By Emma. Cliquez ici pour l’article de Damien. Click here, here or here for photos of there.
Following weeks of quiet, space and slow rhythms in the Nepalese Himalayas, landing in Bangkok was surreal – the colours, the sleek modern veneer, even its name. “Bangkok”, a city name which isn’t. It’s a strange feeling when you realise that you are not actually where you thought you were. It’s maybe an Alice in Wonderland-esque sensation. Then again, “Bangkok” is only a name, a word, but, for me, it was an auger of things to come. A country that would dissolve into words. Anyhoo … Thais actually know their capital by Krung Thep (“City of Angels”), an abbreviated version of the ceremonial full name, “Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Ayuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit”,which roughly translates as “The city of angels, the great city, the residence of the Emerald Buddha, the impregnable city (of Ayutthaya) of God Indra, the grand capital of the world endowed with nine precious gems, the happy city, abounding in an enormous Royal Palace that resembles the heavenly abode where reigns the reincarnated god, a city given by Indra and built by Vishnukarn”. And yet, Bangkok it is. From those first surreal moments of our arrival, self-consciously travel grubby, to the moment we left, sun-tanned and relaxed to the point of a stupor, Thailand never once lapsed from the surreal into the convincing real. The country didn’t make my heart beat faster … but I don’t think it’s supposed to.
Bangkok is a fascinating place and a place I didn’t ever manage to figure out. It’s multi-layered, multi-textured. Skyscrapers and neon lights, wooden homes reaching for a storey, balanced on their river-licked stilts, speed-boats nestled in the elevated docks of private palaces carved from teak, malls of glass and mirrors built for the future, street stalls ready to vanish in a moment, temporal soap bubbles of temples and monasteries, the entire city is an enticing mix and match of old and new, of East and West. It is, above-all, a city where absolutely everything seems to be for sale. To go from the trapped, oily smoke Nepali cooking-fires, unspeakable squat loos and twice-a-day rice and lentils to streets narrowed with simmering, spitting, smoking stalls ofmouth-wateringly pungent food stalls, cinemas, designer labels and, joy of joys, Western loos was … bizarre. It was dazzling. Naturally, we fell head-over-heels into the incredible ease of it all. The frenzied consumer in me came out of its peaceful Nepali slumber and my brain shut down. I think it’s safe to say that I didn’t think for the whole of the time we spent in Thailand. I handed the camera over to Damien and I drifted along on that oh-so-comfortable Thai cloud of unabashed tourism. It was lovely actually – lovely in the way a massive ice-cream sundae is while you’re back-stroking through it guzzling as you go. That belly-ache is always going to appear though and trying to write this post, I’m definitely having a flash of guilt at the fact my to-see list basically evaporated the moment I lay on the masseuse’s mat in Wat Po. In my defence, the sky rumbled with thunder and this was my view:
Our incredible Dutch friend, Aafke, arrived in a whirlwind of emotion and all we wanted to do was talk, a lot. So piece-by-piece Bangkok, Krabi, Koh Lanta, Koh Phi-Phi and Chiang Mai slowly but surely disappeared into the words, a beautiful backdrop of bright absolutes to an intense two-week long conversation of laughter, tears, lulls and wonder. Thailand gave me my friend and this time, that was just what I needed, not a to-see list.
A little photo essay of our time in Thailand:
and finally, a bathtime coup d’état …
Note: The incredible underwater diving shots were taken by Steve Branson from Hidden Depths Dive Centre at Koh Haa. Thanks Steve!