Monday, December 21, 2009

Back In The BeeKayKay

Bangkok ChinatownImage by Not Quite a Photographr via Flickr
Like sand through my fingers, it is all slipping away, and I can only watch the clock helplessly. At this point I have come full circle. The Bangkok that I arrived in is now the Bangkok that will initiate my return to familiar shores. Same city, completely different mindset.

About this, I am somewhat ambivalent. I would love to stay in this region longer, but I am also missing the familiar surroundings and comforts of my home. Nonetheless, I have two precious days left in the magnificence of Bangkok and despite my fatigue, I commit to not wasting these last few hours.

Fortunately for me, Bangkok did most of the heavy lifting in the waning moments. Once again, my greatest move was getting lost. I love walking in unfamiliar cities, but by now I was starting to feel familiar with the little corner of Bangkok that I had come to know.

My mission was take the one hour walk to Khaosan Road, so I could post a blog or two, have a drink and buy some gifts. My wayward sense of direction let me down once again. How is is that I can walk back to a hotel at 1am from this location, but I can't walk from my hotel to this location?

After heading in the right general direction on foot for about an hour, I began to realise that I was not going to Khaosan Road without assistance. Being the stubborn guy that I am, I refused to ask for assistance and kept walking.

Suddenly the crowd began to thicken and I initially began to think that a sporting event had just let out. As i continued to walk, I began to feel like a fish floating upstream.

One thing that puzzled me was the fact that 80% of the people that I passed were wearing pink shirts. In Thailand one should be aware of colours. Yellow represents the current government which came to power through a military coup. Red represents support for the previously democratically elected government. But why am I seeing all these pink shirts?

It turns out that I have unwittingly arrived in Bangkok during a magnificent celebration in honour of the King and Queen. I continue to press upstream against a sea of pink towards the buzz of the crowd, still thinking that I am heading to Khaosan Road.

I begin to hear music. Initially I think that it is yet another ghetto blaster selling stuff, but as I approach the pulse becomes deeper. I realise something is going on and all thoughts of Khaosan Road abandon me. I come upon a deep and wide avenue teeming with humanity. I estimate the crowd to be between 50,000 - 100,000 people.

Nearby are large television screens, and I see an orchestra playing, dancers dancing, and massive images being projected onto a large and majestic building. I turn around and begin to fathom that the events that I am seeing on this screen are happening live about three blocks down this magnifecent and humanity riddled avenue.

I have happened upon an annual celebration of the King and Queen of Thailand.

In Thailand, the king is seen to be empowered by God. He is also seen as a moderating political force. In short, in Thailand, the King is King. One should never climb over anything, as it may contain an image of the King. In Thailand you do not lick a stamp. The stamp contains an image of the King, and only animals lick things.

Needless to say, the celebration was astonishing and another unexpected delight. For two days the Bangkok night lit up with fireworks. Sadly, The King was not able to attend as he has been in hospital since September. Given the love for the King that I saw this weekend, I shudder to think how deep the mourning will be when he passes.

Long Live The King!