For spring break last month, we returned to our old stomping grounds–Bangkok, Thailand. Not only was it a fun and relaxing trip, but it made me realize how isolated I had been the last nine months of living in Taiwan and how much I had been yearning for the quirks of the country and its people and authentic connections with other human beings that are so rare here.
Within 24 hours of being there, we were reminded of the whimsy of Thailand and the open nature of its people. The morning after our arrival, we were awakened by a parade in the streets, with music playing loudly and people dancing down the street while rush-hour traffic casually moved around the parade. We learned from our waitress at breakfast that it was a Buddhist ceremony of sorts.
After breakfast, we took a walk around the hotel where we stayed the night. Strangers called out to greet us in Thai, and some people came up to my son to give him high fives. Things like that would never happen in Taiwan. When we came upon a large group of people wearing Boy Scout-like uniforms entering a temple, I asked a guard standing close to me what was happening. When he had trouble responding in English, he called over another guard to help, and others gradually came over and surrounded us to help and offer support. The second guard was able to convey that it was a volunteer event to honor the King. When we showed that we understood, the others around us cheered. We then stayed to speak and joke with some of the people for a few minutes. This took place within the span of only a few minutes; yet, true connections were made.
During the week we were there, we visited our former school and our friends and students there. Everyone was happy to see us, greeted us warmly, and asked us to go back to work there. Even the janitorial staff went out of their way to say hello. It did us a world of good and cheered us up considerably to be able to bask in the warmth and affection of the people there once again.
Besides seeing and visiting with people, we also got Thai massages, which we have missed since leaving Thailand. We visited nearby temples and markets, ate a ton of authentic Thai food, and visited the village and the house where we lived. Seeing all those places and people again brought back so many fond memories.
The most fun thing we did was take a cooking class together as a family. We took it with a school called “Cooking with Poo,” named after the woman who runs it–Chompoo (“rose apple”), with “Poo” being her nickname and a funny play on words in the English language.
We first got a tour of the biggest market in the Khlong Toei area, where anything and everything ranging from rats and insects to spices, curries, and exotic vegetables and fruits are sold cheaply. We then went to the site of the cooking lesson, where we each made three dishes–pad see ew, beef with cashew, and green curry. Everything was delicious. Afterwards, we were treated to many different kinds of local fruits, mango with sticky rice, and spring roll wraps stuffed with candy. Yummy!
Because we stayed with friends in the suburbs outside the city, it was a hassle getting into the city. The traffic seems to have gotten a lot worse since our move away. We had also forgotten about the crazy driving in Thailand–people drive very fast, even in traffic; they weave in and out of traffic; and they drive very, very close to the vehicle in front of them. And most taxis don’t have seat belts! I had to close my eyes through most of our taxi rides. Because of the stress of riding in taxis and the traffic, we scrapped several plans that took place in the city. I did not miss planning around the traffic and dealing with the crazy driving.
Being back in Bangkok led us to think about whether we would consider moving back to Thailand at some point, and to be honest, I’m not sure. While we have missed the culture and the people there, we also don’t miss the humidity or the traffic. The thought of dealing with those stresses on a daily basis is enough to give me pause. But part of it may be because we are burned out–from all the moves we’ve been making, from the frequent transitions and constant adjustments we’ve been making the last five years. Maybe after staying put for a few years, we will be up for more adventure again!