Deploy From Bunk
I rolled out of my bunk onto the floor around 7:30 am, opting to shower last night to save time. Plus, I would be soaked in sweat and nastiness in less than an hour anyways.
The temperature was in the mid 90s again today, Bangkok’s “cool” season.
I hadn’t eaten since yesterday early afternoon, so I got the “basic breakfast” from my hostel for just 95baht. ($2.95)
I wandered a few blocks south in the back alleys near the Chao Phraya river. The goal was to get on the Hop On Hop Off boat and take it upstream to see The Grand Palace and Wat Pho.
While walking through the alleys, I encountered many a stray cat and a dog as well. It was quite sad to see, but its rather common here.
Among many other things I walked past included a very large pile of brake calipers. They were just piled up like a crumbling mountain, at least 20 feet high and 10 feet all across. Can you imagine such a sight on your street in Suburbtown, USA?
I walked up to the dock to the river boat, after negotiating some rather deceptively narrow alleyways filled with struggling characters. This pier was hidden way behind the Marine Dept building.
I walked out to the large awning before the pier, continuing onto the pier itself. There was no one in sight.
No one to sell me a ticket or take my money or anything. The day before when I rode this for a very short ride, a lady was selling tickets from a very small table. Perhaps the boat was not coming here at this time.
The dock was teetering around, with a very loud and creepy squeal. I stood there and waited. Soon, I could see the boat coming up the river with it’s orange flag.
The boarding operator, we’ll call him, blew his whistle and the boat came gently crashing into the dock. I jumped on, and the large boat immediately resumed full power.
I have to say, the hop on and hop off boat method of transportation is probably my favorite that I have found thus far in life. The boat comes chugging up, people have just enough time to literally jump on and off, and the boat blasts away to the next stop.
Arriving at The Grand Palace
There was a couple in front of me speaking English on the boat, which was a first for my trip thus far in Thailand. Everyone seems to be speaking French.
The guy was asking his partner if this was their stop, when we made a brief stop on the opposite side of the river. I found out they were going to The Grand Palace, like me, and informed them that we had 2 more stops to go.
Little did I know that EVERYONE was going to The Grand Palace…
Enter Human Hive
The various internet beings told me it might be preferable to skip The Grand Palace due to the large amount of tourist crowds. No matter, I came all this way, a little crowd won’t hurt me at all.
Pardon my Thai, I had no idea what they meant by a f’n crowd….
After passing through the outside wall, I came upon probably two dozen different large tour groups. There were people from maybe 20 different countries, in various large clusters, all yelling in various loud tongues.
The wild combination of two dozen different forms of yelling and calls to attention had me bursting at the seams in attempt to hold dramatic laughter.
Their tour leaders were all trying to keep all of their groups together amongst the countless other groups. They all were holding 15 foot tall poles with flags, signs, various stuffed animals, and who knows what else in order to keep the group.
For a few seconds, I had to close my eyes and take a deep breath. This maximum level of tourism and general chaos was bit much to handle.
Walking into Sacred Ground
Now the fun is about to begin! We are all making our way into the Palace grounds, and we have become a slow moving shuffle of bodies. As we continue walking in towards the temples, I can’t imagine it possibly getting anymore crowded.
There are whistles blowing directing the flow of human bodies in and to the left. We are now all headed towards The Royal Pantheon, a temple within the Royal Palace Grounds.
No shoes are allowed in any temples, as is the case in many buildings througout Asia for respect. There are masses of shoes on shoeracks just outside of the temple.
The Most Beautiful Thing
The largest, most compacted mob throughout this entire journey, and my life, occurred as we began entering the Royal Pantheon. Walking up a staircase designed only for about 3 bodies wide, were about 50 people at one time.
As we entered The Royal Pantheon, we became even more compacted together. Everyone was touching each other in an unwelcomed way, with no way to prevent this.
The ornate decorations and architecture of the temple were simply unfathomable. Photos were strictly forbidden and I can understand why. This was truly the most amazing interior of any building I had ever seen.
I wanted to stop and look, but this was completely impossible. The bodies continued to slowly flow in from behind. We were all collectively one human paste at this time.
All of the people around me wanted to stop and look as well, but we continued flowing forward. The hundreds of people around me, whose nether regions were all firmly placed inside of the buttocks of the nearby tourists, continued slowly flowing forward.
Every second that passed, we moved a couple inches forward as one individual organism, despite our own efforts. For one thing, this was great as we got to look at the beautiful, simply indescribable temple for that much longer.
When it was all said in done, I had spent around 15 minutes inside of the temple admiring the completely mind numbing beauty of the sacred creation while slowly drifting to the exit.
Being apart of a conjoined human organism with no control over it’s actions was a whole other wonderful experience in itself.
After surviving the largest crowd of my life, I went and explored some of the other adjacent temples. These were not nearly as swamped by crowds, and I was actually able to sit and take everything in at this time.
While sitting inside of the temples and admiring the Buddha statues, many thoughts were coming to my mind, even some strange feelings.
My first thought was that coming to a place like this, while special and beautiful, does not necessarily improve one’s life or make them ‘an explorer’ in any sense of the word.
While I’m 9,600 miles away from home…which is pretty close to as physically faraway I can be on Earth’s surface…I am still drowning in a massive pool of tourists. Many of these tourists were completely ignorant of Thai traditions and showed little respect.
They walk into an area that says “No entry”, they try to wear shorts and tank tops into the temples, so on and so forth. Here I was, just one small being in a mass of 100,000 other people.
The Little Things
What is my point? If you do not have the means to travel to a far away land, that’s okay and even great! There are plenty of beautiful things to discover in your backyard.
My fiance and I have discovered SO MANY wonderful things within a two hour drive in our home state. There are literally *thousands* of miles of trails in Florida, and hundreds of springs. Forget about the beaches!
Do you know how many dozens of times we have found beautiful places for free within an day’s drive of our house? Countless! Do you know how many other people are there? Usually nobody!
If you want a change in your life, an adventure…it is truly best to start small.
Personal Reflection: Use All Time & Smother Doubts
After I thought about the crowded temples, I started having visions of the American west again. I truly love and miss those open lonely roads found in west Texas, New Mexico, Kansas, Colorado etc. I am so thankful for being able to take those trips.
Furthermore, here is something I want to keep drilling into *your* head everytime you read me…
DO NOT RUSH TIME! Do not waste time either!
It is the morning of January 30th. It seems like just twenty minutes ago I was driving to Cleveland, Ohio from Gainesville, Florida for Christmas.
We were leaving around 8pm for a 14 hour drive on the 23rd. I felt fairly sick and somewhat tired, but I knew I felt good enough that we could make it all the way there for Christmas. I still had many moments of self-doubt.
Before I realized it we were zig-zagging through downtown Charlotte, the halfway point, around 4:00am. I was wide awake and those doubts from a few hours before were a long gone memory.
We made it there safely and I got to see my mom and grandparents for Christmas. We saw snow for the first time in many years. Had I given into that silly fear…all of this would have been lost for naught.
Race Against Time
Yet on that note, the entire holiday blew right by my face before I could even see it.
I ended up seeing both of my parents. I spent New Year’s Eve with my fiance in our favorite town (St Augustine). Now I have been overseas alone for two weeks.
I thought about all of the other trips we had taken together. We have found many hidden treasures across the southeast states. Those trips to the west I already mentioned, I could preach about until you were sick of my very existence.
I realized that I have had the best possible partner for travelling and doing everything I have wanted in life so far. I have been so incredibly blessed to experience all of these little journeys that I always felt I needed to be the soul of my life.
If you have read this far, know that I just want you to stop what you are doing right now and write down one thing you MUST do in your life as soon as possible.
Do not think endlessly about this. Do not think, “Oh I have to pay this bill first, fix this car part, buy this gadget, feed my giraffe” or whatever.
You must pick one thing you MUST do before you die, and go do it. Time is swirling by all of us.
Do not underestimate the relentless power of time. It is far beyond the control of any living being.
It is even beyond the realm of our own understanding.
Go do something you need to do right now.
Great! Now that you are ready to start taking control of your time….here is a photo of me eating a Scorpion…
Look for more to come on Thailand’s many temples!