Alumnus Blog: Thailand Revisited
travel and change
by Jon Rhodes '08
Where does one begin when recounting a story? Do I first start with our food exploits? I could talk about how we feasted on locusts, grasshopper and a local fruit called durian, a fruit that is illegal to eat on trains in Malaysia due to its smell and has been likened to skunk spray with a hint of sweetness. I could start with the elephant rides through the jungle. About how some places take great care of the magnificent creatures and then about how some places don’t. I could begin with the train rides. Here is where we met the only two American travelers on our entire journey and wonderful globe trotters from Holland, England, and France. Maybe I should start with the beautiful scooter rides through the mountains. Or I could begin with the riots, the violence that
sprung up, and a country buckling down for the "Red-shirt"confrontation. No — I will start from the end. We flew to the United States via Tokyo, Japan. This was an adventure unto its own, never before had missing a flight turn into such good fortune.
We sat on the runway waiting to be taxied into our off loading dock. We sat, and we sat and we continued to sit for well over an hour and a half. When we got off, the flight attendants were busily trying to find us new flights and we were joined by two very disgruntled fellow travelers. The two travelers were adamant about getting a flight within the hour — full or not. Having just arrived from Thailand, Joe and I took a different approach to the matter at hand. We insisted they take their time. After all, we were in Japan. Twenty minutes later, we suggested a flight leaving the next afternoon. They were pleasantly surprised and offered to give us free hotel stay, three free meals, a free upgrade to business class, and then because we looked cold, they gave
us free fleece jackets. This was by far the best missed flight.
When Joe and I left Thailand, we left behind life-long friends. Renee, Amy, and Audrey were people we met on our second day and we continued to travel with them during our stay. Like us, they were only visitors in that beautiful land.
We also left behind a country on the eve of chaos. The red-shirts, the military, the police all massed together right beside the tourist district. Gunfire could be heard. Propaganda echoed down the alleyways. Blood filled the streets. And every few blocks, we were reminded of the ensuing confrontation by blockades and groups of protesters.
Somehow, with the world crumbling around the Thai people, they still managed to inspire a great sense of awe. In the face of utter political disaster, the people continued to believe in the "soombai soombai" way of life. This is their version of "go with the flow." That is exactly what we did. As the world behind the walls got crazier, we simply moved on from city to town and town to village. The chaos seeming to follow in our wake.
Although we were seasoned travelers, we returned changed. We gained a deep respect for the Thai people. To be as happy as they are in the situation they live in shows they have figured something out; something worth striving towards. And like any traveler, we cannot help but feel the longing to return, at least for a moment, to a place so majestic. As my friend would say in Portuguese, "Saudade bate na coraçã."
PHOTOS: Thailand Revisited