Thailand Will Be There Again
I often wonder about what changed for me. When did I start searching for another place, or another endeavour, instead of sticking with the original plan for my life?
Thailand sometimes seems like it materialized in my psyche out of nowhere. One day it was just the name of another country I haven’t been to, and the next it was sometimes all I could think about.
There are some easy answers here. The beaches, the food, the nightlife and the women. On a sensory level, it’s an easy pick for a vacation. But then there’s the stuff that comes after you’ve visited the country. The attractions given to a man yearning for adventure. The escape of the mundane civility of western culture, the intoxication of madness and spontaneity that is found in exploring the country, and the bold sense of self that is found in being a foreigner, an immigrant, a farang in the kingdom.
These things go deeper than a tropical beach with perfect white sand, or a 50 baht pad Thai, or a fancy hotel on a bargain. This gets into the roots of what we wanted to find when we grew older. A new, and entrancing world to explore.
The year was 2016. I had found myself 30 years of age. My years in the music and nightlife industry were coming to a close, and though I would miss the rollercoaster of a life I lead, I would not miss not knowing where my next pay cheque would come from, or miss the cocaine addicts and sociopaths that I worked with.
I was too old to borrow money from mum and dad anymore, and wanted more control over my day to day life. I soon obtained a good but mundane job to pay the bills, and opened a small studio to keep my fix of making music. Life was stable but began to slowly dull. The loss of the nightlife meant my choices for romance were not to my liking. My last girlfriend, gorgeous but a sycophantic party girl, had left me when I refused to get married and have children within a year’s time. I wasn’t ready for that. The only other woman I had loved was an American Apparel model that used to have me tie her up in the bedroom, and send me photos of her not wearing underwear while at school doing her Masters. My standards for a partner were shallow, ludicrous and niche. I soon found myself a solitary creature.
It was in 2017, when I slipped on a patch of ice walking to a Christmas party, and fractured my right ankle. I sat on the couch for 6 weeks in the dead of a Canadian winter, feeling the lowest I had ever felt. I needed something, a way out, an escape from this world, at least for a while. My sister had come back from a trip to Thailand recently, raving about it. Having a standard job meant for the first time I could travel somewhere not to do with work on an actual vacation. So sitting there on my couch with my broken ankle I booked a plane ticket 6 weeks from then, unaware of the motion of change I had just set in my own life.
Weeks later, on a mended but fragile ankle, I took off from the airport in a snowstorm by myself. 20 hours later, I was taking in the kingdom for the first time. I remember feeling afraid, but alive. Everything was new. Everything was different. I explored countless streets in Bangkok, ate strange, insanely spicy and delicious food, and explored Chiang Mai, Krabi, Koh Samui, Koh Phangnan, and Koh Tao. I met travellers from all around the world, drank beer on the dollar, and played pool to the late hours of the evening. Also, like many before me, I discovered the red light districts of Bangkok.
In these travels, I regained what I felt I lost in my life, and also found places that I did not know existed. I felt incredibly lucky to have found Thailand, and also privileged to be able to visit and enjoy what it had to offer. I liked myself in Thailand. This young man from the north-west out here on his own, finding his way in another world, meeting backpackers from Denmark, divers from France, and young ladies from Isaan. A man not afraid to wander down a back alley in a mega-city, or to climb on the back of a truck to hitch a ride to Udon Thani. A man happy with his station in life, unbothered by the expectations of western society. I was liberated, and I had a new lease on life.
I came back to Canada, darkened by the sun, but with a lighter spirit. I returned to the Western world. Happy to have some things like good bread and cheese, less happy with other things. My friends would be excited to go to the latest brewery tap room, another gentrified box with exposed ceilings and new wooden tables. The beer was too heavy, and not cold enough. I visited the beaches in the summer, rocky and muddy. Everywhere I went felt familiar and safe. It was not long before I was planning another trip, and then another. It’s the hobby I never expected in my faintest of dreams, but it did give me meaning.
Set our watches to 2020. When the pandemic hit hard I was in Thailand. Two days before I was scheduled to leave, work let us know we would be working from home. I gave pause. What if I stayed here? I could work on my laptop, say I wasn’t able to get back…. stay in Thailand. After much thought, I eventually decided against this and boarded a plane on the very day Bangkok shut down all the bars. I still remember sitting on the balcony outside Tilac on the last night, wondering when things would ever return to normal. Wondering when we could return. I often still wonder what it would have been like if I had stayed.
Time passed, lockdown became life, and summer in Vancouver was beautiful. I became a bit more contented to be home, though I put some palm trees in the backyard. I had a new appreciation for being able to return from the madness, and then reset myself. I exercised a lot, biked to the beach with friends. Life was good. Recently, I found myself dating a western woman again. A good one. Kind, intelligent, and reasonable. Things have got serious and I’m now wondering what the future holds. I cannot live two lives, and I’m not certain which one to choose. I don’t know when I can visit the kingdom again, or what it will be like upon my return. All I can do is take it day by day and remember that Thailand will be there again, if I want to go back.
This really resonated with me. Oh, the opportunity cost of some of the decisions we make!
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