I made it to Thailand! Thought everyone should know after 2 days of travel halfway around the globe. I actually wrote an entire post in the past 15 minutes, but in true Chronic Traveler fashion, I neglected to save a draft and somehow I suddenly deleted everything as I was typing. Did I hit an unknown button that deletes everything, placed oddly on this Thai keyboard? Quite possible. I know better, always periodically save a draft.
So I begin again, and my thoughts will be condensed as I run out of computer time.
Day 1 on the ground in Bangkok. I expected I would need a couple of days to adjust to the heat and noise of the big city after days traversing the sanitized airconditioned environment of modern air travel, but expectations still never prepare you for the reality. My welcome back gift has been a dizzying array of noise, heat, humidity, hazy smog, the chaotic crush of traffic and people, and an assortment of smells, not always pleasant.
I’m not complaining; rather the opposite. I acknowledge my body’s panic at the sudden changes assaulting my senses and as my first foray into the city this morning, I threw myself into Lumphini Park, the large urban oasis surrounded by skyscrapers. I strolled the walking track past lagoons and trees covered in flowers as it seemed everyone in the city streamed past me in a parade of some of the best people-watching. The morning hours before the business day begins is the best time to visit as joggers and walkers swarm the paths, elderly men and women practice tai chi enmasse, and people of all ages greet old friends as they pass by. It’s like a massive Thai version of the TV show Cheers, if the bar drinkers were guzzling copious amounts of water, clad in jogging shorts, and buried their noses in newspapers. I also witnessed the twice daily playing of the Thai national anthem, when everyone suddenly stands still in respect until the song ends. This is interesting enough for a tourist who doesn’t expect it, but in a park bursting with the athletically engaged it’s bizarre, like a sci fi special effect as everyone freezes and then reanimates.
To finish my leap off the high dive into Thailand, fully immersing myself in the sensory overload and lack of a large personal bubble meant heading to Chinatown. I explored warrens of tiny alleys packed with shoppers, everyday goods spilling out of shops, vendors pushing carts of fresh fruit and snacks, and daring motorbikes brushing periously close in the skinny streets. Everything imaginable is for sale here. Funerary goods, offerings and candles for the Buddhist temples, flipflops and underwear and t-shirts, sacks of tea, rice, beans, ingredients I’ve never seen. My favorite alley is filled with all the unusual ingredients of Chinese cooking, whole ducks handing from hooks, dried squid piled high, their tentacles draped over the edge in a white, crispy curtain, mushrooms and fish and exotic fruit. It’s fascinating.
It will take me a couple of days to adjust to the sensory overload that is Thailand, but that’s okay. There’s always a nearby 7-Eleven just around the corner for a quick burst of a/c and a cold bottle of water.