For anybody considering doing a 10 day vipassana meditation course, I’d recommend scheduling in some downtime afterwards – you know somewhere nice and quiet and peaceful where you can gather your thoughts and put yourself back together, emotionally speaking.
I’d recommend somewhere that is anywhere but Bangkok.
FLIBBERTIGIBBETS & FARANGS
Within twenty-four hours I’d left behind a place of silence and deep meditation and headed to one of the busiest, craziest cities in the world where I’d had my future told by a monk.
In summary, he’d told me that this year was going to be just as abominable as the past few, plus there’s a strong chance I’ll lose my passport and could potentially end up in jail. And so it may come as no surprise that my few days in the capital of Thailand were a bit of a blur.
I was living the life of a local, staying on the third floor of my friend’s beautiful town house, sawadee kaaing my life away. We went for a run around the local police academy training ground and played badminton in the street.
We ate out in incredible places and I tried all of the local dishes, whipping out my “I’m only 90% vegetarian” card so I could try the Thai red fish curry at a beautiful restaurant alongside the River Tha.
I was chauffeured around the congested streets in the back of jeeps, taxis and tuk tuks. I climbed the three hundred winding steps of Wat Saket, Temple of the Golden Mount, for the 360 degree views of the city before stomping back down and heading to the Grand Palace. I walked and I walked and I walked.
But by far my highlight of it all was our morning visit to a local food market, miles out of the city. I was the only farang (foreigner) within a twenty mile radius, proven by the looks on peoples’ faces when they saw me ducking under the low-hung wooden roof and approaching their stalls.
I was greeted by surprised eyes and excited smiles as they held out bamboo bowls, offering me slices of godknowswhat. It was a market full of every edible thing you can possibly imagine; fruits, vegetables, meats, fish, jelly things, colourful confectionery, nuts, seeds and juices.
Having a local with me meant I could finally ask if those squidgy looking brown worm things were actually worms and what those bright yellow jelly balls were made out of.
It also led me to discover the world’s tastiest nut. It’s a cashew nut, doused in some sort of sugary syrup and dipped in sesame seeds – no doubt a thousand calories per nibble but my taste buds loved me for it nonetheless.
When our sweet and fascinating culinary adventure came to a bitter close we headed to Riva, a floating coffeeshop within the grounds of a beautiful spa resport, for a civilised matcha latte and watched the huge bunches of hyacinth drift on by.
Then it was my time to drift on…
THE GIRL FROM IPANEMA
My taxi pulled up at the North end of Khaosan Road and the driver told me he couldn’t get any closer to the coach station, so I’d have to get out there and walk.
So with my oversized backpack weighing me down from behind and my fiery orange backpack pulling me down at the front, I dragged my luminous yellow mini suitcase, also known as The Bumblebee, full of inappropriate and completely unnecessary clothing, over the famous Khaosan cobbles.
Everywhere I looked there were pubs, bars and boozers and inside them all were hoards of sunburnt Brits wearing those string vests in colours that accentuate their lobster pink shoulders. Everybody had a pint in their hand and was shouting over the music that was blasting out the stereos.
On either side of the road were back to back stalls selling poor quality printed T-shirts, elephant trousers, macrame bikini tops and fake Havianas. Dotted in between them all were bright yellow carts and every few minutes somebody would leap from behind one and wave a skewer with some sort of cremated scorpion in my face.
I paused still for a moment as I stood on one of the most famous roads in the world, and I thought of Ollie.
He was one of my favourite humans on the planet, somebody I’d tragically lost a few months earlier and was one of the reasons I was in Thailand in the first place. He’d lived here before and had spent hours showing me fond frozen memories while we listened to the The Girl From Ipanaema on repeat.
I thought of his big smile. I thought of how happy he was reliving those memories. And I thought of how excited he would be if he knew I was here.
Then that was it. I ducked through the stalls and down one of the side alleys to board my coach, waving goodbye to my memories of him and my last taste of Thai tomfoolery.
Next stop – Paradise.