It smells like Asia as soon as I step off the airplane, cigarettes and cement, some sort of flowers. I inhale deeply. I missed this smell. It’s warm and welcoming. The air is almost stale. I can't tell you how nice it is to not be cold. The snow and ice of home seems 8,000 miles away, but I think it’s more like 10,000.
As we drive into the city, Fiz falls asleep in the taxi leaving me to look out the window at colourful billboards and neon lights. Bangkok seems friendlier than India, calmer than China. I like it immediately.
The city is sprawling. There is a cluster of high rises but most of it is low-lying, stretching on and on. We get to the hotel, down a small alley, passed expensive homes. Its as nice as the pictures on-line were, which is remarkable.
The next day: We get up early, no choice of ours, we are sharing a room with 5 or 6 girls of unknown European origin. They aren't speaking a language I recognize, but it’s a romance language for sure. Which means, but deduction that they are probably Italian. Whatever they are they are loud and they are earlier risers. So, we get up.
We head for Khao San Rd. the main backpacker destination in town. I am not enchanted, its overrun with tourists and all the stalls are selling the same cheap, "pretend your cool" shit that you can get anywhere in this part of the world. Fiz on the other hand seems quite taken, I'm not sure why. I'm more interested in back streets and quiet alleys. Places where I can take pictures…..( I feel like such a stereotype when I say things like that.)
Next, to the Royal Palace. It’s amazing. There is no real way to convey to anyone how spectacular it is because it sounds tacky to describe and isn't photogenic. Go there see it. It’s all gold and shiny, mirrors towers and chedis glittering in the brilliant sun. It’s blindingly brilliant.
We end up at the Temple of the Emerald Buddha( who is jade not emerald btw.) Reading about him I was unimpressed, not only is he misnamed but he's quite small. Seeing him on the other hand was a totally different experience. The energy coming off of him pushed me to the floor, like most other in the room. Maybe it was the holy water, placed on my head with a lotus, maybe it was the chimes in the rafters speaking the voice of the wind, maybe it was the incense, but it was divine. We sat in contemplative prayer for many minuets. The Thai's around us had gold leaf on their faces, part of a devotional offering taking place outside. It was as amazing as Khao San Rd was not.
For lunch we ventured back to the backpacker central and then down a small ally passed a huge school hidden amongst the buildings where the sounds of children playing unseen echoed off the concrete walls. There we found Ethos, a vegan/vegetarian hangout, with low-lying tables and huge plates of very good fare. I felt even more relaxed when I heard " Under the full moon light we dance we dance /holding hands we dance". Pagan tunes in Bangkok so far from the woods of Western Mass, I am consistently amazed by the power the internet has in connecting everything.
After lunch we took the bus back home, but by then the time change was catching up and so sleep soon ensued.