Today I took a break from every kind of work. I like to do this on Sundays. At 9am I jumped onto the boat bus, which traverses the canals that cut through the centre of Bangkok, and got off at the very end of the line. Old town Bangkok.
When you go about your daily business, you always have an objective. You’re going to work, or going home, or going to lunch. There’s always some goal in everyday life. This is normal; it’s routine; it’s fine. But it’s one reason travel is so great. Travellers don’t have so many interesting stories because they’ve been all over the world: they have these stories because they have opened themselves to whatever life has to offer.
As I get off the boat I notice an elderly monk carrying a bag. I think it looks a bit heavy, and think about offering to help him, but I don’t. This is everyday mind: I’m busy; he probably doesn’t want my help; someone else will offer.
A few paces later, I stop and look back. Today I’m open. Not sure how to address the monk, as I don’t often speak to monks and don’t know the special Thai words you’re meant to use, I offer to help. He responds in the most normal Thai I can imagine, in a way that puts me immediately at ease. He doesn’t accept the offer, and he doesn’t turn it down. So we chat a bit, mainly about how we are right in the middle of a protest area, and how he doesn’t know how he’s going to get to the temple with all the blockades. But in the end, I’m going with him.
His bag is damn heavy, and I wonder how this 70+ year old guy would manage on his own. But mainly we’re talking, relaxed, enjoying the sights: thousands of monks and nuns have come here from all over Thailand for some big ceremony. He leads me around, and everyone we pass is bowing to him. This event is huge. There are stretch limousines, Rolls Royces, and high ranking officials strutting about. He takes me in to the temple area through the ‘monks only’ entrance, chat a bit more, and then we part ways.
Later on, I’m walking, and the strap of my huaraches (home made, Mexican-style sandals) breaks. Instead of getting pissed off about how I was going somewhere and can’t be late, I think about how I can fix them. I find a hair pin from a local shop, sit down, and have just enough strap left to re-thread and re-tie the sandals. In no time I’m walking again, happy that the monk needed help and happy that I got to do some DIY that actually worked. (I’m actually really crap at DIY; just ask my wife.)
If I had been working today, none of this would’ve happened. If I even had a bunch of things I wanted to get from this day-off, it wouldn’t have happened. It’s only because I had no plans, no agenda, that I’ve had such an interesting day.
You don’t have to be in Bangkok for this. You don’t have to be anywhere special. You just need to tell yourself "today, I’m open."