After breakfast, we would tour more temples and then hit the road North. The owner at Pae Krung Kao insisted that Kasma bring our group back this morning for breakfast, so we set aside our hotel buffet coupons and loaded back into the vans. We would feast on numerous bowls of congee (rice porridge).
It’s time to break out of Bangkok and head North to see UNESCO World Heritage sites, visit hill tribe villages, taste a wide variety of local specialties, and of course, go shopping. Tonight we’ll be staying in the hot and humid central plain, where temple etiquette demanding long pants promises to make ice water one of my favorite foods.
I know better than to just lie down and close my eyes “for a minute.” I awoke at midnight hot, thirsty, and wearing even more wrinkled clothes. All too soon the alarm was buzzing; it was time for a quick shower and the first of many market walks.
I arrived about 12 hours ahead of the group and settled in at the Hotel Rex. The New Years revelers across the street just could not stop the music. I struggled to stay asleep, waking at 3:30 and finally around 6:50. Perhaps this will help with my adjustment? Checking e-mail over wi-fi brought potentially disappointing news: due to flight schedules, we might not make it to A. Mallika, the traditional and delicious first lunch stop. I crossed my fingers and prepared for the day.
I suppose I should have a better reason for returning to Thailand a sixth time than chilly Bay Area nights and wanting to stock up on delicately fragrant green tea. Of course, the food is excellent, the temples are beautiful, and the occasional unpredictable chaos teaches a lesson in patience. Call it a rut, call it a mid-life crisis, call it an attempt to find meaning: when traveling, there is a better chance I will look up from my many screens and really be in the moment. An opportunity maybe, just maybe, to answer the question: “Who should I be and what should I do when I grow up?”