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Welcome to Bangkok

March 22, 2014 Destination Thailand, Headline News No Comments Email Email

bkkskylineI step out onto the sun beaten, wonky sidewalk. The heat smears my face like the indiscriminate opening of an oven door, and the cool air of the taxi is sucked from my back as the driver smiles a smile that says he’s seen a million naive faces enter this rabbit hole before.

“Welcome to Bangkok”, he chuckles, as I stand glued to the spot, confused by the infinite tunnels of the burrow. My instinct tells me to go left, my caution right; the perpetual motion of foot traffic dictates that I go straight.

The river of life carries me along, locals unsubtly glancing up at my imposing frame, and wide-eyed children starring at the alien making an impromptu fruit_stallvisit to their city. The wind echoes the word “farang” with occasional inquisition, and a bold teenager shouts out “hello!” with a naughty disposition. I feel vulnerable yet safe, cautious yet adventurous, excited yet calm – a guest with a strange sense of belonging.

amulet_guyMomentarily I step into the road to reclaim my orientation, sticking closely to the curb to avoid the onslaught of buses, taxis and hawkers. I stare out into the sea of people and random placement of buildings and billboards, pondering how such an unsightly masterpiece came to exist. The words “Buy something Mr” echo through my ears, as a group of traders beckon me towards their lair of gifts. As if under a spell I hand over 100 Baht for a wooden elephant, hand-carved with love and precision in a factory just a stone’s throw from where I stand. “This lucky one, trunk up, if trunk down not lucky”, the seller assures me, as she ritualistically slaps my money across every gift on her stall, enticing good fortune to bless her once again.

“Where you from?” she asks, with a wry smile. But before I can answer the next potential sale has stolen her interest. Life has moved along. And so must I.

My head spins once again, as the smell of a thousand ingredients I’ve never tasted fill the afternoon air. My senses direct me towards a lady beating papaya salad in a bowl. She effortlessly flips the mixture into a small, see-through bag while nattering away to an elderly woman perched on a stool selling flowers. As the dialect bites my ears I fall into a trance. I reminisce over childhood travel experiences, over times when every breath felt fresh and each waking second presented new opportunity, times when dreams were my reality and life was a re-paintable canvas.

Suddenly I’m tapped on the shoulder, I’m 30 years older, my som tum is ready and the motorbike on the pavement nearly runs me over. But something’s changed. In those few split seconds on this nameless street of Krungthep, amidst the tranquil mayhem, I feel more alive than I’ve ever felt before.

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