I chose to not go to Laos. I chose instead to come back to Thailand and explore more here so that my experience of Thailand is not Bangkok. Bangkok is not my idea of a great time, a big, gross, busy city where the heat sits on you like an elephant, or an older brother who wants the remote to the TV back.
I’m currently in northern Thailand, at one of the culture capitols – Chiang Mai. I hurried here on a 9 hour bus ride to meet up with a friend who was booked in only for one more day. Once I arrived I realized, yet again, that the reality of the city didn’t meet my expectation. I thought that this would be calm, serene and small yet it is much bigger and therefore busier than I expected.
Upon meeting up with Angela, who became my first friend on the Asia leg of my around the world journey, she again remarked about her favourite island in Thailand. Out of curiosity, since her face just lights up when she speaks about this magical place to her, I asked what the journey is like to get there. Overnight bus to Bangkok, 8 hours transit time in Bangkok, overnight train to Trang, shuttle to the coast and then a speed boat to her dreamland.
Of course, I couldn’t resist. So I’m going with her. We start our 2 day travel journey tonight at 11pm. My plan was to stay in Chiang Mai and head to Pai, but instead I’m veto-ing that to make a trek with a friend to an unknown place. Chiang Mai IS a great city, even though it’s not what I was anticipating. Last night we went to the night bizzare where we feasted for $3, enjoyed a “lady boy” cabaret (a drag show complete with appearances by Cher, Celine Dion, Tina Turner and others) and then indulged in ice cream that was made in front of our eyes.
The ice cream stand has a display of dozens of options. So I picked #28 – Coffee ice cream with brownies and almonds. So they pour the coffee cream on a sub-freezing plate and chop the brownies and almonds in with it. You see it freeze into ice cream in front of your face and then they scrape it into curls and put it in a cup and top it with whipped cream, brownie pieces and almonds. So innocuous yet something different and impressive in its own right.
Today I’m sitting in an air conditioned coffee shop, drinking iced coffee and writing. I could be out trekking the mountain jungle or footing the temples but I’ve made the choice to evade sweat and enjoy my time. This before a vigorous 2 days of travel followed by 5 days, 4 nights on a beach where I will continue to do “nothing.”
After my dad died I did an 8 week bereavement course. I missed the last session because I was gifted a time share opportunity to which I jumped at the chance to spend a week on the beach in St. Maarten. At my last session the therapist and leader of the group asked me if I would be okay to sit for a week and do “nothing.” It had never dawned on me that sitting and enjoying yourself, your time, your surroundings, reading, having a cocktail, swimming, writing, chatting to others, eating new foods and seeing something different was doing “nothing.”
That stuck with me as it turns out not only am I quite content to do nothing, but at times prefer it and thrive with it. The past few nights I haven’t been sleeping -partly because the heat in Chiang Mai is strong and powerful and our hostel is only fanned and gets stuffy. Also because at night my mind comes alive. It’s always been this way, I’ve always been a night owl. I like to day dream, but when it’s light out and there is the buzz of life and the unspoken need to do something in the air, I am never as relaxed in the day time as at night.
There’s a peace that comes over me at night where I feel connected to all the world and all the bullshit fades away. I get frustrated and sad when I look at the state of the world. Even while traveling I just upset at the stupidest of things – for instance these American girls just walked into this coffee shop where I am sitting quietly with another hostel mate who is also sitting quietly working on her school work. These girls walked in, were loud, and not in touch with the vibe of the room, where 4 of us were working. They pointed out everything to each other: “Oh look, a bear” (it’s a teddy bear themed cafe) “Oh look that cake has rainbow colors” “Oh look, a fountain.” Once they discovered this coffee shop also sells ice cream they began to raise their voice to the girl at the counter “does it come in a cup or a cone? A CUP OR A CONE?”
This whole scene bothered me and I’m not sure why. I over hear a lot of really annoying things through out the day and the ones that are in English obviously stand out more. Like the 3 older guys that were sitting on the patio and I overheard them all tell the counter girl when she delivered their lattes that she was sexy and asked if she was single. Gross. You wouldn’t do that in the states, at least not so abruptly and publicly, and if you did the waitress would certainly go back to the other servers and talk shit.
There’s a million things wrong in our world and now we’re in a place where we are SO QUICK to jump and point out the petty, minuscule things that we can’t change and ultimately won’t effect much. I have such a strong inner dialogue with myself through out the day. I am riddled with insecurities, regardless of being in a foreign land, that I often wonder if I’m doing something correctly and how people are perceiving me.
It’s a double edged sword as we’re taught manners and to be well behaved yet there’s such a strong sense of “fuck them, I’ll do what I want.” It’s so conflicting, it drives me crazy. On the flight from Vietnam to Thailand, a plane full of backpackers, we had at least 10 people I could see on their phones during landing, and once we hit the ground, before we were parked and the engine was off and the seatbelt sign was off, I could hear half the plane unbuckle their seatbelts. Then they were up in the aisle, getting their carry on luggage down, before the seatbelt sign was off and the cabin door was opened.
I was in complete shock and awe. What was the rush? To beat everyone to the inevitable immigration lines? To be first? To get off the monstrosity of a plane that just afforded you the luxury of travel? I didn’t get it. I sat, seatbelted, electronics off, until the light went off. Once we started exiting the plane I retrieved my carry on from the over head compartment. I walked, at a comfortable pace to immigration and stood with an obliged patience while the line dwindled and it was my turn.
Previously, I’ve had goals and dreams of changing the world. Now I am going to work really hard to re focus my time, energy and concentration to change me. I will be the example of the world I wish to live in. Back to the golden rule “treat others as you would like to be treated” and back to Ghandi’s “be the change you wish to see in the world.”
In theory this is scary, because all the people that hold beliefs of things I do no agree with will also have the power to righteously and proudly live with those views. However, I believe there will be a certain peace when we stop worrying about the others and concentrate on ourselves. If we do all engage in the golden rule then perhaps the world will be a better place because I know a lot of people who like to act like assholes and then freak out when they’re treated as such.
2 thoughts on “Choice.”
Beautiful. I wish I were the change I want in this world.
Can you imagine how awesome the world would be if we all butted out of each others’ business? Wow. I wish I was traveling with you. It sounds like you’re having an amazing time and I know you’re an amazing person so…it would be a total blast 🙂