A total of five weeks I spent in Thailand though I don’t have many photos. In Phuket, my heart grew until it bursted–something I desperately wish I could talk about but my language is inadequate. Was it spiritual? Was is visceral? How do I separate myself from it and move on? Then I meant to go to to Khao Lak to go diving, but somehow ended up on a ferry that took me further south to Koh Lanta. By chance I met up with a friend there, and we frolicked around the island on our rented scooters (mine had pandas). There was an afternoon where we spent hours under the blazing sun snorkeling in bath temperature water. My first sunburn. Ever.
After that, we proceeded to Tonsai, then Ao Nang, took a dip in pitch black water while bioluminescent plankton sparkled around our moving limbs, then boarded an overnight train to Bangkok. My heart broke again. Hard to travel and bond with a friend and then have to let her go. But I was ready. I was ready to be on my own again. Then I spent another week wandering the smokey dark alleys alone–they were always more exciting when she was around. I boarded a plane to the Philippines, but I had to go back to Khao Lak, where I was even further heartbroken at having left the Philippines.
As I write this, my heart longs to be back there. Eating the street food. I loved the simple flat rice noodles that were more like pieces than strips, the stewed pork over rice with pickled greens, the fresh fruit you can buy anywhere. The ubiquitous massage parlors. The smell of durian. I loved even the sound of small women harassing me into buying things I didn’t need or want. “You buy! You buy!” Or the aggressive tuktuks. The exhaust fumes you breath in while on a motorbike (yes, I have a license for that, ok, maybe not really, but I’m going to say I do anyway).
I was alone here in spurts and then I had the best company. I remember an afternoon snorkeling with a setting sun in Phuket, the cabbage coral and blue parrotfish parading before my eyes. I remember kicking off at the surface and free diving deeper, the excitement choking at my throat and thinking, I could be like this, right here, forever. I remember days lazing at the beach, doing nothing, sitting and drinking fresh coconuts, and then going into the water, feeling the waves carry me. But those are just memories now and I will have to content myself with that.
I didn’t want to leave Thailand, but I couldn’t stay any longer. I had to go. But maybe the reality was, I didn’t want to go because the next part of the journey would be too difficult for me. Personally. And it would have signified that I have passed the midway point.
Then there were days of shadows and being steamed inside ancient stone temple ruins. Hot baked road whose dust rose and invaded the nostrils, building up until the passages were blocked for air. The dust also lingered in the throat. But my god. The plumeria. Every night. Plumeria. And Laos. Then Vietnam. I thought I favored Thai food. Nothing beats Vietnam. The essences and flavors of home in my mother’s kitchen, or even more painfully bittersweet, my father’s. Yet, this place was still foreign to me.
My heart feels different. I am different. Somehow I am home now but I don’t feel at home. Perhaps I will feel different in the morning.