Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Symphonic Soundscape Of A Morning Walk

The rumble of the BTS overhead adds deep bass notes to the symphony

Even though we've covered this before (10 September 2010) now that my travel time is getting a little closer I find my mind wandering wistfully to the mornings I've spent out wandering among the hustle and bustle of people on their morning rounds more than anything else.  In the city it's more active than in the countryside, naturally (you don't hear as many roosters in the cities, for example), but both places are fertile ground for people watching and sounds I just don't hear in the suburbs where much of my everyday life is lived.

A robed monk moves quietly along
through his compound
I love to head out early - sometimes before 06:00 - and then return for breakfast afterwards, although I sometimes eat along the way.  It doesn't take much more than the sweet, yeasty aroma from a waffle cart drifting past to lead me into snacking al fresco, and once I've done that it usually ends up that I add noodles, corn, youtiaw (X-shaped Chinese donuts) a while-you-wait omelet or something else and soon enough I'm full and the buffet back at the hotel is all but forgotten. I guess it does allow me to stay out and about longer.

The ebb and flow of the commute rumble as the lights change and engines rev provides the undulating background for the "music" I think of as a street symphony, and the squeaks of cart wheels, tapping of an auto's warning horns, shouts of vendors and the combined voices of those passing you with a cell phone pressed to their ear all add to it.  Not all that long ago you'd have had the noise of boom boxes dominating the chorus, but I suppose that's one thing to thank the iPod for; ear buds keep things a lot less messy, soundscape-wise.

There are additional tones and percussion involved, of course: the almost omnipresent DING DONG of convenience store door bells whenever someone enters or exits, the squeal and hiss of bus brakes, bursts of laughter from children as they walk hand-in-hand to school, the brush-on-cymbal sound of a rough broom sweeping a sidewalk, the banging and pounding of a construction site and the revving of the commute longboats up and down the canals.  I love it all.

A bridge over a less-traveled khlong makes for a nice place to pause a moment.

There are always pockets of relative calm to be found while I'm out in the mornings. Side-tracking down along through a canal area such as the one above takes you into a different world, and if I happen to find myself near a temple anywhere along the way I tend to veer off track and go inside. Within the embrace of the temple walls the only sound you're likely to hear is the gentle, droning murmur of the resident monks in morning prayer or the quiet steps of someone moving along from one building to another.

 A taxi can be more comfortable, but you miss a lot by not walking.  During commute hours it's sometimes faster to walk than sit in traffic, if you want to know the truth - but I urge you to get out and move about on foot whenever it's practical and your time allows.  I can hardly wait to be back out there.

My time draws closer, and the anticipation grows.

A slice of a morning commute in Bangkok

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