The Subtle Art Of Blending

Bangkok green spaces! #parks #thailand #skytrain

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If you’ve come here for a makeup tutorial, I’m afraid you’re going to be very disappointed – not just at my serious inability at the art, but also at this post’s lack of anything useful. I’m talking more in terms of our ability, as humans, to blend into whatever situation/geographic location/circumstance we are thrown into.

I’m coming up to two years in Thailand and I walk the roads that once cause me anxiety like its something I’ve always done. I am able to hail a cab and direct the driver without breaking a sweat. I walk past monitor lizards like they are neighbourhood strays. I add P’ (polite prefix that means brother or sister) in front of people’s name and end my  sentences with a ka, even when I’m travelling out of Thailand. I have blended in so much that I don’t even break a sweat at 37 degrees heat, I know the corners of the skytrain to squeeze into during rush hour, and I carry flip flops and an umbrella in my bag because duh, how could you not?

Humans have an ability to adapt to anything, and to do it without even realising it. When I went home for a short break home a few weeks ago, I casually mentioned something funny P’Thor did or that the mister’s favourite student is Boeing. It took me a while figure out that the looks of confusion and the extra jovial laughter was because they still think of Thailand, its quirks and culture, as strange.

I didn’t even bat an eye-lid when I found out that Boeing’s younger sister is called Airbus. I just nodded. It’s now a completely normal name to me. In my new world, evening markets are a norm, mom and pop ramen shops are around every corner, just next to a 7/11. Cats say me-o, trains make a ‘poon poon’ sound, and saying ka does not make you an imitator of crows! I am at ease with people in various stages of transition, and am never confused about what pronoun to use for whom.

Funny this transition from strange to familiar.

Ayutthaya: For When You Just Need A Stroll Through History

Aytthaya Railway Station

I am a big fan of losing yourself in a place that has captured time in a perfectly preserved loop. When all of the world (and its news) gets overwhelming, there’s nothing more therapeutic than taking a stroll through a site that vibrates with the exciting hum of history. Ayutthaya is just the place you need.

Ayutthaya UNESCO Heritage Site

If you have one day to spare, and approximately THB 20, you can be well on your way to experiencing this UNESCO World Heritage Site for yourself. Even more exciting is the opportunity to fill your Instagram with stunning Lonely Planetesque photos that will make you the envy of all your friends. All you have to do is go to the Bangkok Railway station at Hua Lamphong, and buy a ticket for the 8:30am train for THB 20 (you can buy tickets to a fancier carriage with AC but where’s the fun in that?).

Bangkok Railway Station

Here’s a pro tip for you: If you’re at the station before 8:00, you will witness first-hand something completely awe-inspiring. At 8:00 sharp, everyone stops what they’re doing, stands in attention, and lets their inner patriot shine to the sound of the Thai National Anthem, playing loud and proud throughout the station. If you’re caught unawares, and on the verge of a panic attack, put all thoughts of ‘No Escape’ out of your head (it was a movie based on FICTION!), and take it all in. While the gathering of all the guards can be a bit overwhelming, this is just as essential a part of the true Thailand experience as eating a Mango Sticky Rice is.

Train to Ayutthaya

The journey to Ayutthaya is in itself an adventure. The trains are old fashioned, and travelling on it doesn’t just take you to your destination, it also takes you back in time. It’s slow going but it’s the perfect way to ease into the Ayutthaya experience. If you’ve brought a book, it’s going to have to get used to feeling ignored. Your co-passengers and the incredible views outside the window weave a captivating story you won’t want to miss.

Ayutthaya Historical Park

The Ayutthaya Historical Park is technically an island and so you can rent bikes just outside the railway station, or try to navigate your way through a 100 tuk tuk drivers trying to catch your attention. My favourite way to get to the island is to cross the road from the railway station and walk down a small road till I see the Chao Praya River. Once at the river, just pay THB 5 and a kick-ass female driver will ferry you across to the island. If you’re a bit intimated by the lack of tourists using this option, don’t worry. It’s perfectly safe, albeit a bit unknown.

Wat Mahatat Ayutthaya Historical Park
Wat Mahatat: A restored Buddha, surrounded by partially recovered Buddha statues. 

Once you’re at the other side of the river, you can rent a cycle for THB 50, or a scooter for THB 200 a day. We went for the cycle option as it really helps give you a real glimpse into the ancient city. Ayutthaya is easy to navigate, but if your sense of direction is a bit off, your cycle will often come with a map.

Wat Mahatat Ayutthaya
Wat Mahatat: One of the most photographed ruins.

Walking into the historical park is mind-blowing. They are ruins, yes. But they are so monumental that your brain will automatically fill in the missing gaps. You can almost imagine the glory of Ayutthaya as it was in its prime. This was the capital of Thailand until the 18th century until it moved to Bangkok because of Burmese invasion. 

Here are some photos of my favourite temples.

Wat Phra Si Sanphet Ayutthaya Historical Park
Wat Phra Si Sanphet
Wat Phra Si Sanphet Ayutthaya Historical Park 2
Wat Phra Si Sanphet
Wat Lokayasutharam Ayutthaya Historical Park
Wat Lokayasutharam: Nothing can prepare you for the sheer size of this masterpiece.
Ayutthaya Traffic Jam
Ayutthaya’s version of a traffic jam.

The historical park is home to a myriad of temples, each with its own unique charm so you’ll never get bored. If you’re looking for a change of pace, you can always rent a ride on an elephant. When in Thailand, eh?

I’m Moved

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Sometimes the sunsets here are like paintings. Not the abstract stuff that makes you go WTF, but a soul stirring classic!

In fact, I was so moved, I’ve changed domains. Please change your bookmarks to thislabyrinthiroam.blog ❤ Show some love!

The Thirtieth Year

I’ve done it. I’ve managed to reach the grand old age of thirty by failing at every societal standard laid before me – my index finger is ringless, my hair is fashionably grey, my uterus is rotting to the sound of my spinsterhood and I have dared to have a good time nonetheless. Who would’ve thought that being a disgrace would be such an adventure? They should’ve made it less exciting, and catered it to my attraction to procrastination.

My 2016 looked like this:

Yay! #books #bookstagram #bookworm #goodreads

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1. I managed to read 48 books I can officially claim to have read. There are some I can’t claim to have read on account of threat of jail. Aren’t banned books the best?

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2. I got to hang out with sea-turtles!

3. I got the Broseph to come visit me. We had so much fun, his trip ended with me getting pneumonia (fun times!)

4. I got to see a Panda LIVE!!!

5. I got to hug my baby niece and spend 2 whole weeks being bullied by her (it was the best feeling in the world!)

thailand
Thailand
kerala-2016
Kerala, India.

5. I got to see 15 new places in Thailand. Not to mention the great towns we got to explore in Kerala, India, over Christmas.

2017 is my 30th year and I intend to go after adventure and happiness with the same (if not slightly more exaggerated) vigour! After all, I read some potty graffiti recently that said “Do more of what you love!”. If that’s not a sign, then I don’t know what is.

Happy 2017 all! Let’s make this one count!

Marking Anniversaries

Bangkok Skyline
The view of downtown Bangkok from my office window

I don’t have a track record of remembering anniversaries and important dates. These days, you don’t need to, thanks to Facebook and Time Hop. All you need to do is put up a post about it and it’ll remind you every year ‘On This Day’.

Very Convenient.

However, I have been trying to be less rubbish at it. I read somewhere that we are potentially the only species on the planet who’s aware of the passage of time and that just blew my mind. We know time flies, we know life is fleeting, and if we didn’t know any better, we’d just be stuck in a routine where one day is just like the other. I understand now, more than ever, why people get into knots about remembering anniversaries.

Today I have been in Bangkok and at this job for a whole year. If I didn’t take the time to look out the window and take stock of where I was standing right then and what journey got me there, would I be giving life the credit that it deserves? Just thinking back to when I first got here and how life has changed in the span of only 365 days makes me speechless. Even when everyday seems the same, you’re never the same person you were when you first started.

Life is never dull and constant.

Sometimes, to appreciate the true complexity and beauty of life, and your own transformation to the beat of the seconds hand, you just need to take a step back and really look.

Life is an amazing journey!

A stormy evening sky in Bangkok
A stormy evening sky in Bangkok

Happy Anniversary Bangkok. You have been challenging and eye-opening, you have been a comfort and infuriating. In not being home, and in sometimes being the exact opposite of comforting, you’ve raised me to be stronger, better, more resilient. In kicking me out of my comfort zone every single day, you’ve made my life throb with excitement! Thank you for a wonderful year!