Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Notes From The Road: BKK and CNX

Holy holy holy
Sa wat dee kha from Thailand, where, in a hilarious turn of events, we are having a nasty, wet cold snap. No part of the Asian continent has been spared; it's so cold in Shanghai that the water pipes have frozen. So much for skipping winter! Luckily my friend and travel partner, Rachel, had previously visited Thailand and warned me that it might be cooler in the north, where we now find ourselves shivering in the outdoor restaurants in which we were sweating a couple days ago. Still, I'm layered up and having the time of my life!

Thailand is beautiful and wild, rich with daily devotion in the form of big, ornate temples and tiny ancestral shrines which dot the streets outside businesses and sometimes stand alone, seemingly random yet well maintained. We began our journey in Bangkok, which possesses the manic magic of New York City but with far more interesting street life. Because Bangkok is so consistently warm, so much life is lived outside. We stayed in Chinatown, which is enormous and incredibly dense. Every alleyway leads into a winding vortex of things to buy; from
Street cat
unidentifiable, delicious foods, to innumerable plastic trinkets, to produce markets, to clothing stalls, you can find pretty much anything tucked away in a Chinatown back alley. The city is adorably overrun by stray cats, many of whom are so tiny and all of whom I want to bring home. We came across so many strange treasures, like the huge monitor lizards which live in the lake of a public park. They're so intimidatingly big and dinosaur-like, I can't comprehend how they're allowed to run free.

As much delight as I found in BKK, after a week it electrified my being to the point of short circuit. When we boarded the night train north to Chiang Mai, it was with relief for a drastic change of pace. The
Little dinosaur
night train was such a sweet, special experience all on its own. We opted for a 2nd class AC sleeper car, affording each of us our own shockingly comfortable bunk. Our tin can chariot lumbered and swayed through the cities growing smaller and into the lush green of the Thai countryside. Jungle opened into neatly domesticated farm land. Ban Pin. Mae Mo. Khun Tan. Occasionally we would groan to a creeping halt to pick up or drop off a lone traveler at a brightly decorated train station which seemed to have sprung directly from the earth amidst dense vegetation. I have a crush on you, Thailand.

We're now passing pleasurable time in calmer, more comfortable Chiang Mai. The turn of weather led to some much needed rest after dozens of miles of walking over a week and a half of travel. I feel a terrible sense of guilt staying in and taking naps when there is so much splendor left unseen. Yet there is no way to sustain the level of activity we've been averaging over the course of this lengthy journey. After the ecstasy, the laundry...which am close to needing to do. Life still requires maintenance. Ordinary things still need to happen, even in extraordinary places. In the flow of the strange and the new, the mundane can feel delicious, though.
Wild and untamed

And once again we're reminded that it's all a gift. Savor every flavor of experience.

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