Our Bangkok, Ramkhamhaeng

 

RamkhamhaengThough it happened years ago, I can still see the picture clearly—the day we met, the moment that set our history in motion. It was a bright Monday morning in November. We had met in the courtyard, waiting for class to begin in the small, windowless meeting room at the JL Bangkok, a featureless hotel on the outskirts of the city. We were twenty-somethings, disillusioned college graduates fleeing the desolate professional landscape of modern America. Gap years and career breaks were common among the Generation Y crowd; we were simply the next in line.

I moved from person to person as if I were striking up conversation with vendors at the farmer’s market. There was a girl with short, wavy blonde hair. She was from Wisconsin. A scar running down from her left eyelid split her cheek like a lightning bolt. We talked briefly, and then the door opened. I followed her into the room. We were learning to be teachers, and though we did not know it at the time, we were going to start a life together.

Every morning over the next two weeks, we met in the courtyard. We would often go to look for breakfast together, lost in the mysterious ebbs and flows of the language, picking out whatever looked good: coconut jellies, neon-colored orange juice, thick coffees that coated our tongues, omelets littered with bird’s eye chilies. We were curious, bemused, and growing wildly in love with Bangkok.

After class, we would break off from the rest of the group and explore the cramped neighborhood alone, slipping into the shophouse bars, noodle shops, and boutiques in Ramkhamhaeng. We shared stories, came to tears as we sampled fire-hot, inscrutable cuisine, and held each other up when we were riding on the boat that cut through the canals. At night, slipping between the shoulders of passersby on the cramped sidewalks, our bodies touched, too.

We talked about the past and the future, growing closer with every word. An audible charge, an extension of the colorful new environment that we had settled into, electrified our speech. Soon, there was no one else. Bangkok was ours and ours alone.

Saying that we got to know each other quickly would be an understatement—by the time the training course had come to an end, we were already a couple; a few weeks later, we moved in together. Since then, we have traveled all over the world. From the red-brick temples in Bagan to the cold streets of Hanoi in December; from my basement hideaway in the northwest corner of Indiana to the spray-painted corridors of Valparaíso; from the depths of loneliness to the highs of emotions—we have gone everywhere hand in hand. Separately, we left our lives in America and, together, we built one that began in the courtyard of a small Bangkok hotel.

At this time of year, with the holidays fast approaching, it is good to reflect on all that we are grateful for. When I look at pictures of the places I have been or read notes from my journal, my mind always returns to those first days at the hotel, where I learned how to appreciate beauty in everyday life—amor fati. History—our history—does not move in a straight line, and it never will. As we navigate its winding route, I can look back to Bangkok and be thankful.

About the Author: Craig was raised in a small Indiana town. When he turned 25, he moved to Bangkok, found a job and decided to stay a while. He has a passion for running, craft beer, and live music. Read more about him and his work at Odd Years Travel.

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