“Oh, wow, thank you, but that’s okay, you keep,” I tell him.
“You drop,” he reminds me.
“Yes, but you keep for being honest.”
“No sir, you drop this.”
Having just come back from give-me-all-your-rupiah-white-man Indonesia this is a shock. After a three hour plane flight I can’t give my money away. I can’t even leave it somewhere unattended.
He’s adamant. He stuffs the bills in my pocket before walking away. I murmur a terima kasih (thank you) to the back of his head as it shakes back and forth now out of patience having encountered yet another dumb farang.
I would have bought the t-shirt but every other I-have-more-stamps-in-my-passport-than-you Caucasoid is already wearing one.
From Bali, Indonesia to Malaysia, to KL, to Penang, to Krabi, Thailand, to Ko Phi-Phi, to Phuket. I have to work my way north to Bangkok for a flight to Nepal so I stop at a few spots I’ve been to and couple I hadn’t. I like going back. I know where I want to stay, where I want to eat, which public restrooms are the least urine-soaked, and where the crazy Penang vagrants will be depending on the time of day. Their minds melted in the humid-heat, their skin the same, if you need extras for a post nuclear fallout film Penang is the place to find them.
I’ve come home. That’s what it feels like upon each return so, naturally, I’m quite aloof. In the mind more and the moment less, been there, done that, would have bought the t-shirt if there was more room in my backpack. Thailand’s Andaman coast is every bit as this-has-to-be-CGI beautiful as it was months ago, but I already took pictures. I’ve already eagerly scoured each location within a ten kilometer radius of the Caucasoid drop-off point. Now I’m more interested in meeting people. Uh-oh, what if, just like the locations, I’ve already run into them? Not them per say, but someone just like them. Someone smart, cool, and beautiful from that one country where the accent makes their English oh-so-seductive. Someone with a real zeal for the journey, not the destination. Seen you, met you, stole your t-shirt but it doesn’t fit so I gave it to a transient.
All the sudden travel has become ho-hum humdrum. I’d be more excited to see a hamster than a monkey. It would be a pleasant change of pace to be around an animal I can (probably) outsmart. Monks are just quiet, pleasant people that are too lazy to put on a pair of pants. I can pass by beggars like a local bearing in mind that their sorry sidewalk domicile that’s cracked even more than their parched lips is karmic and that I would be doing a great disservice to their next lifetime by easing their suffering in this one. I can talk to the Thai transvestite who just cooked my fried rice at a food stall without thinking, ‘Holy s**t, I’m talking to a Thai transvestite.’
This is a problem. I like to read about exotic adventures in far flung places. For me, Asia was always the most distant, the most foreign, the most peculiar. Now it’s home.
So, you got any good African fiction?
Hold up. I’m in Bangkok now, a place I’ve been to four times but had yet to spend the night. The temples are bigger and more extravagant than ever, the streets more neon, the energy more intoxicating, more thrilling, more I-hope-I-can-hold-on. Yes, “Bangkok has [me] now.”*
*A line from the Hangover 2 (it had just come out in Malaysia as I was passing through), I have yet to awake in a confused skull-throbbing daze with a shaved head, facial tattoo, missing finger, or sore rectum so I suppose I haven’t been having that much fun.
|Wat in Krabi, Thailand|
|Beach near Krabi Town|
|Okay, so I took a few more pictures; Ko Phi-Phi, Thailand|
|If you're going to call yourself disheveled you'd better look the part.|
|A wat lit up at night in Bangkok, Thailand.|