In my second month I was given two more London Heathrow flights, two more Amsterdam, Singapore and Bangkok.
For the first time since I moved to Dubai, I would be visiting a country outside of Europe and I was thrilled. This was one of the reasons I signed up for this job. I wanted to see places I probably wouldn’t have seen otherwise. And it was finally happening.
I remember when I arrived in Bangkok I felt like I had walked into one of those BBC Travel shows. I went out of the hotel with just a couple of directions in mind and just walked, taking in the sights and smells. When we think of Thailand we think of heavenly beaches, white bikinis and turquoise waters. Bangkok is nothing like that. It is a capital city so it’s busy, it’s teeming with people and traffic and there isn’t much natural landscape to see. Most of the crew go shopping (everything is incredibly cheap there) or have massages done but this was my first time on Thai soil so to speak, and I didn’t want to waste my time in a shopping mall. I started walking, map in hand (almost got run over a couple of times in the process. Their traffic lights are different to the ones I’m used to, so I’d cross when I shouldn’t. It was all very confusing). I visited a small local Hindu Temple where people were praying and offering gifts of some sort. They looked like fruit and flowers arranged in a round bowl. There was the same continuous chant in the background and everyone was walking barefoot. Except me, of course. I tiptoed out, careful not to attract too much attention and spent a couple of minutes just looking at the people. There were old people and middle aged people. There were youths as well, wearing casual jeans and polo shirts, kneeling in front of this golden statue, their eyes closed in prayer. The smell of incense, the chants, everything about the place made the hair on my hands stand up. I felt like I was intruding so I quietly left and headed down to the water taxis, my mind still brimming with the unusual images I had seen.
A river flows through Bangkok, called Chayo Praha. I got on a water taxi, unsure as to where exactly it was taking me and how I would get back. There were no English signs and although the booklet specified that it would be a round trip, I still had my doubts. I stepped on and literally went with the flow. I must admit that I was very nervous and couldn’t enjoy myself. And the boat was too crowded for me to make the most of it. After about forty minutes, I asked how I’d be able to get back and I was told to get off at the next pier and catch another going back. I did just that. The next boat was empty. I sat down at the bow, next to driver, feeling more at ease knowing exactly where I was going. It was magnificent. The sun was setting and I could clearly see all the temples which were lining the river. In the setting sun they looked golden. There was a strange cloud formation hiding the sun so the rays just burst from behind it, like the sun couldn’t be contained. I saw monks in their red and orange habits and their shaved heads getting on the boat. I saw dwellings jutting out of the river. I saw the most amazing temples I had seen in my life, literally side by side and clamouring for space. I leaned back against a wooden beam and just relaxed. And although I was completely alone, I wasn’t lonely. Sometimes, I think the world outside is the best company you could have, at least for a while. It is without a doubt the best teacher. It teaches you how to appreciate what it has to offer, how big it really is and how tiny you are. When you start travelling, you realise that the world makes you a more humble person, because you realise how nothing you actually are. How, in the course of centuries you are nothing but smoke, drifting around, trying to make a change and leave your mark somehow. I don’t personally think this is bad. It is this feeling which makes you humble and it is this spiritual, if you’d like, notion which makes you stand in awe, forever a child in this big world of ours.
The next day I visited the Palace of Wat Phra Kaeo, a beautiful architectural feat. Every little detail is adorned and the skill and craftsmanship which went into building it is really out of this world. We took a ride on a tuktuk, a local means of transport, like a motorcycle but with seats at the back. It was good fun, wearing the hats I and the two girls I was with bought at a market and taking selfies in the middle of a bustling Bangkok road. Good times.
Singapore is much more westernised. All the signs are in English and everyone speaks the language perfectly. I went out for a walk and headed towards Skypark, an observatory deck on top of a hotel which has the shape of a ship. The view from up there was amazing. You could see all of Singapore in a 360 degree radius. The city on one side and the harbour and gardens on the other. The weather wasn’t ideal but I thoroughly enjoyed myself nonetheless. It was a 30 hour layover so I even had time for some shopping in the evening. I found this really cute vintage shop at Raffles Mall just in front of the hotel. It’s tiny but I think I must have spent a good hour going over everything until I decided what to get. I think I have to thank God I didn’t have much money left at that point. I would have bought so many useless things. I dare anyone to leave that shop without buying anything. I assure you it is impossible.
Bangkok and Singapore were my first taste of the exotic and of places “out there” which just beg to be visited. In both countries, I found something which I absolutely loved and of which memory I’ll take away with me. I was finally starting to see the world, one layover at a time. And I was finally starting to comprehend how vast this tiny rock in the infinite cosmos really is.
Vast and diverse and so very beautiful. I do believe I’m falling in love.