Sunday, January 31, 2010

thai smile

I took a bus from Chiang Mai to Bangkok. It was only 9 hours, so compared to the 30-hour bus ride in Indonesia it was a breeze. The bus service was called VIP and it deserved the name by all means, the seats were as wide as airplane business class seats with leg rests and 4 different vibrating back-massage options. There were even several movies, in which everyone was fighting with one another every 10 minutes, the leading female actor having the fists and kicks of Jackie Chan, getting beaten up somewhere in the middle of the movie but always maintaining a perfect make up and hairdo. Seriously, they must have shown 3 movies during the trip and all had the same plot – or it was same to me as I didn't understand a single word that was spoken.

My hostel was on the opposite end of the town from the bus terminal and the taxi ride took over 45 minutes. As we arrived and the driver wanted to open the trunk to give my my luggage (which grew to a worrying size and weight after I lost all my senses and bought an embarrassing number of fisherman pants and cheap yoga t-shirts from the Chiang Mai markets) the trunk insisted on staying locked. The driver smiled at me, I smiled back and he continued to struggle with the lock. Hearing the noises, a few men from the surrounding shops came to see what's going on. The taxi driver told them the story they looked at me and we all smiled at each other. They tried to help him but after 15 minutes of struggle, one of the bystanders who spoke some English explained that the driver wants to go to a repair shop with me to get the lock fixed. I smiled in agreement and got back in the car. After 9 hours in the bus, I preferred a shower and some curry but apparently it was my day to be driven around. And this was an interesting ride, I was able to see some slums of Bangkok probably not many tourists have seen so far. The first repair shop we went couldn't manage to open the lock too. The mechanic, his assistant, his wife, his son, the taxi driver and I smiled at each other. For them it was probably embarrassing, so smiling was a way to save face. I was perfectly fine and enjoying the moment so smiling was my way of showing that I wasn't mad or anything. So the repairman's son (who was probably no older than 12) joined us in the car, to lead us to another mechanic. This time we've gone deeper into Bangkok through twisted roads or even dirt tracks and I started to wonder if and when I should start to worry if these guys are going to rob me... Well the most valuable thing was my camera and since the lock was stuck anyway, that didn't seem like the thing on their mind. The second mechanic was either more skilled or the lock realized that it was time to give up, but after a few tries he managed to open it. We all shouted in joy and smiled to each other. By the way I haven't seen the mechanics using any tools on the stuck lock. Their means of working was more of pushing, pulling, kicking. So maybe this guy had better muscles, I don't know. On our way back, we dropped the first repairman's son back to his place, waved hands and of course exchanged big smiles. After about 2 hours of adventure and drive, we were back to the hostel, me and my luggage were finally off the car. The taxi driver went out of his was to help me with my bags all the way into the hostel. Knowing that we were finally able to go our separate ways, we smiled at each other maybe 5 times, between exchanges of thanks.

It was a very Thai experience, something goes wrong and you smile, once it is fixed you smile again :)

In a way it is also very Buddhist, nothing in life is permanent, pain comes and eventually it goes away, happiness comes and at some point that passes too. There's no point it getting attached to a certain moment, feeling or sensation. It would only make you miserable as it prevents you from living the moment. Really, perhaps the best thing one can do is just observe and to smile.

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