Many months ago, about 13 months ago actually, I returned home from a trip to Thailand. Which, from a self-proclaimed travel blog is pretty terrible.
I’ve forgotten a lot of the magical nuances of the country, I’m sure. And I’ve neglected telling a whole story from my life when I was pretty lucky.
I’ve took lots of notes from my trip, until I didn’t. Most of my travel notebook looks to me now like a little monkey from Lopburi stole it. And so now, my stories have only my feelings and lingering thoughts. Fact or fiction, they are a part of me now.
Perhaps this is why I find it so fitting to begin retelling my tale with a story that I didn’t really remember to begin with, days after. The best Phad Thai I ever had came from a place that only exists because I happened to take a few snapshots of it sandwiched between photos of Ayutthaya and Bangkok.
That’s where hard fact gets hazy because I think between those 80 or so kilometers I was dead.
Or rather, I was using my special traveling superpower of being able to sleep whenever and wherever I want.
It was a crowded bus, as Thai transport tends to be. We were pinched shoulder to shoulder for several hours in the hot sun with little to no air conditioning so naturally…I slept. Beautifully, I might add.
Maybe I would have slept the whole way back to Bangkok but for some reason, we stopped. And when I woke up for a rest stop? I woke up to this:
A temple carved into a rocky hillside.
A temple. Carved. Into a rocky hillside.
A feeling of gratitude and also disappointment funnily accompanied this. For this experience, I was nearly alone. Maybe because it was in the middle of nowhere (I have no idea where I was) but there was no other tourist there — why weren’t people here? In this perfect place?
With white deer statues climbing up a perfect hillside.
And the wonderful bells for all of those prayers. I didn’t forget the bells. I did a round on the bells myself, satisfying a desire I didn’t know I needed before for bells.
I remember walking out of that bus groggy and weak. A point and shoot camera casually dangling from my wrist. Hungry. And then there was this. This wandering in a perfect, woozy moment.
And then. And then, and then, and then. There was the best Phad Thai I have ever had. Reaching the covered shelter below the temple I was handed a bowl. No questions asked. It was warm, the noodles so softly stir fried with a beautiful proportion of spice. So amazingly perfectly spicy. Each bite had a perfect ratio of bean sprouts.
But I remember it was more than the ingredients or the execution. No, it was the feeling of I am perfectly in this moment and all I need is Phad Thai.
You’re almost at the end of my nonstory.
The only thing I have left of this little story is the memory of an old woman. Now the place was very empty compared to the mobs I had just left in Ayutthaya and Bangkok and there she was, like the temple, like the Phad Thai — there she was suddenly and completely. She sat next to me and talked nearly nonstop until I finished my bowl.
And then she left.
I have almost no memory of what she talked about. She, like the experience, might not have even existed were it not for a little, pixelated photo. And a feeling I have. And a tiny lingering memory.
And that’s it. That’s all there was. I got back on a bus. I slept some more.