Life is forcing me to slow down. I want to speed it up. I only have one week left in SE Asia and there’s so much to do and see. But no, I’ve been put on a go slow or “no go” ban.
It’s my fault or my fate, depends on how full you see that beer glass. That little motorbike accident has left me with a swollen foot and oozy wound that is trying its best to heal in the heat and humidity of Bangkok. I am also a target of this battle. When I walk too far my wound starts to whine at me. And when I start Googling new areas to visit it starts to weep, forcing me to veer away from my bike or hike plans.
We live in a big world, but we limp through a very small one. In the last few days, my world has shrunk from the vast oceans and underworld of Koh Tao to a toddler’s paddling pool, just with a lot more bustle and bling thanks to Bangkok’s love of packing everything into one side street/shop square meter.
As much as I am not an avid fan of the KhaoSan Road area and the tourists it attracts (now me), it does have the advantage of bringing the outside world to you and keeping you insulated and stimulated at the same time.
So what is the world telling me by letting me linger in this petri dish of tourist scum? To look to the micro to understand the macro?
For one, it’s taught me to appreciate my surroundings, parasites and all. Where else can you walk 100m and cater for all your needs and some you didn’t know you had?
My street is stocked (and often blocked) with:
Taxis, delicious food stalls, restaurants, at least 2 7 elevens, drug stores, a tattoo parlour, bespoke tailors, guest houses showing movies 3 times a day (yes that old classic is still around just a little less prevalent), pharmacies, drug stores, “foot massage on the street, waxes at the back” parlours, second hand book shops/stalls, clothing, jewellery,accessories, second hand traveller stuff, tour operators, bike hires, laundry services. It’s all just a hop, skip and limp away.
On any given minute or meter I can buy:
- a hammock and every known hippie accessory
- valium or antibiotics over the counter
- a second hand book or new tech accessories (ipad /cellphone overs)
- a new tattoo or have an old one removed
- a traditional thai massage, with or without a happy ending (yes, girls too)
- or just watch a movie
But I think the real lesson here, the one that slowing down often brings, is that you realise you have a brief window of opportunity to really SEE things as an outsider before you get sucked into the realm of familiarity. We are but creatures of routine who veer towards comfort and familiarity. It makes us feel safe and “seen”, our days and lives witnessed.
The reality is that in a few days, I will probably look through the people and past the details. I will probably sleep walk my way from the place where I sleep to the place where I eat breakfast (good coffee at a good price) via the pharmacy and the cheap water back to my safe haven.
I might miss the cat in the window of the Liberia shop that looks just like an ornament for sale. (Maybe she is. it is Bangkok after all)
I won’t see the coffee trolley for the personal information it reveals about the owner.
I will see through the pink massage ladies who laugh and joke while they wait for their next “massage massage” customers to put their feet up on their sidewalk loungers.
I will stop noticing the difference between travellers and visitors or seeing the similarities between locals and foreigners.
PIC: (anyone find the definition of “teamwork” a bit weird?)
I won’t see the original thought for the mass junk on sale.
Lingering is the great traveller’s valium and its available free and over every (en)counter.
I can consciously choose to stay awake to life. It’s a harder slog, and sometimes I don’t welcome the stimulus, but it’s definitely a mindset worth cultivating and coveting. At least in my travel book.
Musing on… one leg and two panados.