I’m glad I made the decision to start in Bangkok, somewhere I have already been before.
I was so scared; expecting culture shock, confusion and fear but the bustling chaos of this sprawling metropolis just feels so familiar to me and it makes me smile. I first came to Thailand nearly ten years ago and I was expecting it to have changed a lot and to feel over whelmed with it. Instead, I feel able to walk around with the air of confidence people warn you to equip yourself with even if you are not feeling confident.
In the airport before I left England I bought ‘Wild‘ by Cheryl Strayed. It’s about a woman who hikes the PCT in America solo. The book seemed relevant to this journey I am currently on and I loved the film so wanted to also read the book. Whilst reading it last night I found this passage which really spoke to me:
“I knew that if I allowed fear to overtake me, my journey was doomed. Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me. Insisting on this story was a form of mind control, but for the most part, it worked. Every time I heard a sound of unknown origin or felt something horrible cowering in my imagination, I pushed it away. I simply did not let myself become afraid. Fear begets fear. Power begets power. And it wasn’t long before I wasn’t afraid.”
Six things my first two days in Bangkok reminded me:
- You will sweat from places you didn’t even know you had places. South East Asia is hot, no surprises there. But Bangkok is stifling. The city is built up with skyscrapers next to shacks next to street food stalls next to busy main roads and there is no chance of a breeze nipping through there any time soon. On average they say it take four weeks to acclimatise. So for now I will just put up with being a greasy, sweaty mess.
- Bangkok has a certain stench to it. If you’ve been here, you will know what I mean. The acrid stench of the sweet and sour street food combined with the heat is almost suffocating at times. Wandering through the street markets plays on every sense in a way you just don’t experience in the UK.
- The green man and pedestrian crossing mean nothing. You need to just look for a gap and go. If you’re lucky, the traffic will slow down for you a bit. It won’t stop. In fact, you’re more likely to get an angry horn beep at you for daring to walk on a road.
- Health and safety is not a thing. Simply look up at the mess of cables hanging from the sky.
- Thai’s have terrible taste in music (excuse the sweeping generalisation) and will take any and every opportunity to play it as loudly as they can and sing along. Maybe I should give them an education? 😉
- Your feet will be ******. Swollen, blistered, sunburnt, bitten and dirty. Not to mention achy from walking everywhere. But I love that feeling. There’s something really satisfying in having a physical reminder of the mileage you’ve put in.
And by the way, it’s those who are truly afraid but do it anyway that are the real heroes.
A wise friend told me recently, fear has two meanings:
- Forget everything and run
- Face everything and rise
The choice is yours.