Guardian deities outside the Temple of the Emerald Buddha Complex

We landed in Bangkok on December 29, wondering if we were really doing this trip or it was all some kind of strange dream.  The past few days have been a jet lagged haze, but not in an unpleasant way: we’re staying near Khao San Road, the backpacker mecca that Seth and I remember from a trip here decades ago.  On this trip, however, it is clear that we are, all four of us, just about exactly twenty years off from the target demographic of beer drinking European twenty somethings.  And yet, it has been a gentler place to begin our trip than I feared: I worried a lot that Bangkok’s hectic pace and sheer enormity would be a stressful place to begin our journey, but the boys have surprised me by demonstrating rather little culture shock so far.  Perhaps the easy availability of things like cereal with milk, sandwiches, and a hotel swimming pool have given us enough of the familiar.  In fact, I have been delighted by the neighborhood this time around, maybe because it is so different seen from a twenty year vantage point.

Instead of partying with the backpackers, we have spent these first few days trying to sleep at the right time, and stay awake at the right time, and in between visiting temples and riding tuk tuks.  For me, the highlights have been the small moments: at the Grand Palace, we happened upon the changing of the guard, and watched their ritual march — up and down, saluting each other, and then terminating with a gentle gesture in which each guard briskly pulls at the other’s uniform, making sure that all is clean and proper before handing over the reins.

Grand Palace in Bangkok
Grand Palace in Bangkok

At Wat Po, where there is an awe-inspiring, huge statue of the reclining Buddha, we learned that New Year’s Day appears to be when Thai people come to the temple to make offerings to the monks, and so we sat quietly in the back of the room while this proceeded, some drops of the water the monk shakes over the crowd in a blessing at the end of the ritual landing on our heads and shoulders.

Each day, as the usual waiting phalanx of taxi drivers accosts us: “Where are you going today? Taxi, lady?  How are you?” Seth replies cheerfully, “Walking, walking.  Good exercise!  And where are you going?”  And the drivers laugh and tell us they are never going anywhere, “Staying here all day!” and that does in fact appear to be true, but the entire exchange is so friendly and funny that we all laugh.

Small moments of delight, long moments of fatigue, various challenges that I will have to write about in another post, and through it all, a sense that we are embarking on something big, but we don’t know yet what it means. One foot at home in Berkeley, one foot here in Bangkok, we are in transition mode. Can’t wait to see what 2016 brings us.

Fish Massage
Fish Massage

18 Comments on “Transitions

  1. Your description of Wat Po is beautiful ! There is a poem in there … You are a good writer, Emily. Thank you ! D & B

  2. Ems, this whole trip is SO well worth it, in every aspect, if it has gotten you writing again. Along with the bigger picture at every step, you never miss the small, the touching, the most deeply important and essentially human. Your blog in med school was brilliant and moving; and I am so very glad to read anything you write. This is going to be a wonderful trip — for me as well as for you. Much love from Auntie in Maine.

  3. Hi Emily, your writing is so beautiful. It’s as if I can see parts of your journey and small visions of Bangkok as I read your writings. Please keep posting love to hear more about your trip.

    • Thanks, michelle! And thanks for reading! Love to you and everyone with KP. Miss you all…

  4. Jaina and I just had fun reading your posts! Your writing immediately gave me a rush of memories of when Chad and I started our Thailand journey on Khao San Road years ago. Jaina is wondering how short Jonah’s hair is!! We hope to see a picture soon. Safe travels!!

    • Hey Catherine and Jaina, just added a couple photos of short-haired Jonah here. Hope you’re all doing great. We’re delighted that you’re coming along on this adventure!

  5. Woow sounds amazing !! Wishing you a great journey !! Cannot wait to hear about the next steps of your adventure !!

  6. Thank you for keeping this blog! So excited to hear about the travels. Been thinking of you all as you head out. xoxo

    • Thanks, Jen Jen. Now you know where to find us 🙂 Hope you guys are off to a great 2016!

  7. Dear Emily and Seth,

    Thank you for taking the time to write to us, Emily. Such lovely posts of a lovely 4-some. I really am glad we met this summer so I can relate to your trip! We really appreciate your gifts. Thanks, Miles, for the dimensions of Buddha. He’s a big fella.
    ruth and peter

  8. Warren says hi! Great posts! Have a great adventure! We will be following from Berkeley!

  9. We are thrilled to have found your blog! We look forward to keeping track of your travels. It is such a fantastic trip and we are envious in the best of ways. Sending much love and best wishes for the new year, Laurie & Bobby

    P.S. When are you swinging through Santiago??

    • So glad you found us, guys. Not looking like we will make it to South America on this trip but you never know. Plus wouldn’t you like to come meet up with us on the road? 🙂

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