I’ve come under the magical spell of Thailand and its people.
Magic is an overused expression. But I use it today to best describe my recent seven-day business trek to Bangkok. The city, the people, the sights, the sounds, the culture swept me away.
I am not here to write a travel blog. I want to share with you some reflections on a way of life that gave me time to pause. Time to pause and think about my own conduct as a human being.
I loved the way Thai people communicated in the most simple forms. Hello. Good Morning. Thank-you. Please. Handing over your check. I have become addicted to the poetic bow and clasping of hands that accompany the greetings. Men say “sah wah dee khrap” with a short and sharp finish and women say “sah wah dee khaa….” in a drawn-out manner.
This greeting is not said quickly or taken lightly. It’s ceremonial. It’s purposeful. It’s intentional. It makes me embarrassed in the way I mumble hi or grunt good morning. Often to the most important people in my life. For people in Thailand, hello feels like it means much more.
It was hard for me not to feel reflective in Thailand. No, I am not about to become Buddhist, but the public and powerful way that Thai people worship was nothing short of addictive to me. Thai people pray and reflect in gorgeous temples, in parks, at street corners, and shopping malls. Everywhere one turned was a shrine, many of them the size of hot dog stands, others statuesque. Opportunities to light oils and candles, or places flowers or other decorations are a part of their daily life.
I have to admit sitting on a bench outside of one temple and just being overwhelmed. I knew nothing of the prayers being shared by the people on the mats. There was no way for me to interpret the conversation of the monks walking past me. The symbols and emblems did not provide any signals to me. Yet I knew I was somewhere else other than inside my flesh and bones. At least for a moment.
The power of the pause is sometimes foreign to me. To pause and listen to the world around me. Not just the endless voices. Knowing there is something more substantial to hear. Maybe I am dreaming, or have been fooled by none other than myself. But I don’t know. There is something to be said for a spate of reflection.
I know the moment of Thailand I saw, was somewhat illusional. I was a tourist in a land that while it is still reinventing their economy, places an exceptionally high level of importance on tourism. The service levels were amazing. But more importantly, people everywhere seemed in great spirits. The buzz and energy of their street markets, floating markets, and food markets was undeniable. It’s such a unique way of life, that isn’t feasible in cold weather North American markets, but I wish it was. Just walking through the markets in the mornings and watching families walk and feed their children breakfast at the same time was a joy.
I also know the moment of time I was in Thailand was magical. I was there during their New Year’s celebrations, it is now 2561 BE (Buddhist Era) in Thailand. They take New Year’s in Thailand very seriously. Days of partying, water gun fights, and spending time with family are enjoyed. Water gun fights? Yes, the Songkran Festival is a nationwide water fight. For decades, people have been equipping themselves with buckets, water balloons, and massive blasters to douse each other in the happiest organic event you will ever see. It happens all over the country and Bangkok has several massive events, one covering over 5km on a single street!
The spraying of water is also symbolic in Thai culture. The water represents respect, blessings, purification and a fresh start. In essence – magic.