In Sweden people use Buddha heads as garden ornamentals. To a Thai, that is not very nice, since we believe these are sacred objects. Surprisingly there are many Thais in Sweden, even Esan people. I meet them working at hotels and in small shops.
Going north from Stockholm and Uppsala you will eventually pass the ‘Dragon Gate’ – a most surprising place. It is a mini China surrounded by forests. The staff speak such a poor Swedish that you really feel you are abroad, and there are many Chinese flags and Chinese souvenirs. Maybe this is the first bridgehead before serious immigration? Sweden is…empty! You can drive hundreds of kilometers and just see trees and some scattered farms, not a single person. A Thai road is crowded with pedestrians, cows, dogs, vendors, children, motorbikes, but Sweden is…empty!
In Sundsvall, a small town in the north that grew prosperous on logging, we stayed at a wonderful hotel on top of the southern hill called ‘Södra Berget’. The view of the town, the hills, the forests and the Baltic sea was magnificent. Due to the high salaries in Sweden, the hotel seemed…empty. No staff in the restaurant – self service. No porters – self service.
Although vast areas of Sweden are forested, most of these forests have been logged and the biodiversity decline has been severe. Essentially you only see three tree species along the road (Norway spruce, Scots pine and birch). Instead of epiphytic orchids, Swedish forests once hosted a rich flora of lichens. Old literature describes a very different country from today. When Swedes who have made tonnes of money by clear cutting their own forests ask the Thais to spare some of their forests, it seems like a parent asking his teenager not to party like he once did. As we wrote in a previous blog, the pedagogic challenge of explaining why Thailand needs to preserve its orchids is huge.
At Dragon Gate in Älvkarleby north of Uppsala, Sweden, is a Chinese monument. The English text carved in stone and plated with gold claims this is Buddha. Being a Buddhist myself, I think this is just an erroneous translation from Chinese. This should be Jao Mae Goa Imm, a Chinese goddess.