[from melbourne to bangkok.]
it is 430am when i arrive in bangkok. i have 18 hours to make the most of my quick detour before i am london bound. distracted by the excitement of seeing old friends on the other side of the pond i try to wrap my head around the fact that i am in thailand – an exotic country that has always capture my curiosity. i’d be foolish not to maximize my time here.
by 5am i have hired a driver, grabbed hold of a map and on a whim left the airport with no itinerary, no plan. its 30 degrees and the only thing i am sure of is that i want to be exposed to culture and something tells me that even though my driver and i cannot communicate i trust that he can interpret my keenness to see some amazing sights and sounds.
as we drive towards the city the sun is slowly rising, it’s perhaps the most romantic sunrise i have ever seen. we stop to see a group of monks begin morning prayer. i stop to take in this peaceful ritual – their orange robes a perfect complement to the surfacing sun. we should all start our days with such peace and dignity.
what i do find fascinating is how the streets are littered with shrines of the kingdom. the majority of citizens living in the western world can’t even name their figureheads yet here in bangkok pictures of the king and his queen are praised everywhere – lined with festive colours and flowers. a kingdom where the state head is the king. one can only imagine how different life is here? the fact that i don’t know the answer to this question is reason enough to come back some day.
returning my attention to bangkok i quickly see that we have arrived outside of the grand palace. historical asian architect with grandeur and prestige that i only thought existed in fairy tales. constructed with the establishment of bangkok by king rama the first, the great palace’s place in history is preserved by a gated wall and military guards. tourists are allowed to walk through the palace grounds and as i do i immediately feel as though i have stepped back in time by at least four centuries if not more. to fathom who and what has preceded me here is mind-boggling. and yet again i let my imagination run away from me as i force myself to move on; conscious of the limited time i have here.
we park the car and i get out to stroll kensington market. elderly persons are unpacking their motorized bikes, setting up their vendors for the day. as fishy water is thrown from kitchens militia men with guns and boots patrol the market streets but not with fierce – they seem to fit right into this stoic scene of daily ritual. school children run up to a monk walking down the street – almost as if to be blessed. some even run up to me and ask to speak english – it’s a touching experience as they look up at me so fondly as if i am some type of celebrity. the blonde westerner that speaks a foreign language – and how elegantly they say hello, ask a couple of wonderous questions and then run back to their teacher with giggling pride.
i end my exploration by partaking in a thai chi exercise on the water followed by a raw and rough thai massage where i was stretched to every limb by a 70 lbs woman. afterwards i limped my way to a kitchen hut with my driver where we indulge in a dish of authentic pad thai for brunch. at this time while sitting in silence with my driver i reflect back on the words that the masseuse said to me just before she turn me inside and out:
“you have a good heart. a healthy heart,” she said.
i am a humble person but it is the few kind words spoken by a foreign, strange person that brings tears to my eyes. it is this kind man sitting across from me slurping on egg noodles pointing to pictures in my guide-book, trying to describe their mystique to me through broken english. for a few moments i stare off into the difference overwhelmed by the heat, overwhelmed by the realization that i am sitting in the heart of bangkok on my own yet in the comforting presence of a perfect stranger. and this is the first day of 28 more that will only be as full and wonderful.
for the final time i am brought back to reality – my driver is calling ‘miss miss’, pointing to his watch. it is time to head back to the airport. truly not enough time here but as i thank my driver and watch as he makes sure i enter the security gate safely i make a mental note in my conscience to come back some day soon to do this city and country to do it justice by exploring every possible nook.