Strange Faces, Familiar Places

Yesterday’s arrival in Bangkok brought with it a feeling of ease; a feeling of home. I’ve never been to this part of the world before. I’ve never heard these particular noises, never taken in these particular smells. There is no one here I know. And yet, curiously enough, I felt a feeling of “coming back.” There’s a familiarity here, as though in some other time or some other life I’ve already been here.

Chiang Mai is very much the same for me.

I arrived by train at 7:45 this morning. Riding into the station, I saw the mountains rise up around us. Their color was that dark blue that mountains get in the early morning light – I know you know the color. Banana trees lined the tracks and I thought of my own home.

I hopped into a taxi bus with some other people and headed into the thick of it. The driver quickly took down the names of our hostels –it was all hand gestures and a muttering of random sounds. I trusted it and off we went, zipping through streets, motorcycles weaving around us. One of the couples in the taxi with me was Dutch. When it was down to just them and I, they started talking about how they’re so happy they’re together. “Yea the driver doesn’t really seem to know where he’s going, right? I really wouldn’t want to do this alone,” the girl said. She smiled at me, not knowing I understood. I smiled sweetly and silently at her, and I thought -ha, I’m actually very happy that I am.

My bed in the hostel wasn’t ready yet, so I went for a walk. Less than a block away I stumbled upon a Buddhist temple. Evidently, it was prayer time. The lanterns that have been hung all over the city fluttered in the wind, the chanting over the speakers was entrancing. Shoes littered the stairs to the temple, as they litter the stoops of every place you enter here. Everyone sat inside, deep in prayer.

In the garden, zodiac statues stand under the shadows of the fluttering paper lanterns. Novice monks (they couldn’t have been older than 13) sit in study, muttering their prayers out loud.

I don’t understand any of the words, I didn’t even know the name of the temple until after I had left and could Google the name in English (it’s called Wat Lok Moli). And yet even though I don’t understand it, I feel like a part of something here.

There are candles everywhere. Candles shaped as lotuses, candles in little dishes, candles on plates. I’ve been told that at night you’ll see them flickering everywhere. It’s a holiday after all: the Festival of Lights.

Tonight I’ll get to experience it, something that’s been on my bucket list for years. Tomorrow I will tell you all about it.

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