JULY 2002: BANGKOK TO RISHIKESH
|In Bangkok Michael met up with Liz, a Belgian girl with whom he spent several days. Afterwards she corresponded regularly with Michael, and later with his family. In a beautiful communication to his family she sets outs her memories of their time together . . .|
|Liz (email 13 Aug 03): I did not really know why I was still hanging around in Bangkok, but I had a feeling I shouldn’t leave yet. My feeling proved me right, since that was the day I met Michael. I was looking for someone to accompany me on my first steps as a little girl in a big and unknown world, when Mike came into my life. When our eyes first crossed he looked down shyly, but when a few minutes later I invited him with a gesture to come sit at my table, he accepted immediately. “What are you writing?” he asked. Those words were the beginning of an interesting conversation that lasted for hours. Within the hour, Mike knew more about me than many friends of mine. We had a lot in common, I trusted him immediately and it felt like we had known each other for a long time already. That first day we talked, walked, we went to the park, and so on. All the time he was very entertaining, even if that meant he had to tell bad jokes about kiwis… He showed me pictures of his beloved India, and he gave me a book, which would have a considerable influence on my life: “Conversations with God”. In the evening we sneaked into a hotel to use their swimming pool some other traveler had told me about (“Do we know what we’re doing here?” he asked, but I smiled about his doubts and we got in without any problems). Up on the roof of the building we had a great view over the city, plus we had the pool to ourselves, plus the sun was setting, plus we could follow the world cup finals on a big screen. It was the perfect ending of a perfect day, and I remember every detail of it as if it were yesterday.
The next day Mike came to wake me up before he went to the embassy to arrange his visa for India. The time he had to wait for it, he would spend with me. I was planning to go north, for I wanted to go to Chiang Mai and from there on to Laos, but Michael had read about a place in the west where he wanted to go. I didn’t mind for I had no fixed plans, and so that day we headed for Kanchanaburi. We spent some days there; making friends, visiting the waterfalls of Erawan (my first time in a rainforest…) and visiting an extraordinary temple where the monks looked after wildlife.
After a few days we moved on to Sangklaburi, near the border of Myanmar. There we stayed just beside a beautiful and enormous lake, in a little village where we saw only 2 other tourists. Although Mike had been very talkative the first day, he could also be very quiet sometimes. These silences could last very long, but I never minded, for they could be as beautiful as his words, if you knew how to listen.
How wonderful these days might have been, it was clear that in the mean time Michael longed to go to India. So we returned to Bangkok and said goodbye. I went north, to Chiang Mai, and Mike went where he was supposed to be; India. I had really grown to love him in those few days; as much for the things we had in common as for our differences. I remember Mike as a very intelligent young man, a very happy and social person; beautiful in every way. However (and thank god), he had his weaknesses. He could get angry for no reason, for example. Once he got really mad because a Thai woman could not pronounce a word in English. I had to remind him that it was us being in their country, and we should be grateful they spoke English at all. He had to agree, of course, and his bad temper passed quickly.
Mike was also very charming. Like he has probably done to a thousand girls, he also paid me many compliments. They were often about looks or intelligence, but there was one compliment that I remember more clearly than any other:
Many travelers had already told me about India, and from all their, and Michaels, stories, I had concluded that I was way too inexperienced to go there and that I would not be able to cope with it. So one day I told Michael that I thought I wouldn’t like traveling there, to which he answered: “Oh yes you would. You would love India. And India would love you too.”
I was more flattered by these words than by any others.
I loved Mike. I told him so just before we said goodbye, and I am happy I have done so, for it turns out to have been my last chance.
We kept in touch regularly, and I was very happy about this. Michael had told me several times he would be coming to Europe after his yoga course, and he’d asked me if I could show him some things then. I would have loved to. I was really looking forward to seeing him again. Unfortunately it was not meant to be. However I’m glad to have known him, and although we’ve only spent a few days together he had a great influence on me. I will not forget him. Ever.
For some reason Michael sent home from Taiwan the second and third volumes of "Conversations with God" but took the first volume with him which he then gave to Liz. Michael's family have since presented Liz with the other two volumes, as he would surely have wished.
|Click here to view Michael's photographs of Thailand.
After almost nine months away, Michael obviously longed to reconnect with India . . .
Michael (email 5 Jul 02): Hey guys, hope you are well. Been having a ball in Thailand. I'm in Bangkok at the moment but tomorrow I will board a flight for Delhi. Yes Delhi! I plan to head to Rishikesh after that. Will let you know when I'm settled, don't worry I'm not going near Kashmir. M.
The reference to Kashmir concerned the fighting that had been taking place there between Indian and Pakistani troops and acts of terrorism by Muslim extremists.
Michael (email 7 Jul 02): Landed OK and all is well. India, how I've missed thee! Let me know if any more stuff arrives from my ashram. Love you guys. M.
This was the anniversary of the day Michael first arrived in Delhi. So much had happened during these twelve months, but Michael was not one to look back in nostalgia.. He quickly moved on to Rishikesh, his spiritual home in India if there ever was one. There, he decided on a pilgrimage.
Michael (email 9 Jul 02): I'm going further north, to Gangotri . . . for a good while I'd say. There is no internet there, so you won't hear from me while I'm there. Love and kisses. M.
Gangotri is a mecca for large numbers of pilgrims who come to worship at the source of the Ganges. Michael was off the radar for three weeks. On his return he said nothing about this trip and there was no indication that he travelled with anyone there. Back in Rishikesh he clearly spent a few days recharging his batteries before deciding on his next move. It was during this time that he met a New Zealander, Simon Grant, who recalls their times together . . .
Simon Grant (email 3 Feb 06): I knew Michael for about 10 days whilst I stayed in Rishikesh and I remember having quite a few laughs with him - he was a bit of a dag! He was having a ball in India and receiving a lot from the country and its people . . .
To a New Zealander, a "dag" is a term of endearment, meaning a joker, or comedian! Michael now prepared to make another trip . . .
Michael (email 31 Jul 02): Hey, guys. I'm back in Rishikesh and, fuck, it's crazy here . . . 1 million pilgrims all fuelled with a lifetime of repressed sexual energy, so I think I'll head up north again!! Dharamsala this time. Thanks for all your help and I'll contact the office in Delhi about my visa and see what they say. Hope all are well and love to everyone. M.
Michael's parents had been advised by the Indian consulate in Sydney that he could obtain his student visa in Delhi instead of having to leave the country to get it.
|Footbridge over Ganges at Rishikesh|
Photos Michael's photos of Gangotri and Rishikesh
August 2002 Rishikesh to Kathmandu