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Reminiscence on Thailand

  • Written by Anonymous
  • May 4th, 2007
  • 4 min read


Black Pagoda Patpong Bangkok

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• Days Inn Shenzhen


Bangkok, 1993

It had been my dream to travel the world for a long time now. I packed my bags and with a Lonely Planet in one hand and a plane ticket in the other I set out to discover the world.

Arriving at Bangkok airport, straight from LAX airport (LA), was very much a culture shock to a backpacker whose knowledge of SE Asia was limited to what Lonely Planet had to say about it. The heat hit me like a wet towel and it was all so noisy and chaotic. Had I just landed on a different planet?

I took a taxi to a cheap hotel, recommended by LP Thailand. It was a quite fancy hotel, with dorm rooms. I liked the fact that I could meet other foreigners since we would be in the same room. Having just started out as a backpacker, I was eager to learn the way of the backpacker by observing my roommates. Two of them would get up every morning and start meditating on their beds, while we were talking and be noisy all around them. They didn't seem to mind and would meditate unfazed for perhaps an hour.

One of those two was a guy. I don't even remember his name, maybe it was Michael. Let’s call him Michael. Ever since I arrived I had been bombarded with new smells, new sights, I was high on culture shock. This guy had an inner peace about him that made me like him right away. He told me he was from America and also Korean. He was maybe 24 or so. I felt comfortable around him and sensed he had a kind soul. We decided to do a bit of sightseeing together that day and we walked around. Since I had just arrived in Thailand, I told him I found it difficult to get around, like asking people directions and such. So he took it upon himself to show me the way of the backpacker. He also tried to teach me some Thai, like how I could ask for prices and such. Despite his efforts I didn’t learn much, I was lazy and still acclimatizing.

At some point we would walk past a little girl sitting on the pavement and holding up a brown dirty hand. She was pretty young, perhaps 4 or 5 years old. She was begging and she looked very poor and dirty. My first response was of disgust and of shame, such a girl shouldn’t be sitting there. Michael approached her and tried to talk to her. She didn't respond. We walked on and he told me he had seen her before and knew a few things about her. Her grandfather had trained her to beg on the street. Whenever someone would give her some money he would take it away and keep almost all to himself. Michael said it was very sad and he felt for this girl. He had written a letter to this grandfather and to try to persuade him to stop this practice. Michael wanted to help this girl, but if he gave her money the grandfather would take all. Instead we went to a supermarket. There he bought a huge bag of candy and some cookies. He explained to me that it would be better than just giving her money. I was touched by his kindness and care for this girl. We went back to the girl and laid down the candy and cookies. There was no apparent reaction from the girl nor did she say anything. It looked funny, a little girl surrounded by candy and cookies. We walked on, I don’t know what happened afterwards. I hope she was able to eat some of it herself.

I didn’t stay long in Bangkok, nor did I spend much time with Michael, but he made a lasting impression on me. In those days I wasn't interested in keeping contact so I didn't ask for his address. In fact I knew very little about him. He had impressed me with his altruism and willingness to actually help. From that day on I vowed to be a better person, more concerned with the welfare of others and less with my own.

Just before I left he gave me a book, saying that it had been given to him by another backpacker. He had read it and wanted to pass it on. He wanted others to read it, because it was such a good book. I took it and read it on the train I was taking. I don’t remember the destination of that train, but I had a sleeping berth and it was a long ride. I remember reading the story and looking out of the window. I felt good about being there and experiencing life. Later I passed on the book myself, to a very special girl. I told her how I got the book and I hope that the passed on the book herself.

Stickman's thoughts:

He wrote a letter to the grandfather? The old coot most likely couldn't even read English!