I wrote this shortly before leaving Bangkok – a month ago already! I had two days there and it was fabulous. I hope this bit of writing will help convey just how amazing it was, and why….
For years I’ve had a “shelf dream” of living in Thailand for a year to study the Thai language full time. I like the idea of being effectively tri-lingual :) Thai was always my favourite of the languages I’ve studied (well, favourite other than Mandarin).
I first visited China in 1999, a 17 year old student tagging along on a 3 week “teacher exchange” trip. I knew, on that trip, that I would come back and live in China. I’d never have guessed how long I’d end up living here, but something grabbed me. China sunk her claws into me and she’s never let me go.
I’ve never had that feeling anywhere else. The feeling that, despite the obvious differences and difficulties, this was a place I wanted to be. A place I felt an irrational connection to; a place where I wanted to be, in a deep and inexplicable way. Not until Bangkok.
I’ve been to Bangkok before, but only the airport and the immediate surrounds of the tourist area at Khao San road. This time was different. I got a feel for this city’s character – and I think I’m falling for her.
I loved the street stalls, and the flower sellers carrying baskets of garlands.
I loved the narrow raised roadways, flying past old terraced houses and shiny new malls.
I loved the transit system that felt instantly familiar.
I loved the variety of people on the streets.
I loved the scripts on store fronts – Thai, English, some Chinese and occasional Arabic. (I loved wandering Campsie, in Sydney, for that same reason).
I loved the moment I looked down and realised the footpaths are paved with similar tile to Beijing’s.
I loved the times I was able to read a sign in Thai, slowly sounding out words like a kindergartener. (Although I did read English better in kindergarten than I read Thai now!)
I loved watching a monk pull back a sweep of orange fabric to reveal a colour-matched satchel strapped to his body beneath – six flat pockets to hold his worldly possessions.
I loved the smell of the city bathed in bright sunshine after a brief rainstorm.
I loved chocolate-raspberry flavour cornetto icecreams ;)
I loved that a street seller allowed me to buy jewellery with a US one dollar note, when my change in baht wasn’t enough.
I have always loved big cities – millions of people in one place, living such different lives and yet sharing a common space. The colours, the noise, the fast pace – I love it all. Beijing, Sydney, New York, Paris – and Bangkok.
On Monday afternoon I left the guesthouse to find lunch. After walking past several likely candidates I realised I didn’t want to stop and eat and find a little bubble of peace for myself. I wanted to walk, and look, and soak in the city’s atmosphere. I wanted to imprint a thousand sights and smells and memories on my mind, so I could savour, and remember it all once I was gone. I felt a longing to know this wonderful city.
So I walked, and I kept walking. I looked, and listened, and smelled, and smiled.
I walked past a store full of intricate gilded tea sets and thought to myself “if I lived here I’d buy one of those.” A dangerous train of thought…
If I lived here, my hair would be a mass of crazy curls all the time.
If I lived here I’d eat more fruit than I should.
If I lived here I would feel confident to stop at any small, simple eatery and order a bowl of something.
If I lived here would I even notice the constant drip of water spilling onto the footpaths from awnings above?
If I lived here, would I still enjoy watching dark clouds massing and moving overhead?
If I lived here would I wander about until a blister formed under the calloused ball of my foot? Would I go out the next day and wander some more?
Four and a half years passed between my first trip to China and my return as a language student. Maybe my Thailand “shelf dream” won’t ever happen. Maybe short visits will sate this new thirst; maybe they will fuel a fire sparked in me during the past two days. Maybe this stirring will fade as soon as I am home in Beijing. I somehow doubt that. Whatever happens, I doubt it will mean a change anytime soon. Check back with me in four years ;)