09.05.2007 - 15.05.2007
View SE Asia & India 2006-7 on claireh's travel map.
Khao san Road. I am back. It is the last week of my travels. The last week as wandering nomad. The last week I can be anonymous. The last week I can use the excuse of 'travelling' to sleep late, walk around in bewilderment, laze around in cafes drinking beer with people I do not know, and generally be oblivious to what time and what day of the week it is. And it is my last week of living the dream. I am emotional. Everywhere I turn there are small but sweet reminders of my time on the road. The aroma of pad thai permeating the air around the numerous food stalls lining the streets, the sizzle when the egg hits the wok, colourful beads and carved wooden trinkets for sale in the make-shift shops smokey with the now so familiar incense, the 'bing bong' which sounds when the automatic door of 7-11 opens, bottles clinking as people with different accents share their life stories over a beer. The sound of excited chatter and laughter fills the space between the mass of bars, cafes and stalls lining the roadsides, and the numerous music stalls selling counterfeit CDs play my soundtrack to the last eight months. My eyes smart. As I walk the street drinking up the atmosphere, I am reminded of dancing the night away to Love Generation on Koh Phi Phi at Christmas, listening to James Blunt on the sad bus journey from Pai to Chiang Mai, singing Tracey Chapman around the camp fire in the Cameron Highlands, lazing in beach bars with Bob Marley rolling from the speakers. When I stop and listen and take a breath, life hits me. The intensity of emotion is incredible. But when I look around, it is as if nobody realises yet. Everybody is getting on with what they do. I want to go up to people and shake them. Do you know where you are? Do you realise how fortunate you are to be here? Do you realise you are living the dream? Do you know how special that is?
I am checking into D&D for my second night. I am late for check-in, I got distracted by some tempting jewellery for sale. I turn my head to the right just as my old travelling buddy Zaf turns to the left. We did not expect to meet here. Another wonder of life on the road - when someone you meet thousands of miles away turns up at the same hotel on the same road in the same city at the same time. And also late for check-in. Perhaps the world is not so big after all.
Zaf is also enroute back to London. We go for a farewell night out. We park ourselves in a bar along Khao san Road with a bottle of Thai whiskey and listen to the resident band. As the whiskey warms the cheeks, I slip off for a while. When I return, I hold back and spectate quietly. I see people Zaf met diving in Koh Tao, some friends of theirs they met on the way, and some other travellers they ran into at the hotel and invited along. There is some deep conversation, laughter, silliness, excitement, singing, and dancing among such an unlikely group. I ask myself whether this would ever happen at home - people from such different walks of life, all on different paths, meeting and enjoying a moment of their lives together, despite only meeting that day. Most likely not, I conclude. I will miss the openness of travellers. The carefree, non-judgemental attitude, and the pleasure it brings.
I meet Aitana and Gaelik who I spent time with in India. They are travelling through Bangkok and decided to stop for a few days. I am glad as I have missed them dearly. They mention that a Polish guy they had made friends with is joining us for dinner. It is the same guy I shared dinner with in Pondicherry. I meet Magnus, a lad I met in Malaka. He is working in Bangkok. We go to a bar with a group of expats, head on to an illegal club which the police raid at 3am, then to another suggested to us by some Thais hanging around on a street corner near Lucky's. They put us in a cab, follow on a bike and meet us there to ensure we get in. They did not come in to the club, presumably going back to their street gathering. We did not even get the chance to thank them. They did not care, just waved us goodbye from the back of their motorcycle as it sped off down the highway.
It is raining most days in Bangkok now. The monsoon is here, the travellers are moving south to Indonesia. As I sit in cafes curled up with a book and a cup of local tea, I people watch and soak up my travel soundtrack while waiting for the rain to cease. I spot the 'new' lone travellers sitting nervously by themselves, playing with the labels on their Singha Beer. Sometimes I do not care for company now, but I remember those lonely days when I first set out on my epic adventure when I would will that someone talk to me. Sometimes I rescue them, but more often than not I am happy just to sit and be quiet. It is a journey we all have to make, after all.