Sunday, November 27, 2011

The 'Scenic' Route

Scenic: Of relating to natural scenery; representing an action, event, or episode.

Scenic is exactly what this weekend was.

Our first leg of the journey began in Wang Chan and to Bangkok.  Arriving approximately one hour late (on time in Thailand), we boarded the bus where the movie collection of Fast and Furious 5 and X-Men 4 were offered for our viewing pleasure - in Thai of course.  Next we took the Skytrain and a taxi to Samut Prakan where we met up with other OEG teachers.  Then we proceeded to a lovely bar called 4X4 off road.  The details are fuzzy - let's proceed to the good part of the weekend.

For our second day of traveling, we found ourselves at the Bangkok train station attempting to get to Lopburi for the yearly Monkey Banquet. However, the trains seemed to be working against us and we instead took an incredibly long trip up to Lopburi by van.  Good company - terrible traffic.  Eventually we made our way up the Lopburi Inn Hotel.  Monkey statues everywhere!

Our first night in Lopburi was like a reunion.  It's been one month since we've left the OEG orientation safety net of friends - and this weekend we were able to recreate the scene.  Outside of the Noom hostel bar the street was covered in Farang teachers eagerly chatting off each others ears and buying another round.  After one month of teaching, you definitely have some stories saved up for telling!

Now here's the best part of the weekend: Sunday.  I know I normally hate Sunday with all the bus stations and hours spent leaving behind good friends - but this weekend was quite the surprise. First, we were bombarded with monkeys.  The old city of ruins called Lopburi is known for its insane monkey population.  Each year they hold a banquet and provide tables of food (everything from fruit to candy) for the monkeys to indulge in.  As if looking at ancient ruins isn't cool enough (because I do love a good history lesson) we were able to get up close and personal with the creatures that inhabit them.  It's hard to even describe exactly how exciting this experience is.  If you get fairly brave (or you're just mental) you can get closer and have a few jump up on your shoulders for a light snack.  Here's a few pictures of our experience that might better summarize the intensity of this monkey buffet.

Last came the part that normally I hate - the departure.  We bought our train tickets back to Bangkok and boarded around 3:30 - again, about an hour late, yet somehow on time.    As the train took off, I couldn't help but admire the countryside of Thailand.  As someone who is not used to the city life, I have to appreciate the moments I get where there's nothing in sight but fields and mountains in the backdrop.  As we proceeded back south, however, the water levels began rising in the fields.  For the past month I've seen news reports continuously discussing the flooding around the Bangkok area but until this weekend it never truly set in.  Without seeing the destruction up close and personal, I never really saw it as a problem.  Sometimes when you're not directly affected, you tend to overlook just how awful a situation really is.  This changed for me today.  I saw family boarding a boat to paddle down to the market and children playing on small floaties in the deadly waters.  Shacks were halfway submerged and yet the people continued their lives.  As the train passed by they still smiled and waved at the silly Farangs hanging off the back of a train. Once again, a picture says a thousand words.  Unfortunately, I was unable to capture any real moments in the flood.  The mental pictures I took will definitely last me a life time.  Looking at the devastation not even a foot away can make you thinking about just how good you have it in life sometimes.  I often find it funny when people complain that the shower doesn't have hot water, and there are people living so close to them that no longer even have a home.  I thought by now the flood situation would be under control and mostly distinguished, but I guess when it comes to nature, you really have little to no control.

Sitting on the back of the train steps looking out at Thailand reminded me of why I came here.  I'm not here to party, I'm not here to waste time until the economy gets better back in the states and find a real job - I'm here because I want to be here.  I'm here because I want to find out exactly what kind of a person I am, and what kind of a person I have the potential to be.  There are thousands of opportunities here in Thailand to do something worthwhile.  I'll take the cold showers.  I'll take living in a shack.  I'm happy now even though I have much less.  Thailand - you've taught me so much already, and I can't wait to spend the next 5 (maybe longer!) months with you.

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