Asia | South East Asia | Thailand | Bangkok – Day 59 – Bangkok, Thailand
Yesterday I returned, one last time, to the waters of the Mekong; that slick string, that connecting cord, that aqua artery, that fluid flowing filament, that romanticized and astonishingly undeveloped Asian lifeline that has directed and accompanied much of my travels over the past five weeks. I returned to her, one last time, at Vientiane, traversed her one last time, quite conscious (apparently!) of the farewell as I crossed back into Thailand at Nong Kai; Bangkok once again firmly in my sites. It was with a slight sense of melancholy (and, it seems, a terrible case of verbal diarrhea — which followed in the wake of the real deal which was in fact responsible for my premature exit) that I bade goodbye to Laos.
The last two days have been a return to the urban frenetic-exotic in overdrive. Such is Bangkok. I don’t know why I’m comfortable with the whirl and the wheeze of this Asian haze-meister. But I do like it. Perhaps it’s because a return to Bangkok is, for me, a return to the most familiar bit of civilization there is in this region (or what passes for civilization when several million Thais and precious little urban planning are commingled simultaneously in a mad assault of asphalt and exhaust). At this juncture, post tummy troubles, Bangkok also provided me with a return to a variety of solid foods; boiled rice can only take one so far. Mostly, I just re-urbanized, picked up the beat of Bangkok’s slam-dance after weeks of the tranquil-paced, laid-back lullaby which is Laos.
I also spent some time, yes, I admit it, in (here it comes)…a mall. I know, I know, in so doing I have utterly abused the unwritten code, which allows one to use the moniker ‘traveler’ when talking about oneself. Central Pin Klao it was, just over the bridge from Banglamphu; a bastion of Starbucks, Levis, and other horrifying name brands and, gasp, air conditioning. Oh the shame. There were however extenuating circumstances. The Kleptomaniacal current of the ‘little falls’ just outside Luang Prabang in Laos had previously snatched my prescription sunglasses right off my nose. Yes, I forgot I was wearing them at the time, ducked my head into the refreshing flow and, as they were being boldly pilfered in broad daylight, I made one desperate swipe at them. But they disappeared into the opaque froth. Replacing them was not a job to be entrusted to the street vendors of Khao San. So I slunk to, you know, the M-word place. At least I bargained my purchase down to a decent price; I didn’t totally abandon the principles of traveler-dom.
One other observation. It’s odd how quickly an exotic place such as Luang Prabang or Vientiane or Bangkok becomes familiar territory when returning to them during the course of my travels. It’s almost the sensation of being at ‘home’. I think it has much to do with juxtaposition; the fact that during most of my travels, as I push forward into places I’ve never been, every single step, every building, every angle and sightline, is absolutely new. Everything is a discovery, something I’ve never experienced before. Moving forward in travel is like a song without a chorus. Until, that is, I return to a place I’ve already been. Even if I’ve only passed through for a day or two, it’s striking how relatively familiar everything seems. Such was the sense of retracing my path from northern Laos to Bangkok. A bit of ‘home’.
Perhaps that’s not such a bad thing. Unfortunately, these travels are now entering their long-beard stage. Winding down. I see Ayuthaya in my immediate future and an island cop-out. And then home, the real thing. Just trying to mentally prepare. Hope you don’t mind if I do it in print.