Suddenly I’m in Bangkok.
Well, not super suddenly — there was a lot of hilly cycling, and a border, and more cycling — this time more easeful — some cultural activities, a van ride.
I’ll write about the bike trip later — this is about my 18 or so hours in Bangkok, and my constant rediscovery of how much I love traveling alone.
My cycling group was fine, nice people — though no group will ever compare to the aussies I climbed kili with 10 years ago. We were a team.
But every time I take a group cycling trip, I’m reminded that it’s cycling on my own that actually makes me happy. I’m not intrepid enough to do that in SE Asia — roads don’t have names, and google doesn’t see them. No one speaks English outside the city. I get lost enough in Lithuania. To see Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Bhutan by bike, I needed to put myself in the hands of organizers. And it’s great — but there is a big part of me that can’t relax when I’m operating on anyone else’s schedule, performing the relational dance of eating every meal with strangers, having to be apologetic for going to bed after dinner most nights. By that I mean this kind of interaction:
Me: thanks for a lovely day, I’m going to turn in and read
Group: oh are we that boring?
I got to Bangkok and I was on my own, in a low/mid range hotel on a canal originally built as a city moat. I could breathe.
I wandered over to the kao san road area to find a Thai massage ($11 for an hour), then a remarkably good dinner in a cosy tiny restaurant. I read Harry Potter while reassuring my busy server I was fine. I was more than fine.
I walked to the river, and through the tiny canal neighborhood. People’s living rooms are canal side, rows and rows of potted plants framing green, tables and platforms, birds in cages, a cat or two demanding pets, and even a little gym.
Scooters and bicycles pick their way through the tiny path. I passed one group of teenagers three times. The first time, they were drinking wine with biore strips on all their noses. The second time, one was hanging garland and New Year’s Eve decorations. The third they were all slumped over their phones in silence.
I went to bed after dinner without apology and was asleep by 930. Bliss.
I remembered a good run in a park the last time I was in Bangkok, and scouted out the closest version for an early run.
This park has a trail around it that runs about 600m and a well equipped outdoor gym. For 30 baht (about a dollar) you can lift all the weights. There were no women there.
I joined all the other runners and walkers in a counter clockwise direction. At 8 am, music came on the loudspeaker and everyone stood at attention for a minute or two. I caught on when I realized I was the only one in the whole park still moving.
The roads home were half empty, many shops closed for the New Year holiday. I sang along out loud to Kelly Clarkson as I trotted back to my hotel, past Wats and museums and giant images of the king, completely happy. My own rhythm.
On to Singapore.