Friday, October 5, 2012

Thaiming it write?

I wish I had written a post yesterday about my first impressions and experiences in Bangkok. My goal would have been to have given you a clear picture of what I saw or learned or how I felt. It would have been easier since I was fresh and my "bowl" was empty. Unfortunately, after a second full day of touring, it has filled up and is brimming. It feels like I am floating about in an alphabet soup and colliding with many different letters, some in a foreign scribble, and now lack the ability to even sufficiently describe the texture, color or odor of the broth. I am overwhelmed and tongue-tied. Perhaps this mental muddle is a result partially of jet lag and troubled sleep, but then again I'm definitely not in America.  

One of the benefits of photography is that preserving a scene helps recreate the moment and brings back memories which otherwise are damaged or lost. So, to help me recall, I have selected a few photos from yesterday. In the midday heat, I ventured out aimlessly down the busy street in my neighborhood of Banglamphu skirting the Chao Phraya River, a watercourse similar in size and depth to the Willamette in Portland, but different by its chocolate-brown color and strange-shaped longboats. After passing through a college campus, I suddenly discovered on the other side that I had arrived at a marketplace, which by size and complexity was beyond my wildest expectations.

With my camera, hanging down from my neck like a giant amulet, I began "subtly" snapping photos of working people and their goods. It was propitious that I came upon the man in the first photo. He was selling beautifully designed, scrumptious, baked goods. Unlike all the other vendors, he seemed curious about me, was willing to chat, and spoke good English. I told him of my journey and he told me of his, the importance of right disposition, a key Buddhist concept.  Furthermore he spoke of the Thais. They were a good people, reserved and intelligent, and could be engaged through the art of smiling.

Putting his advise to work, I began to stroll past vendors, taking pictures and smiling. Several ladies offered me tasty morsels and another gave me a flower. There was none of the hubbub nor filth nor begging nor pushy hawking I had experienced in so many other countries. The market was busy, but almost quiet, except for a lone guitarist who played tranquilly to the public. I listened for a while and noticed a  policeman standing nearby. It occurred to me that I had seen  neither soldiers nor police on my entire walk until then. At that moment the policeman ambled over to the musician, said something in his ear and picked up the microphone. With a soft melodic voice and, accompanied by the guitarist, the cop began to sing beautifully and gently what could have been a ballad or love song. I listened for a while and moved on, knowing that my new adventure had truly begun.

It is now morning in Oregon. It is the middle of the night here in Thailand. Good judgment says I should try and go to sleep. The distance between us vast. I sit alone, ponder, and write my story to make deadline. I want my post to be like the morning paper thrown at your door. I don't know why. I just do.  


  1. A great post and photos, Lee, next best thing to being there myself! And, yes, I'm just a tad envious as I mentioned before, but I'm so happy for you!! I can enjoy it all through these! Make the most of every moment!

  2. Your descriptions are very moving, and I know I'll be getting an interesting perspective of your trip. I'm also glad it's starting so well. Loved the bit where the cop does an impromptu solo. I wonder in how many countries this would happen?

  3. Well, my friend, you "thaimed" this post just right for when I got up this morning, there it was!

    I'm like Sylvia, a bit envious or all the fun you're having. I've not been to SE Asia, or Thailand in particular, but I've read a lot about the area so it will be very interesting to get your take on the country. I'm sure that your eyes, through your camera, will bring a host of new insights.

    It was especially interesting that you perceived the area through which you walked as not dirty. I would have expected the opposite. And I would not have expected very many people to speak English, but Thailand has many tourists and so merchants probably learn as much English as necessary.

    Loved the story of the guitarist and the cop. I was expecting you to describe how the cop roughed up the player as he told him to move on. It was a delightful turn-about!

    As I recall, Thailand has calmed down politically in recent years. But I'd be interested in how "free" the people perceive themselves to be.

    Good luck, and thanks for sharing! Your photos are terrific!

  4. I'm with Lowell. I expected the cop to menace the singer. It was a delight when the tone was just opposite. I think the uniform, medals, and shades all together look scary.

  5. Re "I told him of my journey and he told me of his, the importance of right disposition, a key Buddhist concept. Furthermore he spoke of the Thais. They were a good people, reserved and intelligent, and could be engaged through the art of smiling."

    Everyone I've interacted with on the various interfaith discussion boards I've participated in over the years who has visited Thailand, or who has lived there for a period of time, has spoken of the extraordinary friendliness and graciousness of the Thai people. Also without exception, my online friends attribute these positive qualities to the dominant Buddhist philosophy of Thailand, which always gets mentioned in this context. There are other predominantly Buddhist countries, but for some unknown reason I hear this more often about Thailand than about any other Asian or Buddhist country including Japan. In fact, some of my online friends have attributed the beginning of their own interest in Buddhism to a visit to Thailand.

    I was going to mention this to you when your trip was still in the planning stages, but somehow I never got around to it. So I'm happy but not surprised that you are discovering it for yourself.

    I loved your story about the cop requesting an accompaniment to his song, and also the picture that goes with it. At first you made it sound like the cop was going to ticket the guitarist or harass him in some other way, which would be expected behavior for an American cop. So that was a very nice twist, and I'm so glad you had your camera with you to immortalize that priceless moment.

  6. Now I call that a miracle--my comment actually got posted after all! When I tried to post it earlier, I got a 503 error message: "Service Unavailable." I wasn't sure what that meant, but I assumed among other things it meant my comment didn't post. I was frustrated and disappointed because I spent quite a bit of time writing it. I'm not sure why I decided to come back and check your blog again, but I'm glad I did.