On Friday, Mel, our new friend Cameron Sacagawea Chen and I went around Bangkok by tuk tuk to see the temples. We saw The Grand Palace, Wat Arun, The Golden Mount, and the Standing Buddha. Most of the sites were flooded with farangs (Thai for foreigner, tourist), but for good reason. These temples were incredibly and overwhelming beautiful. Unlike anything we are used to. The architecture was rich, fantastically elaborate. The air we breathed was sacred. We stood before these ancient structures in awe.
A necessary side note: Traveling this city by tuk tuk is no Sunday afternoon stroll. It was the most terrifying and chaotic orchestration of moving bodies and vehicles that I have ever witnessed. Yes, there are lines on the road. No, they don’t matter. They are merely suggestions. While sitting in a tuk tuk in Bangkok traffic, you are surrounded, uncomfortably close, by at least two or three motorbikes or taxis in your same lane. Only centimeters separate you from other vehicles. Then all of a sudden, a motorbike speeds up in front of you and swerves across three lanes of traffic, disregarding all lines on the road and miraculously dodging five, ten, twenty motorbikes, cars, taxis, and tuks tuks all doing the exact same thing.
On the road, Bangkok plays chicken thousands of times a day, in every possible direction and with every possible competitor. Somehow no one honks and no one crashes, even though everyone is constantly yielding or slamming on their brakes. The only explanation is that there is a 1cm magnetic force field protecting every moving vehicle. In the back of the tuk tuk, I am stunned. I am speechless. I am gritting my teeth, and gripping the rails, and laughing, because that’s all I can do. As the Thais say: Mai Pen Rai.