Voices of Ancient Queens: Fight for What You Value and Never Give Up (A tale from my travels in Thailand.)
It was only my third day in this completely foreign land.
I was still jet-lagged.
My body had not integrated being so quickly fourteen hours ahead of what it was used to yet.
I had traveled over 24 hours to get here, and was dealing not only with the shock that literally flying through time and space into the future had dealt to my body, but also the shock of immersion into a completely different time zone, culture, language, and climate.
But there, sitting on the earth, in an ancient, sacred space, I allowed time to stand still. I felt my bones and my flesh pressing down against Gaia, and I felt her pressing back up, supporting my presence. Embracing it even. And in that stillness, I felt in between the spaces of the molecules of matter and time into a deep timelessness.
I was sitting at Wat Chaiwattharam on the Chao Phraya River, in Ayutthaya, Thailand.
The Buddhist temple, now in ruins, was constructed by a king of Siam in 1630. I had known I had to visit this place the very first time I read about it. And there was something about the river that had been calling to me as well.
Ayutthaya is situated on an island between three rivers, about 50 miles north of Bangkok. It was originally founded in 1350 and was the second capital of the Kingdom of Siam. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
When planning my trip, I had originally been enamored with the restored rice barges that now offer high-end overnight cruises from Bangkok, but in looking for a more budget-friendly option, had ended up taking the train to Ayutthaya for a few days instead. I learned that I could still get on one of the wooden boats in Ayutthaya for an evening dinner cruise.
Upon arriving in Ayutthaya, I stepped off of the train and plans immediately went awry. There was a gang of tuk-tuk drivers crowded around the exit of the train station overcharging for services (at least by the standards I had become acquainted with in Bangkok over the past two days, and per my guidebook).
I declined, irritated, and noticing a hostel across the street, walked over in hopes of getting an unbiased opinion and more options. He pointed me to a ferry that would take me to the island that was less than two blocks away. When I stepped off of the little ferry boat, another gang of tuk-tuk drivers was there waiting.
I decided to keep walking.
I had no idea where I was going. My hand was aching as it swelled in the midday heat under the weight of my bag. I could feel sweat running down my back. I trudged along on the hot pavement inhaling exhaust fumes with every humidity-laden breath. Every building, every face was unfamiliar. I wasn’t seeing anymore tuk-tuks either. I turned around and backtracked.
Finally, I found a couple of parked tuk-tuks, and approached them for a lift to my hotel, but my Wi-Fi on my phone wasn’t working, so I could not pull up the map. They did not recognize the name of the hotel I had booked, and it took four of us to figure out where they were actually taking me.
The price was still high, but at this point I didn’t care as much. The drive was longer than I thought it would be, and the driver still had to stop for directions. My concern was growing.
Suddenly, he stopped.
I found myself on a dusty margin of roadside on a busy road, God knows where. There was nothing around - no stores, no shops, nowhere to eat. And this was it. This was where I was staying. I couldn’t check anything because I still could not get the Wi-Fi on my phone to work.
I checked in. Yes, this was it. The hotel offered free bicycles to get to town, but I just was on a 15 minute tuk-tuk ride from town - a bicycle ride would be longer, and the road outside was extremely busy with no sidewalk. I asked about Wi-Fi and was told it was out on that side of town, and was currently being worked on.
I started to panic. I was feeling stranded and trapped, two things with which I don't deal well. I was obsessed with getting on a rice barge on the river that evening, but without the Wi-Fi, I couldn't communicate what I wanted. They said they could call me a tuk-tuk to take me back into town, but I didn’t know where to tell them to take me. There was confusion over whether I was getting a tuk-tuk tour of the city or using it as a cab, and if I was going to the ferry river crossing or somewhere else. I finally just had them call the tuk-tuk to take me into the city, with no specific destination. I would just figure it out on the fly. I was hell-bent on getting on the rice barge on the river, for reasons I did not yet know.
I blindly followed my gut, and as luck (or maybe not luck at all) would have it, as I was standing there by myself at dusk in a strange city having been dropped off by my tuk-tuk driver, my Wi-Fi suddenly came back on my phone and I was able to discern that I was only a block away from the place offering the boat tour. I arrived about an hour and a half before the boat was set to leave.
It was a last minute booking, but the girl squeezed me on. I had my own little awkward table for one at the back of the boat with double the food, surrounded by couples, but I did not care. As the old wooden boat moved out onto the water, a blanket of peace and calm sweep over me.
I could feel the cool breeze sweeping up off of the water, kissing my face, and as we passed that ancient temple, magically reflecting on the quiet water of the river, tears surprisingly filled my eyes.
The guide was talking the entire time, in broken English with a heavy Thai accent, but I wasn’t really listening. Suddenly, something she said caught my attention. I whipped my head around to hear better.
The guide was saying something about a Siamese queen who rode out to defend her city when her king's elephant spooked, and in so doing was killed by the King of Myanmar right there on her war elephant. I felt my eyes grow hot and swell with tears again and I took a deep breath. I thought to myself, "how noble and brave was she...?
Obsessed, once back at my hotel, I researched this Siamese queen killed on her war elephant.
Her name was Suriyothai, and she was killed in the Burmese-Siamese War of 1548.
Legend has it that when Burma invaded Siam and had pushed the Siamese defense back to Ayutthaya, the King set to ride out and meet the Viceroy of Burma.
Queen Suriyothai disguised herself as a man, dressed in armor, and rode out with him. The two men engaged in single elephant combat, but the Siamese king’s elephant spooked and stampeded away. The Viceroy of Burma gave chase, but Queen Suriyothai charged forward on her war elephant to prevent him from killing the king. The Viceroy then engaged the queen in combat, and she fought bravely until his spear sunk into her chest, killing her. It is said he did not know he was fighting a woman until, as she was falling from her elephant in her final moments, her helmet came off, exposing her long hair.
Sitting on the ground at Wat Chaiwattharam, as all of that swirled around me like wafts of magic smoke floating through my mind, I felt the power of that place pulling me, welcoming me, embracing me. The sun was beginning to set, and the air was getting cooler and softer. I felt my sense of self strengthening and my own power rising, and I wondered at the integrity and sense of purpose and personal power that must have run through Queen Suriyothai, whose name meant “rising sun”, to give her such nobility and courage.
The next day, as much as I wanted to not deal with any more tuk-tuks, I changed my plans to go outside of town to the Queen Suriyothai Monument. As we approached the place, I felt a hugely strong presence around me, and my skin started to tingle up over my shoulders, all the way up my neck and the back of my head reaching up into my crown chakra. I knew this feeling well from previous experiences. It was a big affirmation of what I was doing.
I stepped out of the rickety blue tuk-tuk and straightened up to an awe-inspiring sight.
There on a mound of earth covered with the blooms of white plumeria trees, was Queen Suriyothai on her war elephant.
In the Buddhist tradition, plumeria is sacred and associated with immortality. I walked around the statue slowly, finally coming around to the left side of the massive elephant, standing next to its head, looking up into its left eye.
That’s when I remembered. In the fall of 2012 I had first seen an elephant in meditation exactly like this. It was just its head, and I was close to it, looking into its left eye. In the meditation, it was clear that in that caramel-colored elephant eye was the entire universe.
I knew that in the spirit world, elephants are also known to be the carriers of ancient wisdom.
I thought about the events, beginning years back but also in just the past few days, that had led me to be standing here, with Queen Suriyothai, so far from home.
I wondered what the connection was between this brave queen and the elephants that had been with me since 2012, and the strong connection I felt to those majestic animals. Maybe there was no connection at al.
I pondered this as I walked away from the monument, picking up a plumeria bloom off of the manicured lawn as I passed on my way back to the tuk-tuk.
As we drove away from the monument, I drifted deep into thought, and then I heard a woman’s voice clearly. She said, “FIGHT. Hold your space, hold your ground and FIGHT. You’re opponent may be unseen, but you STAND and you FIGHT, just as if you were on the battlefield. YOU ARE on a battlefield, just not one that you or anyone else can see. But you still use tactics and strategy and you still are courageous and you still FIGHT with everything you have for what you value and to be who you are meant to be. Do not give up. Go down fighting with everything you have if necessary, but do not ever give up. FIGHT. It is what you are here to do.”
And I knew what she meant. I had received this message before.
The power is always in the present moment. Our power is in our ability to take action in each and every moment we are breathing and alive.
When our spirits are embodied is the only time we can take action in the world. So we must use the time our spirits are embodied to take right action.
Our actions in the present have power. They have the power to set us free from fears and beliefs and to break karmic cycles and heal our ancestral lines both backwards and forwards, because there is nothing really but the present moment.
So we must stand up for what we value and be strong in our integrity and we must FIGHT. It is what we are here to do.
Originally written February, 2017, while traveling solo in Thailand.
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