I’ve spent three nights in this crazy city, and already Bali seems like an age away.  Something happened when I set foot on that plane, when I shuffled across to the window seat and pressed my face against the thick pane.  Thinking – I’m ready for a change of scenery, ready for some action. I had a very small window of opportunity for reckless debauchery before my month-long yoga and detox in Koh Phangan.  But with all the good work in Ubud, is that what I really wanted?

My memories of Thailand are so incredibly rich.  Love affairs, and the drunken insanity of the clubbing scene in Bangkok; juxtaposed with stories of heroics and humanity along the border.  The people of Burma Issues have never left me.  When a group of people inspire and change you, how can you ever forget?

But it was 8 years ago now, and as much as I want to revisit, relive some of those moments, another part of me is terrified of the fragility of it all.  I built my life around that time.  6 years with an NGO, 6 painful chapters and revisions of a book I can’t bring myself to finish.  What if they don’t remember me?  What if the office doesn’t look or feel like the way I’ve remembered it, the way I’ve written it?  What if seeing them again confirms my work-halting suspicions – that I’ll never be able to do them justice?

I’ve thought about whether my approach for my first draft was the correct one or not.  Whether I should scrap the whole thing and start again, but the thought of either tearing it up, or putting my head down, gritting my teeth and getting on with it – fills me with dread.  I’m not ready to make that decision just yet.

So, instead, I’ve thrown myself at Bangkok like a hungry tourist.  Making friends with a lovely Swiss chap over breakfast, we agreed to spend the day together.  Having spent so much time looking inwards and battling it out with my demons, I can’t tell you how refreshing it was to just kick back and enjoy everything.  I love travelling on my own.  There’s no need to compromise, no bickering, or worrying whether your companion is happy or not…there are no pretenses, no masks, and let me reiterate – no compromises.  But, there’s also no sharing of laughter, or in-depth conversations over street food.  No one to keep track of which road you turned down, or share a taxi with when your legs get tired.  There’s no-one to egg you on and ensure that you scour the entire city in a single day.

Weekend market, China Town, drinking Cafe Yen and watching a demonstration in Lumpini park.  Sitting ring-side at the Muay Thai, knocking back beers, and making money-less bets on who’s gonna win – blue or red.  “You bet with your heart” he said, “no I’m betting with my womb.” They’re just boys!  Young boys, and one of them always looks so bloody sweet and innocent that I want to save them from the fight and ruffle his hair.  “Awwwww” I’d say, to the bright-eyed bushy-tailed kid in blue.  “Shh.  You’ll embarrass them…”

When you meet someone when you’re travelling you throw everything on the table on the first meeting.  There’s a mutual understanding.  You got there on your own, you’re happy to stay that way – but if you genuinely click with someone, then you can up the ante and make the whole thing a lot more fun.  Nobody wants to waste anyone’s precious travelling time.

We clicked.  We continued to Patpong, argued over directions (I was right), ate some food, drank more beers in the gay bars, ummed and ahhhed over whether we should follow that man with the yellow menu, leaning in, holding our elbows, “ping-pong bar…what you like?  Ping pong show, come this way…”  In the end, we did.

Was it wrong to go?  Does it make me an advocate for the sex industry?  Truth is, I have mixed feelings about the whole thing.  It’s so in your face that to ignore it seems just as wrong as to advocate it.  I don’t know enough about the complexity of what goes on behind the scenes, what the lives of these women, and lady boys are really like, or indeed the clientele, so how can you form an opinion until you see it for yourself?

It made me sad.  In the same way I feel about big brands using child labour to make shit clothes.  Something that is undoubtedly unjustifiable, yet unfathomably fleeting on your conscience.  It’s so huge, and so integrated into the fabric of our society, whether it be as blazingly obvious as the Patpongs and Primarks of this world, or hidden away behind a facade of glitz and glamour.  Perhaps it’s better to be able to see it – and as it is.  Unsexy and melancholy, because then we can talk about it, learn about it, and perhaps in time feel less powerless over our decisions as consumers, as tourists, as people.

We left before too long, bargained for a tuk-tuk and headed back to our hotel, stopping by for one more drink and a heart-to-heart off Khaosan road.

When I woke up the following morning, it wasn’t far off the scene in The Hangover II.  Trawling through a bombardment of crazy photos from an adventure that one could only experience in a place like Bangkok.  How very different it’s all been, from Ubud, and my quiet days at the shala and organic cafes.  And, how much I’ve learnt about myself and what I want from life, from just talking to someone who’s arrived at a similar place, at a similar point in his life, but through different means.

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We said goodbye, quietly over breakfast, and travelling farewells are just like introductions.  No bull-shit, no pretenses.  What a wonderful time, and perhaps one day our paths will cross again…but perhaps not.

Physically, I can’t cope with that much booze anymore.  The person I was 8 years ago, is not the person I am now,  So perhaps revisiting, reliving, isn’t an option.  Perhaps, I need to delve deeper into what this new person is going to be like, before I cast my eyes back.  I’ve clung to so many things.  Loves, memories, break-ups, misunderstandings, hurts, and I’ve been gently but consistently letting them go.  Does that mean that I have to let positive life-changing experiences go as well?  What can be gained from trying to claw it back?  If I want to write about it successfully, then perhaps I need to keep walking.  Continue to put my energies into yoga and let the way I live my life shift naturally, with the rearrangement of my priorities.

I woke up this morning, still hungover…two days in a row!  And did my yoga.  Rolled my mat out into the tiny floor space, facing the tiny window, knowing that I’d need as much air as I could get.  The heat, the toxins, the letting go.  It was my first self-practice since I started this journey, and I thought maybe I’d rush through it, cheat on the Marichyasana’s.  It took me two hours.  The room was dark, the air thick.  The sweat poured out of me, gathered on the mat.  My legs slid through the puddles in the seated poses and I could smell the alcohol in my skin, feel it sting my eyes.

I don’t want to drink so much anymore.  I don’t want to go back to what I was.  I know I’ve changed because as we sat over breakfast before saying our goodbyes I spent as much time laughing about what we did the night before, as I did berating myself for what I’d missed that morning.  I showed him a video.  One that I used to watch over and over again to inspire me when I was feeling fed up.  Her name’s Santina, and imagine my surprise when she rocked up at Raka Raka a couple of weeks ago and started practicing just a few places away from my back row corner.

Maybe instead of dwelling on what I’m letting go of all the time, I should enjoy and celebrate what I’m opening myself up to.  New inspirations, new challenges, a new outlook to life.

I’m packing my bags right now, and have already checked out of the hostel I’m staying at.  I’m heading south, to the islands, where I’ll be practicing with Matthew Sweeney for 4 whole weeks.  I’ve come so far in the time I’ve been travelling, and I can only imagine where this next stint will take me.

 

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