Bliss overwhelmed my senses as we passed through our first sights, smells, and sounds of Thailand.
The last time I set foot in this country, I was arriving from home. I’d left behind tidy lawns, anti-littering campaigns, wide streets, even sidewalks, familiar favorite foods, and birds chirping in the relative silence of a small town behind the Redwood Curtain.
Now, it’s been nearly two years since I’ve had a home, a third of year since my fleeting visit to U.S. soil, and the last eight weeks of my life were spent in the Philippines – a lovely country with plenty of blog-worthy quirks.
The clean subway train from the airport to the city was shockingly modern. Machines dispensed microchip tokens to be scanned as we passed through the gates. Waiting passengers gathered on the outer edges of the doors and actually waited – waited! – while arriving passengers disembarked!
On the way in, my eyes drank in the architechtural styles… a city-scape sprinkled with intricate temples and high rises reflecting the peaks of the ancient buildings. (To be fair to the Philippines – my handiest comparison country – Bangkok has not been bombed to smithereens by various countries on several recent occasions).
Thrillingly, we said goodbye to English. A language barrier forces you to employ other senses and requires problem solving with a dose of Charades and a dash of Pictionary. I’m not saying I won’t tell stories in the future where the language barrier adds some serious drama or humor. But it was new and exciting to need help and not be able to look around and immediately identify a solution.
When we got off the subway and descended to the busy streets of downtown Bangkok, it smelled… wonderful! I couldn’t believe it! Instead of dark smoke pouring out of the back of jeepneys and vehicles, there were brightly painted, new-looking taxi’s in neon pink. The city buses didn’t spew. The underpasses weren’t choked with clouds of polllution. The smell of flowers permeated the air. And wafts of lemongrass floated up from sidewalk food carts.
In lieu of the chatter I’d become accustomed to hearing from vendors, was… silence! No one demanding anyone else’s attention. No stares. No glancing at a pile of things for sale and being pursued down the block. Amazing!
From the windows of the bus we hopped to get out of town (Bangkok may be a comparatively clean, modern city, but it’s still a city), I saw people running in the afternoon sun. Running! Because they could breathe! In Thailand’s biggest city! (In a collection of anecdotes by Filipino writers traveling abroad that I read recently, many of them relish in the gift of long walks that the breathable cities of New York and Barcelona offer them.)
The person collecting fares on the bus was a woman! Places feel so much more comfortable to me when women make an appearance in a male-dominated scene.
Welcome back, serenity. I have missed you!