Saturday, November 15, 2008
One day and a night in Bangkok.
This is one of those nights I should already be in bed because, well, everybody else decided it was a good idea, too. Should have been one of the sheep and followed the smart ones in the herd. There’s snoring disguised as heavy breathing happening in here already and it’s not quite 10. And, while it’s true that I’d like to see what’s in store for me in my dreams tonight, I can’t help but want to pull out the finger paints and create word pictures for a spell. I have this nagging urge to create some drawings. Drawl-rings. Drowel-reens.
I decided to come out from the air conditioning of my room while I did so, too, because I can feel Bangkok on my skin better on the small balcony. There’s a heat here that’s not going away, one I refuse to sweat along with as it envelops me. Instead, I am able to look down at the expansiveness of this river we’re next to and see water taxis slipping back and forth and an insistent tugboat pulling barges 10 times its size to who-knows-where. The drumming of the native band below has slowed to a halt and the only other scenery I’ve got to chew on are the far-off bridge filled with busy Saturday night traffic and purple-pink flowers from the floor above, spilling down and barely breathing in the occasional gust of wind. That helps set a stage, doesn’t it? It is mine.
Someday I’ll make better sense of the blur that started a couple of days back and landed me here less than 24 hours ago, but all I’ve to go on now are images and numbers and scenes … stuff of that ilk. I’m not sure it’s all been entirely processed yet, even. Does that make these musings and observations half developed? Not sleeping for a full night because you’re the world’s Most Reluctant Packer and then doing around 21 hours of airtime and a few made up of layovers on your way to Asia is hardly recommended. You end up not being able to make it through what may have been good movies and turning into a bit of a slack-jawed narcoleptic. Those are drawbacks, though. Luckily, I’ve more than a few things to recommend.
One of them is to ride an elephant should you ever get the chance to do so. If you have to pay a few dollars and a tip to make his handler smile, well, so be it. Pay a few more for the small bowl of tiny bananas you get to feed him, too, if only to hear him scream out a “thank you” every time you place one in his ever-insistent arm of a nose. It’s an amazing thing to witness, as is simply wandering around atop this surefooted beast while he grazes inside some kind of deserted ruins. Attached to that, if the opportunities present themselves to wear a python like a feather boa and even hold a baby tiger long enough for a shot or three to snap, do those, too. It’s all part of the thrill ride. Even hearing an elephant fart while you’re atop it is an all-new experience. Believe you me, it is.
See the big Buddhas and their ornate temples. If they’re ancient and amazing and inspire meditation by their many followers, what’s not to like about all of that? I saw my share today, that’s for certain. After observing those lighting candles that looked and smelled like bottle rockets and the consistent bowing and praying, I’m curious all over again about Buddhism. I’d like to know more about this way of life, I honestly would. I’d like to understand it better. Perhaps there’s some cosmic reason I’ve 5 or 6 Buddhas guarding my music collection at home, yeah? I’ll look into this more in my future. This serves as my reminder. Duly noted.
Sometimes it’s not such a bad thing to buy the $7 tour from the guy who hounds you at the airport. While it’s a bit of a disappointment to discover the one taking you on it is a lady guide and not, in fact, a “lady guy,” she’s filled up to her brim with local knowledge. She knows where the guys are that make the inexpensive tailor-made suits in 24 hours’ time as well as a little hole in the wall that makes the best Pad Thai you’ve ever tasted (really!). Sure, she talks plenty and it’s pretty hard to tackle that enthusiastic Chinese accent head-on, but it all works out in the end. She’s one of those disguised blessings even.
And, should you run into the opportunity to get an authentic Thai massage, that’s one of the rare opportunities that shouldn’t get passed up, either. When else will you get to be tied into a pretzel ever again? Your therapist might audibly giggle if your toes are ticklish on your feet and think it’s genuinely OK to refer to you as “handsome” instead of using your first name, but two hours of that sort of half-awake bliss wears well in the end. It makes you say bizarre kinds of things on your way back to your hotel, crowded into a taxi with your four friends and colleagues like a tiny car filled with clowns.
That’s the stuff that’ll send you to sleep when you least expect it, waking up just shy of 3 in the morning to find your computer on the floor and trying to put together exactly why Obama was hanging out in your dreams for the past five hours or so.
This is one day and a night in Bangkok. I can hardly wait to see what another will bring.