Pulled quickly to the side, one of many tuk-tuks zoom by. The streets are filled with these little carriages as they ride along side transport trucks on the side streets and highways. You take a deep breath and take in your surroundings. Kids circle you as their laughter fills the air and their smiles light up the sun filled sky. Vendors line the walkways and although you’re not quite sure what it is that they are serving, it smells delicious. Fresh fruit calls your name in the blistering heat as you try to imagine the last time you were in 45C weather. Fresh mango and coconut sounds good right about now. You give in and 20 batt later, your sipping fresh coconut water straight from the fruit with a bendy straw. Everything is better with a bendy straw.
“Ferry boat tickets here! 14batt one way!”
You’re standing on a rickety ferry as you commence your trip across the Chao Phraya river. You can feel every wave under your feet as you clutch the railings. Your eyes drift over the polluted water and fixate on the scenery surrounding you. On the right, the river city and Chinese/Indian markets burst to life. Scattered between the bright colours and grandeur metropolitan buildings lay broken down huts and homes. Poverty and privilege have become silent neighbours and the world keeps on turning. The left is a different sight, the symbolic architecture of Wat Arun marks the skyline. Rays reflect off its white surface, making it almost angelic as the Chinese influence humbles you in its rich history. You’re snapped back to the present as the whistle blows and crashes into the docks. This is your stop.
“How do you reckon they clean him?”
Craning your neck the giant standing golden Buddha hovers over you. Standing over 40ft high, you become an ant standing in his shadow. His feet are rubbed brown from prayer and flowers laid before him as a sign of respect. You can’t help but smile as he watches over all those below him. An odd peace washes over you as you turn towards another small alley. The glowing eyes of street cats watch you as they guard their fish. As you turn the corner, a familiar face greets you. Tuk-tuk drivers really are friendly. As you hop onto the colourful seat, you’re once again whisked away down city streets towards the Grande Palace. The first thing that you notice are the white walls that guard its entrance. The second thing is the monk. Did you say monk? You meant monks.
Orange robs surround the exterior of the home, and chants fill the air. Child monks follow their elders and one little boy struggles to catch up as he holds his satchel. It’s coronation day and festivities have begun. The palace is closed but police officers sit in clumps laughing with patriotism as locals begin to honour the royal family. Over in a corner, a group of guys play hacky-sac as once again the smell of fresh BBQ fills your senses. The grass is a lush green and you wonder how a city so hot can be so green. Monsoon season, that’s why.
“What time is check-out again?”
You repack your backpack in the air conditioned hostel. The coffee coloured walls and murals of cats plead you to stay one more day. But it’s time for you to leave. The weight of your belongings resting on your shoulders have become lighter. You have more things then when you arrived but the memories that fill the pages of your journal and that have now stained your clothes have made everything lighter. You remember a quote as you take one last look at the city. “There’s something about arriving in new cities, wandering empty streets with no destination. I will never lose the love for arriving, but I’m born to leave.”
“All passengers to Chaing Mai, please board now.”
Deep breath in. Time to go.