I think love and travel go hand in hand. You meet places, you leave places, you miss places. Just like you meet, leave, miss people and everything that happens in-between which you may or may not call love.
There was no love between me and Bangkok when we first met, it was really just a drunk one-nightstand Quite literally because I had just stumbled from a plane onto Khao San Road, landed in a bucket full of nondescript alcohol, and left the next morning with a queezy stomach and not much memory of what happened the night before. A regular occurrence as it seems with Bangkok nights and one-nightstands all over the world.
But as it sometimes goes, even with those one-nightstands, some stick with you and once you recover from the boozy haze you may even remember them fondly. I liked this one night in Bangkok enough to return within a year and then another year. You may say I have a crush on Bangkok. Of course the beginning of meeting someone new is always easy. We see no evil, hear no annoying, and whisper only words of awe. Infatuation goes for people and for cities. And while I wouldn’t call it a relationship yet, who says flirtation born out of a bucket can’t turn into a long distance crush… The one you think of fondly when the real world around you is stormy and cold. The one you can almost smell when you close your eyes and go back to a particularly hot summer’s night full of laughter and pad thai. The one you write love letters to, only to never send them. It would be something like:
My dearest Bangkok, what a joy it was to see you again! It’s not a word I use often or lightly nor do I use exclamation points all that much, but it really was that great to be back here with you. My heart did a little leap when I sat in a disco taxi from the airport with a driver who did a little dance on the curbside before we drove off.
I like you at night. Some roads deserted and quiet, others busy and steaming. And then the first market! I jumped up and down in my seat a little and wished nothing more than to stop and get out to take a little stroll. This is window shopping at its best. And while I feel like I have seen most of the things your markets offer by now, I am always surprised to discover something new. Are those frogs in a basket and a casual pig’s foot?
You are hot and humid and actually quite unbearable during summer, but I love you nonetheless. Wow. There I said it. I.Love.You.
Your roads and sidewalks are crumbling, but I love stumbling along them, because you fill them with friendly faces and tuktuks. Old men smiling broadly, women shyly, the boys are busy with their boxing lesson and ignore me.
And then there is Khao San Road, your greatest triumph and your biggest disgrace. Its own little world within you, the metropolis. Elephant pants, washed out faces fresh off the plane or coming from a full moon party, and tans that are too deep not to get in trouble with a dermatologist eventually. Tourists of all shapes, sizes, and idiosyncrasies, but you don’t judge. You love our tourists and just smile at them with a benevolent, knowing little smile and go on with your daily life. After all there are scorpions to be sold, trees to be off-loaded, sore limbs to be massaged. Who has time to judge a tourist wearing a local bamboo hat with overly ernest face except for me? You clearly don’t and I love you for not judging.
You taste good. Obviously, and you know it. I like how you praise your own food and aren’t shy to advertise it. If something is tasty why not call it tasty? Gotta love a place that has a restaurant for toast only and still donuts by hand only to sell them with green coconut custard.
Most of all, I love how you make me feel. How you turn me into a better, more patient version of me. You take everything that lives throws at you with a shrug and a smile and how that attitude has rubbed of on me. You taught me the art of how not get annoyed. Now I can laugh with the taxi driver who takes me for a detour because he doesn’t believe me when I try to show him the way. I don’t need to tap my impatient feet. I can take a breath and just let go. I wouldn’t even complain if I saw a poster saying Keep calm and eat Pad Thai, because really – doesn’t pad thai make everything better?
When I first arrived I was humming One night in Bangkok and that was supposed to be it. I will admit, I was looking for that one-nightstand. But now I realize that one night just won’t do it. Baby, I want to go steady!