My plan was to spend two days in Bangkok collecting my Vietnamese and Indian visas, tending to some general administrative items and trying to acclimate to speaking again and ‘normal life’ before heading south to meet up with the sailboat and celebrate Thanksgiving with friends. Things started off very well, a woman I met at Vipassana Camp, Sam, joined me at the hotel, I was happy for the company and to have someone to debrief with after Vipassana Camp.
My visas were collected without incident, Thai airways repaired my mangled luggage, I had an eye exam and new eyeglasses made for $40, custom-made knock-off designer jeans for $30 and bought a ticket for a flight to Krabi departing Wednesday around noon.
Tuesday night I had sunset rooftop cocktails and dinner with Meaghan (the woman who found this site during a search for silent meditation and who I am now happy to call a friend) and her husband Chris, who it turns out is friends with an old friend of mine from Jackson, Wyoming - further convincing me that I am one-degree of separation away from everyone in the world. Take that Kevin Bacon!
We enjoyed a wonderful seafood dinner at a restaurant recommended to me by a friend in France, and life felt easy. On our walk home after dinner Meaghan asked if either of us had heard anything about the PAL threatening to disrupt travel, I think I may have commented on how non-threatening a political group going by the acronym pal sounded and thought nothing more of it.
Wednesday I awoke and headed down to grab a quick bite to eat before catching a cab to the airport. What I found amid the fried eggs and muesli was a brewing shit storm, really no other way to put it.
My hotel was abuzz with worried travelers as the news began trickling in. The headlines we got were: “Airport Closed - No Way Out”, “Grenade Attacks”, “Shots Fired”, “Dozens Injured, One Confirmed Dead”, “City Workers Threaten to Strike”, “Possible Train Service Disruption”, “Threats to Shut Off Water and Power to Bangkok”.
Throughout the day the tone escalated from mild concern bordering on annoyance to outright panic, finally commencing in a general sense of helpless acceptance. The up to now vacant hotel bar was packed last night - nothing like a cocktail to stave off political unrest.
I spent most of the day trying to find a way out myself. A fruitlessly stressful day, the likes of which I hope to never repeat. Meaghan called in the afternoon and offered me a way to take my mind off the day’s events - an escape like none I had ever experienced before… The Calypso Cabaret.
For reasons I cannot begin to understand, Bangkok is home to many transvestite performers. The entire cast at Calypso currently is, or at one time was, male.
This caused me all kinds of confusion. You try to figure out where to politely focus your eyes when a scantily-clad, stunningly beautiful, gender non-specific performer starts dancing in front of you?
The Cabaret did the trick and for two blessed hours I didn’t once think about riot police or civil unrest.
This morning (Thanksgiving Day) I awoke to the news of India and once again I am reminded how truly fortunate I am. I'm a citizen of a country that just reformed it's government with the pull of a voting lever, not with violence or civil disruption. I am safe and well cared for. I have more blessings than I could ever list and, I hope, the awareness to lead an appreciative and gracious life.
While I am mildly inconvenienced by Thailand’s political strife, I am comfortably in a very nice hotel, filled with very nice folks and located on the Sky Train line making it easy to navigate back and forth between travel agencies, shopping centers and gender-line-blurring cabarets. Thanks to the visa requirements of Vietnam, I had to stay in Bangkok an extra day which meant I was not at the airport Tuesday afternoon, as I had hoped to be, and thus I was spared being stuck there for days like the thousands of travelers still sleeping on luggage carousels.
And now I am in possession of a ticket on the night bus to Phuket. Barring any complications I should be on a sailboat with friends and left over turkey sandwiches by noon tomorrow.
In this instance my hot tub to cold plunge pattern of balancing hedonism and meditation, quietness and raucousness, has served me well. Coming out of silence to the reality of Bangkok the past few days was shocking for sure, but I remain equanamous.
Goenka would be so proud.
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