Sunday, December 31, 2000

Back in Bangkok

It's really our first time in Bangkok since the first time was just a quick overnight stay before catching an early flight on to Delhi and all I saw last time was the airport and hotel.

I have asked myself how I would describe Bangkok if I had just arrived from the states. I ask this because I recognize that I am making many immediate comparisons to India. I guess we all end up needing reference points to work with and there is no way I can comment on this place without looking at the last. I certainly do not want to make this seem like I'm putting India down knowing that place has a magic that does not exist elsewhere, but I need to get a handful of comparisons off my chest and move on.

Bangkok is clean. I'm talking both regular garbage and noise pollution. The streets and sidewalks are clean. (yeah - there are sidewalks). The many channels of water flowing here are not full of floating bottles... or at least very few. Maybe it helps that there are no sacred animals here, (it looks like they eat everything), so the streets are not filled with crap and the smell of Urincense is missing.

My knuckles where not white and my eyes stayed open the whole taxi ride through the city to the guest house. Maybe the best part of the streets was the lack of honking. It is so much more pleasant on the nervous system without the cacophony of horns.

It is such a relief to no be continually hassled. Everyone wanted something from us in India. They were always dragging us into their shops, pulling us into taxis, or just plane trying to get money for something and sometimes just for nothing. I don't have to say no to each and every rickshaw driver swarming the area and I have stopped muttering to myself, "if I wanted a damn rickshaw, I would be in one!"

The air feels cleaner and I can see the sky. I know that we were in the dry season in India making the place quite dusty so that everything seemed to be in sepia tones. Even the trees the had a brown dusting there and if felt like every breath was full of a lot of earth. Bangkok is lush with greenery and the city is vibrant with many colors.

Lastly, the people here are not in shock at the sight of me. I am not the center of attention at every street corner. I can pass a flock of school children without having to shake each and every hand. I don't have to pose for pictures with each group of teenagers. And although I still make a habit of keeping a smile on my face, it is relaxing that it is not necessary throw out huge grins to disarm the elders to make them comfortable with my presence.

Again, it is not that Thailand is better than India, I just feel the comfort here immediately after being such a gora (foreigner) in the last country. That being said, I think I can move on to the present without making too many comparisons to my last reference point.

Location:Bangkok Thailand

Full Moon Solstice in Varanasi

We took a moto-rickshaws down to the Ghats on the Ganga in Varanasi. We got there just at sun set as the full moon was rising over the river with an orange glow. The river is lined with temples that have steps climbing down to water where ceremony is preformed each day. In the morning, the people bathe in the river cleaning themselves physically and spiritually. Durning the day bodies are cremated and their ashes are sent floating into the water.

We hired a man to row us down the river in a small wooden boat to watch the evening puja (fire ceremony) the is performed along the banks of the river. It was a gorgeous way for us to celebrate the longest night of the year.

Location:Varanasi India