I would have been around 25, growing up, working and studying in Melbourne, Australia. The whole city is filled up with travelers, backpackers hostels around every corner of the CBD and quaint little coffee shops boasting currencies from all parts of the world as part of the wall décor. I used to frequent them as often as I had the chance and not once, but many times over, I was told to make Thailand and South East Asia a part of my little itinerary.
Over these smoking hot shakshukas and lattes, I made plans, but as often happens; other things take prominence over these plans. So for personal and professional reasons, I had to postpone my trip to Thailand and other places in my little notebook, and switch off holiday mode altogether for over 5 years.
Recently, my beloved father, a completely home-loving comfort obsessed creature, who paradoxically has a globe trotter for a daughter, passed away. He tried for many years to make a docile domestic goddess of his daughter, but he should know, that the day after he passed away, I woke up, fired up my phone and booked a ticket to Thailand.
So this trip was in many ways a peep through the looking glass and finding that people are who they are, and my way of celebrating his life and idiosyncrasies.
Thailand also, happens to be this often used word exotic, and idiosyncratic. It has an economy that defies most other economies of the world, its history is marvelously studded in ancient quests and the bustling streets of Bangkok coo and caw hints and clues to uncovering some of this treasure. Like most people of my generation, Leonardo Di Caprio in his role in The Beach encapsulated the thrill of high adventure and its costs and when it released, the dare was out. Anybody who called themselves a traveler worth any salt had to make this journey, drink snake blood on Khao San Road and make it through a full moon party not knowing whether they would indeed turn up on the return ticket, and be there to admire the adventure from an internet café halfway across the world, like the hero of this movie did. I was chicken. I did not go to Thailand then.
I, on the other hand, plonked myself in one of the many bars on Khao San Road and ordered a happy hour Moo Moo (Cranberry Juice and Vodka) to local Thai boys renditioning Wonderwall by Oasis, to wafts of Pad Thai and other curious travellers and kept stunning myself, my mind raving mad at the this truly exotic configuration of the same Rubik’s Cube. I had become the kind of tourist The Beach was all about avoiding.
At any other point through my adventures, I was the Tilda Swinton of the Beach, first at the scene of trouble, making every bit of count, designing and concocting the nature of these daredevilian adventures, pushing my luck as hard and far as I could. As I sat there on the couch, I realized why the era of rebellion and new tricks had forever gone. Now there was no-one to really call me out on anything. So I sipped the Moo Moo, took my docile ass to the massage chair and got home to a lovely, toasty ladies dormitory where a bunch of us told stories of all that we saw that day and snacked on dried sugared paw paw and went to bed.
I had another day left and I didn’t even want to get out of bed. But there I was, in Thailand, so I dragged myself out and checked into a bus tour of the ancient city of Ayutthaya. I made interesting but nonsensical all the same discoveries about the Ramayana. Ayutthayya being another version of Ayodhya.
I let my mind wander. I found myself hypothesizing that The BJP in India with it right-centered politics and Hindutva really didn’t know that the God King Rama somehow up and went east, to the country of his wife’s birth, then Mithila and there, after King Asoka’s resolution to drop his arms for peace, Buddhists have been recounting the Ramayana in ways all their own and very dichotomously so. The monarchy in Thailand retains Lord Rama’s title and the local news there take pot shots of this king, whose somewhat sacrilegious antics like turning up in underwear with his mistress in public. But the city is full of his father’s edifying glory, with statues and humongous posters decorating public buildings. In Thailand, is a version of the ideal man, Lord Rama’s debauched life. If it is ever proven, that he is indeed a direct descendant of the line of Lord Rama and Sita, it would be interesting to see what the BJP makes of this.
Most of all, the Thai have a very curveball accent of English, which I couldn’t hear enough of. The usual toothless man, this time driving a taxi to get me from the airport to the hostel where I stayed in Silom Road, goes Lub D! 400 baht! (the name of the hostel which I think comes from Loved it!).The woman making the pad thai has a sing song way of telling me my options- egg, chicken, pork, prawns, scallops, chillies soaked in rice wine vinegar, peanuts and those garnee onions that go on top. The best thing about this part was that I got to tell my dad, I’m gobbling this. You are not.
Thailand for me is the trotter seeing to it that the world never wants for a dab of the unreal.
Fisherman in village
String tugging at little fish
They won’t be caught!