back I decided to see what it had to tell me. I chose the scary looking one at right in the picture, half expecting it to be grim. (I was in a rather macabre, solemn, perhaps mental twisted mood.)

Now, I cannot at this point say exactly what the fortune said, as it was only written in Thai. But I am currently learning to read Thai, so perhaps I can read it myself and in its entirety one day soon. Yet, I did have my Thai friends translate it, but this translation was rather confusing; and I have a suspicion that if it were bad, they’d not tell me anyway. However, they said it was good.


From what I could gather, the fortune ran something like the following (I’ve added some finesse to enhance the symbolism):

I was a dead tree, black and withered. Nourished by the morning’s dew, a new baby leaf grows out of my old roots. I will now be ok, grow anew, and flourish. The court of justice had condemned me, but the verdict was awarded in my favor. I will have a good life and prosper.

I think there was probably more to it than this, and maybe some modifying words made what was bad into good. I do not know. All I know is that they seemed kind of timid and hesitant when telling it to me. Perhaps it’s not good to receive ones fortune from a machine. Or maybe they were just reluctant to explain an exact translation and preferred the simpler route of just telling me it was good. But I’d like to read it for my self at some some (given that I actually learn to read Thai, a task that seems monumental at this point and I’m on the verge of giving up out of newfound feelings of pointlessness.)

3) Wat Na Rong Buddhist Temple, Bangkok, Thailand:


I went to  the Sunday ceremony at Wat Na Rong Buddhist Temple last week. I must say I’m glad it was pouring rain before we left and that we arrived 35-40 late because we were there for a nearly an hour from that point (listening to monotonous chanting in foreign tongues while sitting holding my hands up in prayer position and staring into a leftover puddle from the morning’s rain.)

I was glad that I went though. I do enjoy communal spirituality on occasion and the novel experience was enlightening of a practical scene of religion in Thailand.

I’m not sure exactly who he was or if he knows Cathy, etc. But a man came over and proceeded to read my palm. He just came over and asked to see my hand and started talking to me. From what I gather he works in some capacity for the government or law. He said he studied English in America at some University. Although he spoke English rather thoroughly, his accent was hard to decipher.

The first thing he said was that I’ll have a long life, ie., that my life line is long. Several people in my family have lived into their 90’s and past 100 even, so this is not too outrageous a prediction. Next, he told me I have a good, strong brain. Now this was a rather odd, unexpected thing to say, I thought. I’ve never had or seen a palm reading where the brain was specifically mentioned; it’s usually love, wealth, success, length of life, happiness, etc.

He continued to look at my hand for a while saying various supplementary things; but mostly kept coming back to and harping on the fact that I’m smart, have a strong brain, a good mind, and can do great things with it. I can even be a doctor if I want, he said. As he swapped from right to left hand, he noted that I have two brains, even, pointing out the diverging midline of my left hand. This is very good, he said. I will do great things with my brain (I suppose that’s assuming I can master cohesion of these two different brains!).

The only other thing he noted was that my love line, -the line on the outside side of your left hand- is not deep. Therefore, that means my love life is either indecisive or undecided. I cannot tell which he meant to infer, but only that it wasn’t necessarily good. He showed me his -which was very deep as a consequence, I think, of his aged hands. Perhaps the older I get the more certain and deep my love life will become. All I know is that I cannot dispute the truth behind such an assertion -as my love life is currently undecided and perhaps appears a bit indecisive.

Also of note at this outing: I was mildly reprimanded by Cathy as I sat down on the floor next to the monk to take a photo, with “don’t touch him!” Not that there was a big risk of my touching him, but I suppose I was simply too close for comfort. He spoke decent English and said he studied in the states. He had a very happy demeanor with hints of a repressed anxiety and almost nervous giddiness that thoroughly conveyed the naivety of his experience in the presence of women.

As we were leaving Cathy brought over a guava that he gave her to give to me. Guavas are called Falangs in Thai – the same name for white foreigners. I was told they’re called Falang because they’re rare and beautiful; and this is why he gave it to me. Another man gave me a papaya as we left and the palm reading man gave me his card if I ever needed anything -I wasn’t sure if he was speaking about a job or what, but you can see the things I received in the photo.

4) Other things in the vein of fortune:

Upon glimpsing a photo of my family and I, I was told that I’m good luck and will have a good life because I have a face like my father. In the Thai tradition, a daughter will be good and successful if she has a face more like her father than mother. Although, I agree that I rather look like my father, (and it’s not the first time I’ve been told that) I think the photo merely accentuated it, as we have similar facial expressions.

I was also told that I was good luck because Cathy won some money in the lottery the day I arrived here and also I unknowingly gifted to her a lucky plant (in Thai called something like Bella Mi Setee Konuck), which is supposed to bring about money and power to the family who possesses it. Literally the name translated to a beautiful bird with feathers soft like mink, who has lots of power and money -or will bring about those things.

So, all signs point to something promising in the horizon of my future. I guess we’ll just have to see how all this comes into fruition.

Bella Mi Setee

Bella Mi Setee


10 Things You Might Not Know About Thailand

10 interesting things you might not know about Thailand, but realized:

coffee stand (its served in a plastic bag with a straw)

coffee stand (it’s served in a plastic bag with a straw)

1) You are given straws with nearly all drinks, even bottled water! No matter if you get bottled water at a food cart, order a drink or bottle of juice, you are given a straw with it. I’ve thrown away so many plastic bags with straws because I’d buy, say, two bottles of water or coconut juice and two straws accompany it in the bag.

2) The taxis are pink. Most taxis here are pink. It is really cute.

3) Food carts are Thai fast food. Although there are fast food chains, you just don’t see as many here. They are in much fewer quantity than anywhere else in the world I’ve ever been. The locals and expats simply eat from food carts on the street as Americans would eat fast food. It’s much better, in my opinion.

4) A thai massage includes rubbing down your whole chest, breasts (if woman) and all. Ok, in all honesty I haven’t been back to get another massage since the one experience; and I’m simply assuming they’re all the same. But, yeah, laying in awkward silence on a firm table , without even eye covers, I, for all intents and purposes, basically had this girl fondle my breasts. Pretty awkward.

5) If you don’t already, you’ll love young coconut meat and mangos. You can get them at food carts or wherever you look. Both taste so good and fresh here unlike elsewhere in the US or Europe.

6) There’s not a subway or train that connects the whole city of Bangkok. There is a train and subway line (BTS and MRT), but neither are very long and connect only the main touristy and commercial areas of town in a short X-like shape. Though it is convenient, you could ride the longest track from one end to the other in well under an hour -probably more like 20 minutes. However, I’m told an expansion is in the works and will be completed in a couple years (too long to take for something so crucial, in my opinion, because Bangkok has a serious traffic problem! That 20 minute train ride could easily take you 2 hours by car).

singing lady

singing lady

7) Most young people do not speak English (like they do in many other foreign countries). I came here expecting a majority of young people to have a basic knowledge of English, having learned it in school. However, I am hard-pressed to find English speaking people here, young or otherwise.

8) There’s much poverty, but not as many bums as you might expect. Having recently been to Seattle, a city with a strikingly large amount of bums, I half-expected to see near as many in a city like Bangkok. However, I rarely see bums sitting around or begging for money. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are bums, just not as many as I expected to see. There aren’t many and they’re seen only in the majorly touristy areas -near markets, etc. And I suspect it’s because many, who would otherwise be bums, enter the realm of theft and scamming instead. However, maybe most Thais are just hard workers (which has actually been my typical observation of them). Interestingly the bums I do see come in one of 3 or 4 varieties: 1) a typically gaunt woman with one or two small, dirty children, 2) a maimed man, without an eye or appendage, or perhaps another deformation, laying flat out on his stomach on the ground holding out a tin cup, in the middle of the sidewalk, with people stepping over and around him and a faint sense, for instance, that there’s actually a folded leg hidden from sight in the pants, 3) a random man or woman singing into a makeshift microphone attached to some box-like amplification contraption strapped to their chest (horrible singing, by the way), and 4) a random, dirty homeless person simply sitting by the sidewalk -although, perhaps these types just resting there because they show no clear sign of begging.


9) Foreigners get charged more for everything, period, hands-down, and without fail. (even for things you’d think were objective and set, like a hotel room) This facet of Thailand (I can presently only speak for Bangkok but am told it’s similar elsewhere) is something that really bothers me. And I can even go so far as to say that it often disgusts and angers me. In a way, it’s a system that works and follows more closely a pure laissez faire economy. But still, it angers me when I’m charged 200 baht for a cab ride that should me 46, simply because the driver refuses to turn on the meter; or when I’m quoted 1500 baht or a mani-pedi, for which a Thai girl would be charged 200; or when I’m quoted a monthly rent of 85,000 baht for the same place a Thai person currently pays 38,000. (These are all actual anecdotes of my experience here.)

10) Eggs and bacon aren’t really breakfast foods, but rice is. And you can eat rice at any time of day or night, for meal, snack or else-wise. Moreover, there are so many various things made out of rice: noodles, crepes, desserts, drinks, and many others.  Eggs are used in dishes at any time of day; but they’re more typically an accompaniment to other things and usually not the main, stand-out protein. This is great for me because I love eggs and could stick one on almost anything. And as for bacon, they do have it here (and it’s thin and crispy like in America, unlike some Eastern European places I encountered who seemed not to know what proper bacon is and how to cook it.) Yet here, bacon is used more simply as pork in dishes.

I’ll add to this list as other interesting things arise.



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November 2013