farewell tour

Time has come today (okay, tomorrow, but...)

 
oh Buddha--you and I were so young back then

oh Buddha--you and I were so young back then

Nearly 13 months ago I left home on a one-way ticket to Bangkok. I was excited and scared as I didn't know what awaited me: but I knew I wanted to write, discover, and learn about the world and myself. I saw ancient temples, awe-inspiring sculptures, surprising natural beauty, and traffic that defied description and camera capture. I found the fun, odd, and quirky stuff that makes Krung Thep unique. I met wonderful, beautiful people (which was absolutely the best part). I found some damn good food (maybe the second-best part). And I wrote a bunch, though never as much as I thought I needed to.

I explored Thailand and her neighbors: Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. I took a diversion further north into Korea and JapanThen I left Thailand and went deeper into Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, and The Philippines. And it was in the next to last of these countries that I realized I'd learned all that I needed to here. So I began making new plans.

And the time has come to embark on them. 

Tomorrow I will fly out of Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi (pronounced Soowanaboom, because Thai) airport to start the next next episode. There will be time to talk about that later. But for now, I just want to show my love and appreciation for SE Asia and this City of Angels. You gave me exactly what I needed at a challenging time. You weren't always easy, but you were always worth it. And part of my heart will always be here.

I will miss you. I love you. I will see you again someday.

Back on the farewell tour: things I knew I wanted, things I didn't

New Year's Eve--four days left in Krung Thep so down to last boxes for checking. I'm a fight fan so I knew I wanted to take in a Muay Thai event. Three options in Bangkok:

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  1. Rajadamnern Stadium. Home of the biggest shows, and the biggest prices to boot: 1500 baht and up. Too paeng for this farang.
  2. Lumpinee. Most tickets are similarly priced as above. Also I'd heard some (possibly unfair) criticism of the venue so didn't give it much of a second thought. Especially when there's:
  3. Channel 7. Live televised shows every Sunday afternoon. And the price? Free.

Dii mak!

And everything I'd read was that this was real Bangkok, a real local experience. So I get to rub shoulders with those I've lived among for the last nine months and...

oh.

oh.

Well, it's about the fights--and they were exciting for sure. Sample: 

Two young men giving their all to take care of their families and put on a show. How can you not smile? 

Serious, y'all--how can some of you not be smiling? What are you watching, big beard? Not impressed? Then get on down there!

Serious, y'all--how can some of you not be smiling? What are you watching, big beard? Not impressed? Then get on down there!

Important to note, however, that gambling is NOT allowed, as all these signs attest:

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And Thais are a rules-following sort, so...

oh.

oh.

And we saw a title change hands. At least, the back of it:

hope I made good smiling background for the Channel 7 viewers

hope I made good smiling background for the Channel 7 viewers

After this the plan was a quiet, introvert-friendly New Year's celebration: order a pizza, drink cocktails, watch the fireworks.

But dating a Thai isn't always simple. Because she has family, and they have get-togethers for holidays, and they invite you. And you can't say no, because that would be rude (and even though you are rude, you don't want them to know that).

So before long I'm sitting in the soi, struggling to communicate my appreciation for gracious hospitality. "Dii!" Smile. "Chai." Smile. "Aroi mak!" Smile. "Khap khun khrap." Smile.

just how we do it in Krung Thep

just how we do it in Krung Thep

And how gracious is that hospitality? Check the prawns:

That's a Thai pointing at things.  It's a thing .

That's a Thai pointing at things. It's a thing.

Long before I'm saying "Im lau im mak!" I realize this is what I most wanted. In my last days here, one more real Krung Thep experience. Because while weather, topography, architecture, and attractions all contribute to a given location, I've found it's always the people that truly make a place. And in a city full of kindness, the family I spent New Year's evening with was among the most. Still, I wanted to show my appreciation beyond poorly articulated Thai and crooked smiling. Thankfully, I get that chance after I push away from the dinner table, full and happy, while others in the family have yet to be fed themselves:  

What's shakin? Bacon.

What's shakin? Bacon.

And I still got my fireworks:

Like so much of Krung Thep, pictures don't do it justice.

Like so much of Krung Thep, pictures don't do it justice.

Sawasdee bpii-mai! Happy 2561!