You get used to the humidity. For me it took a few days but the change in environment helped me to adjust. Bangkok’s landscape of tall glass buildings with digital displays advertising various items mixed with a gritty urban landscape was replaced with a rain forest with a few commercial structures such as mini-malls and businesses within a grid like street pattern.To be an American in this environment is a bit exotic: palm trees with brown spotted leaves and streets wet from an overnight shower that left small puddles on trash bags that sag before their morning pick up.
Mornings are quiet as most activity happens in the evening or later at night. It isn’t until the early afternoon that you start to see attractive women calling out “massage” to passersby and bars doing light work to prepare for the evening.
“Wait, I have to wait until 5:00 p.m. to have a beer?
The bartender sighs, stating that it’s the law as other patrons acknowledge this local truth. I wait anxiously, soon start joking and having fun with the other patrons and bartender until it was time to finally have a legal drink. This was the beginning to my evening of laughter, alcohol, and kob kun krub (ka),male and female forms of “thank you.”, The night provided fond memories that still resonate today.Upon leaving Bangkok, most single travelers head for the hedonistic Phuket, but I wanted a slower pace and to learn more about the Buddhist faith as its influence is everywhere from the designated seating for monks to the simple bow of respect by passers by. These small streets and bar stalls were lit by low lighting, and clubs’ music along with American music flowing from miniature speakers created the background to my evening. All around me, motorcycles and light foot traffic floated by, thus providing a red stream of lights and the revving of motors.The daytimes were different, filled with bright orange, and matte gold mixed with reds and yellows that decorate miniature statues, busts, and likenesses of Buddha with small tributes of food and incense at their bases.
In many ways, coming from the West made me feel cut off from other faiths, so my eyes glimmered at being formally introduced to another faith system. On the day of my tour, my mind was full of questions and half truths for which I wanted clarification. On that day, the early morning rain once again slicked our path as we made our way up a rocky hilltop. Locals sold snacks, postcards, and Buddha related trinkets as we carefully navigated the staircase to Wat Phra That Doi Kham.Upon our arrival we found a confluence of other tour groups just as bewildered as us. In those groups, small children, dressed in local garb, ran in a frenzy to get our attention and then danced in a sequence as their mother guided them. After their performance ended the mother signaled them to run and collect tips which the crowd graciously gave. In a temple (wat), we navigated across slick white tiled floors as monks sat among statues and the faithful walked clockwise around the wat.
Other people bowed and silently walked the complex which glowed under the sun for a while until a few clouds gave way to a quick shower. Our guide signed for our departure so we headed down the mountain after taking a second look at the various items being sold along our path. After we returned to our seats, we shared the foods we had purchased. This helped us immerse ourselves in the local cuisines but to be honest no matter what I ate, the various roti I ate then and there after were my favorite. As the afternoon continued, we saw the night market being set up and steam and various spicy seasonings lifted off the make shift burners under brightly colored lamps and other decorations.
No visit to Thailand is complete without a visit to the night market for local dishes. Soon my hands were full of foods as I drifted between alleys and temples until evening.Yet as the night finally came upon us, I wandered back to the late night bars that caught and held my attention days earlier. Walking from bar to bar, I was soon laughing and catching up with people I had only met a day ago.
“There is a party tonight, want to come?” Thinking about it for a moment, I replied no as I looked at my watch and rushed back to my hotel to have another roti at the little place around the corner before closing time. That evening I enjoyed my dinner as I lay in bed and watched voiceover Thai soaps.The next morning, I did not want to get up, but I forced myself to pack my things for my afternoon flight to Bangkok. I finished slowly yet still left myself enough time to be the first customer of the day and to buy one more roti that I finished in the airport shuttle.