Yes, I am back from Bangkok, and I literally just walked in the door before dinner tonight. I haven’t even begun to process the whole experience – I am like a pickle that has just been pulled out of the spicy marinating brine. Bangkok, and Thailand, is one of the most visually stimulating, overwhelming, disturbing and inspiring places I’ve visited. It is all those things, and more, and I keep going through all my photos, trying to find the words for this experience that has ranged from a bewilderingly crowded international city, to a pastoral landscape alternated with miles of flag-strewn slums.
But then, I asked for it… literally. After a couple of lovely days touring the heavily opulent royal palaces and temples, and a couple more days working with a group to identify Asian color trends, I hired a car and asked to be taken to the places that the tourists don’t go. I saw the backside of the Floating Market; the quiet simple homes on the canals where the sampan ladies reside. I walked through a crowded fish market on a Sunday where the whole tiny village seemed to be walking the pier and buying the fresh seafood from plastic tubs under blue nylon tarp tents.
I also, fortuitously, stumbled upon a Chinese Buddhist temple with a couple thousand regional worshipers celebrating a holiday by writing prayers, genuflecting before a golden Buddha, burning incense and ringing the great bronze temple bell. (The image above is from that seaside temple.) Nuns with white robes and cropped salt-and-pepper hair chanted nonstop from inside the huge temple, while fragrant columns of incense smoke were constantly replenished by pious praying citizens. Every square inch of the temple complex, inside and outside the buildings, was covered with color and ornament.
I went to the huge outdoor Saturday market at Chatuchak, where I saw a painfully thin tiny boy playing a homemade bamboo flute, wearing his school uniform with his hat on the ground for coins. I saw beautiful Thai dancers dressed in gold and silks, and powdered pink cheeks, performing for wealthy tourists at the Mandarin Oriental. I saw rats on the street. I saw monks with shaved heads and rich saffron robes walking at dawn with their alms bowls.
Somewhere in all of that, I tried to see myself. Every time I travel to a place full of poignant contradictions such as Bangkok, I try to find my place in the world again, set against a new context.
….and from that new context, this spicy marinated pickle rests on a bed of steamed rice, and a new song, a new color poem, a new creative direction emerges. In search of myself, against this new and ever-changing worldview as a backdrop, I rewrite my place in the world, my tiny blinking point in time and space, that I call My Life.
Tomorrow really is the first day of the rest of my life. Time to schedule in some studio time!