Walking Blues, Bangkok

We arrived in Bangkok this afternoon – just a short 2-day trip so Jason can attend to some work business. I really loved Bangkok last time but we were staying in a little hotel in the old city. The room was tiny but we had breakfast on the river and could walk to the palace, etc. This time we are staying in high end digs (Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit) in the business/commercial district. The hotel is really quite luxurious – the kind of hotel where you need to dress-up to leave the room. There is a roof-top laguna pool (a long, winding pool with lots of greenery creating private nooks and crannies). There is a night market right outside, a large shopping mall right next door as well stations for the sky train and the subway. The city awaits but tonight we were tired so we just walked about a bit and then crashed in the room. Tomorrow we’ll get out in it by finding some interesting temples, museums, green spaces, etc.

At this point, however, we’ve been on the road more than 2 weeks and it all seems a blur. I can barely remember Hong Kong and it seemed like we were in Guangzhou for all of 10 minutes. Singapore is fresh but the time there flew as well. Sometimes I feel that this trip, which is really the journey of a lifetime by ordinary standards, is wasted on folks like us – jaded travelers who sometimes don’t even remember to take pictures. We all seem to be ready for home. Jie-jie is missing her school friends and teacher, she is talking about the toys she left behind and how she wants to see the dogs. Mei-mei has begun singing and reciting all the songs and rhymes she learned at her preschool and talking about her schoolmates and teachers. Jason has begun hankering for some home cooking. The other night I had a dream about my 16-year-old dog, Rodman, and how he is in Vermont sadly wondering where I’ve gone to this time.

Is there something about our brains that makes us seek the familiar after 10-14 days, some kind of physiological response prompted by neural pathways requiring experience to reinforce them? Of all the places we’ve visited only this last one, Bangkok, seems unfamiliar and alien yet our thoughts turn toward routine and the familiar. I’ve always said that 13 days is the perfect length to explore a new place and that, if I stay any longer, I begin to feel that I should get a job and an apartment. Maybe it isn’t that it takes that long to know a place well enough to move beyond feeling like a tourist. Maybe, instead, it is at that point when I have a need to no longer be a tourist – even if I’ve divided the days between several locations of varying familiarity (I haven’t been anywhere new on this trip). I wonder how we will all respond to a homecoming in Sweden, landing in an apartment we have never seen in a city we visited for only 2 days. We will start our life there for real on Monday as the kids begin school and I head off to work. All those bits of home we are hankering for are months and months away – so far off, perhaps, that by the time we get there we will need to rebuild the attachments.

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