house of happy

Life adventures in prose and verse. Explorations of places, people and words. Stories and fun.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Thai Trail 4 - The Skin of the City

Kira sleeps off her sticky rice nausea. We run out of excuses and finally venture out to see Bangkok. We don’t take the Guide and lose the map almost immediately. Hopeless.

Yet somehow we touch the skin of this city and it's gold and scales, leaf and leather, metal and mother of pearl.

There is a jungle growing around the steel blocks, over the river, under roads and rail tracks. The boat steers around chirping leaves and floating logs, we breathe spring and death in one gulp, and cicadas scream louder than building sites. Hand-in-hand and hat-in-hat, we float on...

At the snake centre, a python named Emma curls around my neck and for a moment it feels like she’s always been there. A dry, heavy presence forever there and about to strike. Is that what stops me from taking flight this minute? Could it be as simple as that? A toothless Thai man untangles Emma from my neck, lifts her away. Light and alight, I float on...

But there's a monkey with a good trick among the sleeping snakes. So although the boat is waiting, and although the word 'monkey' sounds so silly, we stay. Moona puts out a hand, and a hand comes idly through the bars to meet it. Ignoring the broad bean he offers, fingers like leather start to scratch and pinch a scab on his palm, then lose momentum and just lay there, in the cradle of Moona's hand, while we mist up and monkey takes a nap. Then we float on...

... to a hall where a prince is dying, with a river of tourists bubbling around him. Siddhartha, serene and golden, face like a sun shining equal from a thousand statues. The soles of his feet are larger, are darker, are harder than buffaloes and carry intricate treasures of mother-of-pearl. Anchored by all the gold leaf and the chatter of people and his own studded soles, and still trying to show how it feels to float away...

Instead it's us floating onwards. I still don't know the name of the island, but I know we're flying tomorrow and flying south. It's a start.


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