Articles

Station to Station

William Blackford, 128 YinD

I really enjoy the chaos of this place sometimes. Something that really accentuates it for me is traveling around Thailand. Whether it is by bus, or train, or van, or car, most days it takes you two times longer to get anywhere than you thought it would.

So I wanted to share these thoughts I wrote a while ago while I was travelling;

I’m sitting here at the bus station in Phitsanulok and my 5-hour bus is an hour late. A strong wind is blowing who-knows-what onto these pages as I scribble. A father on the bench next to me is showing something to his young daughter who giggles every time.

A storm is coming. I’ve been seeing the far-off flashes of lightning for an hour now, and the wind actually feels cool, a rare sensation here in Central Thailand. I look around and try to take in as much as I can;

People who look nothing like me covering every pale-blue, wooden bench, their bags, backpacks, and boxes piled high. The bright signs written in hard-to-read stylish fonts I can maybe understand if I squint and take my time. The ever-present and incredibly obnoxious pigeons chirping like they always do at this time of night. The televisions mounted on pillars throughout the station are bright and beaming. They show stylish soap operas, singing game-shows, and the same commercials over and over again for scooters, beauty products, kanoms, and tong-sia medication.

Motorbikes buzz by creating a constant din. Every once in a while one much louder than the others will scream by and punctuate the swelling sounds of internal combustion. Buses pull in and out of the dozens of numbered platforms. I am afraid of getting left behind so I walk up and ask all the ones that pull up near my platform if they’re going where I want to go and show them my ticket. Yang mai maa, they all say; “Your bus isn’t here yet.”

Snippets of conversation in Thai that I can slightly understand flit by my ear, flirting with comprehension. Sometimes I pull myself out of the English monologue running in my head to try and listen to them, but it’s hard to focus if I can’t follow whatever story line they’re telling each other.

Like so many things in Thailand the station is simultaneously filthy and clean, chaotic yet orderly. Dust and dirt and bird shit ride the wind across the well-polished tile floors and past the pillars painted with a shade of blue you might see in a nursery on or on an Easter egg, sickeningly bright and cheery, painfully pastel. 

I can’t believe how much dust and trash get thrown up every time the wind blows like this. How can so much shit accumulate each and every day? The floor is filthy, covered with the bird shit, the dust, the plastic bags, and molted feathers. But tomorrow it will be clean again. Someone will sweep it up and start the cycle all over. It reminds me of learning about entropy in high school. No matter how much work we put in chaos will prevail in the end, because even the effort we expend to bring order contributes to it, it is part and parcel of the inevitable.

The bus pulls in and I get on it and five hours later I’ve reached my destination. The chaos of the journey is over and I have arrived at my destination.

This station is much quieter than the last, but that may simply be due to the hour. It’s about 4:00 am and the station is slowly waking up. The sky is finally lightening into a deep blue. It’s been raining for hours. The air is cool, actually cold, and so wet it feels dense. I can smell the musty petrichor, rain mixed with dust, soil, and asphalt. The slow breeze carries it in to me and I try to fill my lungs with it.

A lady is making and serving coffee and snacks on a tiny little table with neon plastic chairs placed around it. Weary travelers sit and quietly drink their coffee. The wall-mounted television is showing something again. It looks like news but who can be sure anymore.

I’ve been enjoying this theme of chaos and order since I arrived in Thailand. Though at first it seemed only chaos I have come to accept it and also enjoy the little islands of order and peace within it.

The juxtaposition accentuates, highlights, and punctuates the distinction in my mind and gives me the feeling of being in the eye of a storm. So calm, so serene, and yet accepting that there is more storm to come. Knowing that chaos will come again won’t stop me from closing my eyes and smiling like an idiot right up until the moment that the storm wall slaps me in the face again. Then I’ll see how long I can hold onto that same dumb face.


 

Categories: Articles, Travel

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