Showing posts with label Bangkok. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bangkok. Show all posts

The Long Road Home ...


I had visions of saying goodbye to my father, running a couple quick errands and heading home early in the afternoon, in order to pack, rest a little and perhaps take one last walk on the beach.  Well, that was the plan anyway.  It turned out to be a blustery day with frequent squalls and I didn’t get my walk.  So my visit ended as it began, with grey skies and strong winds.  On the whole the weather during my stay had been very cooperative with sunny skies and cool trade-winds, so no real complaints.

All things considered it was a good trip.  I got more done than I had expected.  Two weeks was just right, allowing enough time to accomplish what I needed to, without dragging it out too long.  I didn’t manage to see everyone, but I am not as social as my better half when left to my own devices.  Shopping got off to a slow start but in the end I found almost everything I was looking for.  One highlight was being there to mark my mother’s ninetieth birthday, even if she wouldn’t look at me and didn’t know who I was.  The paperwork and legal stuff went pretty smoothly considering I dread that kind of thing.  After I left, my father said he really missed me and that made me feel good and bad at the same time.

This is the second year in a row that my father’s friends have offered me the use of one of their properties in the Islands.  I am overwhelmed by their generosity and eagerness to help.  They even went out of there way a couple of years ago to come stay with us in Chiang Rai when they were visiting Thailand.  Good people are good people, regardless of their social standing or fiscal position but I must admit to being attracted to accomplished individuals who have done more than I have, or at least different things which I find interesting.  I can’t overstate my appreciation for the generosity of these friends.


Arriving in Bangkok my senses were accosted by a cacophony of sights, sounds and smells, all encased in asphalt and concrete, intersected by pedestrians, cyclists and cagers rushing frantically and perpetually toward some essential yet questionable destination.  Each year when forced to pass through this seething mass of humanity, I find myself pondering how I managed to live in this place called Bangkok for more than thirty years.

Of course I was younger then and not nearly so accustomed to my present level of comfort and pace of life.  More importantly I suppose, I had a life in Bangkok back then.  A place to live, things to do, friends and interests, all of which go a long way toward making any place feel more like home.  Many of the places still remain amidst all the new development but they have been overwhelmed by growth and progress.  Of the many people one once interacted with regularly, only a select few have remained in the inner circle, connected through technology and social networking, even though separated by time and distance.

I seem to remember a singular point in time in the early 1970s, which rapidly expanded outward sending a complex maze of tentacles to seek out and explore every imaginable nook and cranny of this strange new world.  I have no clear recollection of when this amplification slowed to a halt and began to collapse in upon itself.  My gaze became more inward as I focused and centered my life around the things I had discovered to be of greater importance to me.  My random quest for more became a focused search for less, if that makes any sense.

*Chiang Rai*

The flight from Bangkok to Chiang Rai was the most beautiful I can remember.  The patchwork of clouds added accent and texture while not blocking the view of what lay below.  Bangkok soon faded as the image from my window seat changed to that of the geometric layout of industrialized agriculture.  Further north the patchwork of small family worked fields became more chaotic until we reached the lush green mountains that signaled our approach to Chiang Rai.  By then the grey industrial haze of Bangkok was but a memory, replace by clear Chiang Rai skies.  Even the ever-present clouds that had accompanied our flight north, took on an otherworldly glow as we descended toward our destination. 

We flew over a large body of water that I only later realized must have been the lake at Phayao.  I pointed out the White Temple, to a Bangkok tourist sitting next to me, which sparked off a brief but pleasant conversion before we landed.  My wife was waiting for me at the airport and her embrace helped vanquish the stress and fatigue from my long journey home.

As I awoke on my first day back, it eventually came to my attention that it was Thanksgiving Day.  I clearly had much to be thankful for but the traditional celebrations of past years had to take a backseat to the simple joy of being home this year.  By way of celebration I did dust off the Trek in the early afternoon and went for a 41 kilometer ride which left me exhausted but content, despite my lack of fitness after the trip.

Though I do not enjoy these long journeys, I understand they are necessary and even educational to some extent.  Soon enough they will no longer be necessary and I will no doubt lament that fact.  For now I am just very glad to be home.


A Trip Down Memory Lane ...

As the title suggests, we have just returned from a trip down memory lane, of sorts.  Flight schedules being what they are, it is necessary to spend a little time in Bangkok, both coming and going to Hawaii, from the Rai.  Normally we would stay with a dear friend in Bangkok but with some ungodly flight times and excessive luggage, we opted to stay at the Arnoma, right next door to where we used to live.  It was the most affordable option in that particular area.

It was of course fun visiting old haunts and catching up with old friends.  In the end it reminded me of how I survived in Bangkok for over thirty years.  Mine was not a street level or footpath existence.  It was described by a fellow I was talking with in the coffee shop the other day, as a modular life moving from one pod to the next, not unlike living on the moon, perhaps.  There was a sleeping pod, dinning pods, health-club pods, shopping malls and Skytrain. 

We returned from our trip to Hawaii with well over 500 photographs.  Here are a few from our time in Bangkok.

City ...

The day begins differently in the city.  Step through the door of our friend's condo.  Negotiate a narrow corridor.  Step into a metal box and plummet nine floors to the chaotic world that awaits bellow.  Senses are bombarded by a cacophony of sights, sounds and smells.  Village smells are not all pleasant but they are separate, distinct and recognizable.  City smells are an altogether different beast.  Though of indeterminate source, they nonetheless permeate the air and linger on skin and clothing. 

City "trails" are made of concrete, brick and asphalt but are no less technical to traverse than an alpine scree slope.  As one progresses further down the soi the obstacles increase in number and complexity.  Vendors, storefronts, stands, tables, chairs, plants, poles, signage, animals, customers, pedestrians, cars, tuk-tuks, and motorcycles.  From above there are drain pipes, low hanging awnings and the ever-present confusing web of cables and wires, leading to who knows what from who knows where. 

Riding in a taxi it is perhaps best to distract yourself with music or conversation with a friend.  Whatever you do don’t watch the world passing inches from your window at speed.  If you find yourself on a boat on the river, then enjoy the views but keep your mouth from gaping in awe.  If one can make it to the Skytrain things begin to make sense.  Entering Paragon, Central World or one of the lovely hotel lobbies or health clubs we used to frequent and the world turns several shades of pretty.  People in these places bear little resemblance to village or street people.  Hygiene, attire, gait, style, demeanor and appearance make for an eye-catching dance of humanity at its most stylish. 

Shopping was frantic yet productive.  Meals were delicious.  Catching up and conversation with old friends, was warm and joyful, filled with laughter and remembrance.  Things went well and there were some obvious high points but I must say when we landed in Chiang Rai, loaded the bags into the truck and started down the road, we were struck by the green tranquil beauty of the open spaces.  I seemed to take my first deep breath in days, exhaled and melted deeper into my seat behind the wheel.  Back in my world at last, the ride home was a joy to be topped only by a good doggy greeting of tongue, tail and wreathing fur and flesh.  And of course, ones own bed never feels so welcoming as after a few days absence.

Don’t know that I will be eager to travel to Bangkok again for awhile but our time in the city did serve to heighten awareness of what is now important to me.  So I guess the city still has value.  Not least of all, as a looking glass to highlight what I love about where I am these days.