I’m very lucky that I happen to be married to someone whose travel style meshes perfectly with mine. (It might be that I got married only because I found someone I could travel with.)
That travel style is awfully particular, as it involves a lot of sitting and watching people go by. I didn’t quite realize how rooted we were in our ways until we were traipsing around Bangkok with a good friend of ours who’d come to meet us for a few days. Rod is an excellent traveler as well, but…he is just not like us.
He goes up to people and talks to them! I mean, he just asks them questions. And dumb questions, even. Like at the mall, when we’d already gotten our feet nibbled at the fish spa, which was really just a couple of tubs of fish stuck in a hallway toward the parking lot.
(Excruciating. Like having a million mosquitoes attacking your legs. Worse: the attendant thought she was being nice by not starting the 30-minute timer until I’d stopped squawking and shuddering.)
Rod marches up to the girls at the info desk, grins and says, “Soooo, what’s fun to do in the mall?”
Meanwhile, Peter and I are averting our eyes, looking utterly disinterested and pretending like we don’t know Rod at all. I discover I’m clutching Peter’s arm in desperate embarrassment.
I am 38 years old. What is wrong with me?
The girls just giggle, look confused and say, “Shop-ping!” in that Thai way, where each syllable is given equal weight. Only after Rod has fully stepped away from the desk can I sidle up and say, “Oh, well. Nice try.”
So we went upstairs and sang karaoke.
At least here I’ve made a little progress. When a friend’s Japanese roommate in college explained the concept to me, I was horrified. Karaoke sounded like the absolute most horrible experience in the world. You were really singing?, I asked, incredulous. All alone? At a party?
But at the kinda dumpy coin-operated karaoke booth on the fifth floor of MBK mall, I felt very mature. We sang Petula Clark’s “Downtown,” and tried to ham it up as much as Rod did. Impossible.
The next day, we all got on a canal boat just for the sake of riding the boat. It was the most phenomenal form of public transit I’ve ever been on, and I’ve been on a lot. (It sounds like I am independently cool/nerdy enough to do this, but Peter really gets all the credit.)
We barreled along at terrifying speeds, rooting for the tiny ticket-taker girl who walked up and down the edge of the boat, occasionally winching down the roof so we could fit under bridges. When we got off, we didn’t know exactly where we were. My guidebook was at the bottom of my bag that I was still clutching to my chest in half-terror, half-glee.
While I was digging around in my bag for a map, Rod disappeared. I was just finding the right page in my book when he came back.
“The woman at that tourist-info booth said there’s a temple on a hill over there, and we can climb up and get a nice view over the city.”
I spend a great deal of my professional life talking to people at these tourist-info kiosks, asking them obscure questions about bus routes and opening hours. But it had not even crossed my mind to use them the way god intended, as Rod had just done.
“Yeah, I just asked her what there was to do around here,” he said with a shrug and pointed us off toward the Golden Mount.
The next day… Well, the next day it got even crazier. But I’ll leave that for another post.