Thursday, November 15, 2012

Slow Down And At Least Acknowledge The Roses

A mini Christmas fern (vesicularia) covers a water-filled planter in Bangkok. I walked right by it on the way by the first time.

Most visitors to a foreign country are on a schedule. I know many of you in other countries have the luxury of far more paid holidays than we in the USA are able to eke out, but even so you have lodging, meals and other expenses to travel; things that can quickly add up in whatever currency you use on a daily basis, so some of us pack our days to their limits.  That said, the most precious commodity most of us deal in while away from home is time, and anyone who travels is wiser for making the best use of it.

A Thai salvinia floats gracefully atop the surface of a planter near Chantaburi

I acknowledge the two main schools of thought about holidays - being on the go or barely going anywhere - and there are pluses and minuses to both.  I tend to regularly overbook myself, and often rue the decision. Why I keep doing it it beyond me, but I'll bet many of you'd agree with my best guess: I don't want to miss anything.

Some decades back, when my parents were on a cruise through the Panama Canal with my maternal grandmother they'd heard (after my grandmother's bedtime) that the best viewing of the canal transfers would be just past dawn the next morning. They rose early and went up to watch, but didn't want to wake my grandmother up so early.  When they were heading back to their cabin to wake her and go to breakfast, there she was in the corridor, a ship steward on either side of her to help her along after noticing her teetering along on her own.  Her reply to their "why?" question was simple: "I didn't want to miss anything."

Now, I've thought of that at least a hundred times since hearing the story, and it's been a reference point I've revisited many times while traveling.  What you may or may not agree with is what I tend to value most when immersed in a different culture, and that's the details of life as lived by the people where I'm visiting.

Water splashed by a bird bathing next to it decorates a hydrangea. I missed the bird, but I got this view.

Some might consider it a waste, but I'm fine visiting and re-visiting some of the same tourist haunts with assorted newbies. That's because I can appreciate the details I've walked past on other visits. I've been to the Grand Palace at least five times, but I find something new to appreciate each trip.  With such an overabundance of detail it's almost impossible not to find something new to stop and appreciate.

I know we haven't addressed the Grand Palace just yet, but we will in the next couple of weeks - it's been covered on so many other blogs that it hasn't been all that high up on my own list. Besides, it's been closed, you see (just joking there - the "Grand Palace closed today" is one of the more common scams perpetrated on tourists).

One small sliver of the detail waiting for you to stop and appreciate

Organized tours are more than sufficient for some folks, but I encourage friends visiting abroad to leave some slack to return to places they're herded past that strike a special note for them. I consider myself blessed to have been able to return to Thailand many times, giving myself multiple chances to stop and smell the roses, so to speak.

Regardless of the time you've allotted to visiting Thailand, I urge you to do what many of us find so abhorrent - miss a few things - and move about slowly enough to appreciate and absorb all the detailed beauty of the land that you can.

To this traveler's way of thinking, getting lost while attempting to take a bus ride, stopping to watch what people buy for breakfast outside the BTS station, the clumsy conversation with a local while wandering the night flower market while purchasing a bouquet for your room: those are the memories that will stick with you far longer than what you bought at Siam Paragon before being herded onto a bus and driven off to the next brief scheduled stop.

Just something to consider when planning your next trip.

Even a quiet canal in Amphawa will reveal a story... if you stop long enough to watch it happen. 

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