dear diary..., wanderlust

A Rainy Day in Tainan 

Today, for the first time in such a long while, my heart fluttered at the first sight of a stranger. A glimpse of her pretty side profile and the tips of her eyelashes through the slits in the curtain of her soft hair was more than enough to bewitch me into momentary paralysis. I revelled in the air of admiration cloaked by a layer of anonymity.

The bridge of her small nose.

The heart shape of her lips.

The smooth arc of her jawline.

I couldn’t think properly, the kind of mental block that usually happens to me when I’m mesmerised by something or someone before my eyes and my mind is wholly fixated, consumed, beholden to it. I had nothing left to offer, except pure admiration and fascination. I had desperately wanted to speak, to communicate, to strike up some silly small talk no matter how incredibly disabled my Mandarin has become without the aid of some occasional English. I promised myself that I would overcome that invisible barrier that had been standing between me and all the could-have-been relationships and friends.

As I awkwardly sat on a bench nearby, I ended up speaking to her through the conversation that took place between her and my parents, who were much more proficient at Mandarin than me. They asked, to my surprise, all the questions I would’ve asked. I learnt that she’s from Taipei and she came to Tainan for a weekend trip with her pals. She isn’t a schoolgirl like I had initially made her out to be due to her small stature and conservative dress sense. She has been working for quite some time and is slightly older than me. She’s been to Singapore even. My parents went on asking her if she liked Singaporean food. I took every window of opportunity when she’s slightly distracted to steal a glance, at the same time trying my best to feign an air of indifference just in case she caught on to my obvious interest in her.

Ask her for her number, I silently urged my parents in futility. So that when she comes again we can bring her around. I knew that they wouldn’t. Why would they? It would have been really awkward anyway. After all, she’s just a passerby whom we happened to meet by chance at a bus stop in Tainan.

But, wouldn’t chance make this sudden, random, unexpected intersection of our two realities so much more meaningful and significant? What exactly is the statistical probability that of all the other places, times and people I feel a special feeling towards a particular someone? Sure, I have also by chance come across hundred of thousands of other people, far too many faces than I could have ever vaguely remember, but those were just passersby on the streets of my life, whose footsteps and impressions will eventually be washed away by the an occasional rain, or be buried under millions of other track marks in a perpetual cycle of appearance and erasure.

The surge of passion and everything by far still indescribable to me is something of a rarity. I don’t often feel this way, especially with strangers. It’s not like I’m extremely picky or have a very strict criteria for the people I decide to let into my life. I don’t quite know. But when it happens, the little benign sparks morph into an uncontrollable burning flame that resist immediate taming and I find myself plunging, falling, spiralling deeper and deeper into something in between the lines of love and obsession.

As I am writing this, I am on the same bus as her.

She presses the bell signalling that she’s about to alight and my heart breaks a little. Greedily, as if I could hold her back with just the power of my stare, I fixate entire being and attention onto her and just bask in the warmth of her presence, and fantasies that I know too well would haunt me with regret moments later.

The bus pulls to a halt.

The doors open and the faint smell of rain drifts in.

She gently threaded down the steps in the most graceful fashion and alights, brushing aside the bit of stay hair that has just came loose.
In that moment I turned shyly and slightly to catch one final glimpse of her and her beauty.

With a pane of glass wedged between the two realities of ours that only tangentially intersected, I smiled and waved her goodbye.

And she smiled an infinitely gorgeous smile whose warmth, I swear, could last me all the winters I will ever live through.

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dear diary..., wanderlust

Adieu, Bangkok

I can’t believe that my four days in the Land of Smiles is finally coming to an end. This thought sunk in me as I lie on the bed in my hotel room, staring into the whiteness of the ceiling. As I do so, memories of these few days seem to stain my vision like how watercolour does on loose paper. They were somewhat vague and fleeting like the diluted blotches but sometimes were filled with the kind of vivacity and clarity of a single focused moment. As I lied down there and let my mind float upon the rapids of an intense flashback, I can’t help but feel a sincere and profound resonance with the statement: “Time flies when you’re having fun”. These four days have been nothing but exciting, eventful and enriching.

Day 1:

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Even before we touched down in Suvarnabhumi International Airport, Bangkok had already greeted us with flashing lights, roads packed to the brim and a symphony of vehicle honks that’s a little too loud for comfort. As dusk swept across the entire city, the hustle and bustle only grew more prominent as lights from various sources flood the streets — street lamps, car floodlights, storefronts and neon lights. It was as though the city flipped to its other side, exposing an alternative version of itself and its own true beauty.

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Without any hesitation, we hopped onto a tuktuk to take us to our dinner location. The tuktuk is a common mode of transport in Bangkok that consists of a motorcycle front and a metallic hind that carries about 3-4 passengers. It is the modern cousin of the cycle rickshaw.

 
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Our driver drove with wild agility and impatience. In that moment we were drowned in excitement and fear and the loud puttering of engines, and choking on concentrated car exhaust. The entire ride was a blur. In the chaos and confusion of that moment, there arose in me a strange feeling of sedation, of zen. It was like bubble embracing me in its exclusive space insulated from the hustle and bustle of my surroundings. It had a meditative quality especially when all around me, the roads were a sea of monochromatic red. I stared straight ahead at the tuktuk driver’s head and let a million random thoughts run through my mind like how a kite runner in Kabul runs after his kite with childlike innocence and vigour.

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Nightlife in Bangkok is basically synonymous with a trip to the Night Markets. We made our way to one nearest to our hotel and dinner place — Pratunam Market. Captured here is a moment of intense concentration by a street artist amidst all the distractions, lights, passerby and secondary opinions.

Day 2:

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We heeded the advice of one of the locals and took a boat trip down one of the tributaries of the Chao Phaya river. Thanks to him we managed to escape being scammed on our tuktuk ride to the jetty. Thanks to him we discovered a less touristy and more locally authentic side to Bangkok and those making a living along the river that runs through Bangkok city. Thanks to him, we learnt how important it is to make an effort to assimilate into the culture of the host country and that one of the best ways to do so is to try to speak in their native tongue. If you look like a Thai (asian features) and speak Thai (even if minimal), you pay so much less than the average tourist, at least for tuktuk rides.

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“Why not get a nice cool beer for the uncle?” asked the lady who approached us in her wooden boat chocked full with all kinds of things to sell — from country flags, to tidbits and beverages to oriental fans. Here, we witnessed the sense of community present between the families and people who live along the same river. The informal economy that has boomed because of the river and its surrounding religious monuments has benefitted those living nearby. Many, like the lady in the picture, set up their own floating markets and take advantage of the influx of tourists into their ‘backyard’ to earn a few extra dollars.

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When you are immersed in a society of friendly and compassionate souls, you can’t help but feel the same. Happiness and joy become irresistible and inevitable.

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A little gentrified area near the Grand Palace.

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Taken along Yaowarat Road, Chinatown. The buildings exude an old charm that is reminiscent of those I’ve seen in Hong Kong, an aged but timeless look. A tuktuk in an ostentatious shade of pink whizzes past, its engines roaring as if to flaunt its own presence, consequently disrupting the serenity and solemnity of the scene.

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Where are the bus stops in Bangkok? Wherever the bus stops.

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Enjoyed a cone of matcha-cum-charcoal flavoured ice cream in the blistering heat.

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Reunited with my college suite mate at a relatively new night market — Talad NEON. It is right smack in downtown Bangkok and it is everything you would love to see, eat and do after a long day at work.

IRRESISTIBLE.

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After several hours of walking around, we decided to just chill at one of the many bars at Talad NEON. The bars in Bangkok are commonly double-decked and beautifully decorated with fairy lights and themed graffiti. Needless to say we headed straight for the upper deck, got 2 cocktails for about S$4 each and a Chang beer. We talked the night away and learnt a lot from my suite mate about expat life here in Bangkok and what she does to integrate herself as much as possible in this society. This photo features me and my non-existent glass of margarita because I finished it too quick. It’s delicious.

Day 3:

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Boat Noodles @ Union Mall. Each bowl was barely S$1. Two of us ate 11 bowls in total but we still had space for more.

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In the evening we visited another night market — Ratchada Train Night Market. It was on a slightly bigger scale and had more bars, more shops, more food and certainly more people. Certain parts of it felt European and gave off a Christmas Market vibe, except it’s 33°C and everywhere you go you hear Thai pop blasting.

 

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We drank at a bar that directly faces a barber shop, so that provided some entertainment. 😛

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Frozen Blue Hawaiian and a slightly tipsy me.

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Our last full day in Bangkok and a very empty Rachathewi Station. My heart shed a little tear upon realising that fact.

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Thai spices and condiments.

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Looking around me in Chatuchak Weekend Market, the place was teeming with expats and tourists like me. The place had a really nice vibe and I would have stayed for even longer if not for the killer heat. Yes, we surrendered, we surrendered to the heat but not before we filled our hands with Thai handicrafts, new pairs of shorts and tops.

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Leaving with a reluctant heart. Final glance.

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Post-massage meal. Nero pasta with prawn and tomyum sauce. We went to a very Westernised cafe for dinner and even then I looked for a fusion between Thai and Western cuisine. It was a match made in heaven, I would have ordered another if not for the hole in my wallet.

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This was just next to the cafe’s cashier. What a beautiful thing to stare at while munching on some food. For a moment, the sight of this transported me to one of those humble small shops on a random quaint street in Paris or London.

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