I felt a true surge

I felt a true surge of joy as the sensual tropical air surrounded me, melting away all the recent anxieties of my life in Beijing. I had just arrived in Bangkok, that most magical of cities where, despite the pollution and the traffic and a fair amount of poverty, people still manage to smile and display a gentleness unique to Thai culture. No, it’s not paradise, but pretty close. For me, just being in Bangkok, just sitting in my hotel’s coffee shop and looking out at the plush green vegetation and the people passing by, I feel lifted up, overjoyed — I feel alive in a way that I have not felt for the past four months. I don’t know how I will get back on the plane to Beijing on Saturday.

In my three-star hotel, the Thais all give me the warmest smile when I ask a question, they greet me as I walk past, they are all nice. This morning at breakfast I got into a conversation with a group of travellers (Danish, Italian, Thai and Hong Kong), and we remarked on the phenomenon of “the Thai smile.” The Thai fellow explained to us how at a very early age his parents taught him that you smile when addressing others. It is an aspect of Thai culture that is irresistible.

I came here for only one reason: to relax and exult in the warmth of this joyous place. I am not going to the bars or the go-go shows around Pat Pong or the steamy places that have made Bangkok the tourist destination of choice for so many Westerners. I’ve seen them already, and it gets to be a bore after the initial astonishment. Thailand seems to cater to every conceivable taste, offering choices for whatever you might be looking for. This time I am looking for some spa treatments and rest, and there is no better place than here. This morning after breakfast I just sat outside by a little waterfall reading One Hundred Years of Solitude (talk about magic) and feeling at peace in a way I haven’t felt for so many months.

I apologize if I sound like a gushing fountain, but I can’t help it — I had forgotten what it meant to feel happy, and believe it or not, tears just came to my eyes as that fact dawned on me. Let’s face it: I really don’t belong in Beijing. The city doesn’t match my temperament, my romanticism, my need for self expression. My need for warmth and comfort. Beijing is many, many things. It is not warm or comfortable. Intriguing, mysterious, home to many marvelous people….but not warm, not comfortable.

I will be blogging very little here, but had to get these feelings down while they were fresh. To those of you who have never been to Bangkok, all I can do is ask what you are waiting for. I have felt as if I were floating for the past two days.

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