After finishing a year teaching English in a Hong Kong refugee camp, Colleen and I decided to explore Thailand for a week. We were only acquaintances, having both worked for Refugee Relief but never teaching at the same camp.
Colleen and I flew as couriers, one per day, into Thailand.
I left first, with a mysterious sealed envelope. I handed it to my contact at the airport and stayed one night in Bangkok at the Alliance Mission Guest House.
Colleen arrived on day two, and then we stayed in a seedy motel room, where it was too hot to sleep.
As we traveled north, in search of remote, tourist-free Thailand, we ate delicious Pad Thai noodles for $1 a bowl and sipped coconut juice.
Thinking of the bold adventure ahead made me slightly giddy.
Visiting a fresh, foreign corner of the world can be an intoxicating sensory experience. It’s dizzying to absorb the new sights: alien looped letters on stop signs, golden-robed monks, whole dead chickens hanging in windows, and curious details tucked into corners of strange streets.
You sniff unfamiliar food, garbage and spices and hear exotic musical chatter swirling around you, causing an overwhelming sensory overload.
It’s extreme sporting in comfortable shoes, it’s base jumping with your senses.
In Thailand, I got tipsy with travel.
I was under the influence when we boarded the train to Chiang Mai – the only foreigners in a sea of dark heads and somber faces.
With an inner thrill, I threw discretion out the window, telling Colleen we should sing hymns aloud in the train. I did this obnoxiously as she sung half-heartedly.
We reached Chiang Rai. Our hotel was a quaint straw hut that provided beds with mosquito netting for $3 / night. We rented bicycles, visited temple sites, and waved at rural workers in the fields.
A young man drove up on a motorcycle and wanted to take us for a ride. We had no money.
“It’s okay. I take you.”
Colleen said no, she didn’t think we should.
“C’mon, let’s go,” I slurred, getting on the back of the bike.
She looked appropriately doubtful as she climbed on behind me.
We rode through the town and out into the countryside.
Rice fields, emerald terraced hills, and scattered huts flew past our eyes.
Diesel fragrance filled the wet, green air.
Our guide stopped at a hut and an old man with watery eyes tottered out, holding a strange pipe.
They spoke. We drove on, passing more green fields and a few more huts.
Suddenly a sense of danger washed over me and I was instantly sober.
Reality was this:
- We are out here in the middle of nowhere on a bike with a stranger.
- No one knows where we are.
I began to pray hard.
Our guide stopped at a house-on-stilts and introduced us to friendly family.
I felt nauseous and anxious to get home.
More green fields and a string of huts blurred by and finally we arrived back safely.
I think Colleen was irritated with me until we left the country– and I don’t blame her.
I had completely lost my inhibitions, swaying around Thailand with half a brain – until danger woke me up.
© Lisa M. Luciano 2018
(I’m reading a book by Anne LaMott, titled Bird by Bird. After reading the first chapter, I felt encouraged to mine my own brain to find stuff to write about. For better or worse, this story was taken from my catalog of life memories. )
Photo Credit:Bala Karthikeya Pavan Guda
Word Prompt: Catalog