Twelve days left in Bangkok. I sometimes wonder if I’m on the run. This nomadic lifestyle lets you off the hook. Every few months you pack up and move on, start afresh someplace new. It’s tempting not to work on relationships, to avoid tackling problems, because you’ll be gone in two weeks anyway. Why rock the boat? But I don’t see this as a good thing. It’s a dangerous trap I aim to steer clear of, and I’m not always sure I succeed.
There are just three of us in the class. Rob looks too young to have three daughters, but he does. Manages oil rigging teams all around the world, one month on, one month off. He has the air of a man financially secure and his his resting heart rate is 56 beats. Vincent is from Quebec and leads tours around Asia. He was stabbed seven times in the back a few years ago in Vietnam and has trouble finding his own pulse. We all get along quite well.
The more entrepreneurs I talk to, the more businessmen I meet, the more investors I interview, the more I believe that ideas are everywhere. There’s a relentless supply of them once you develop the right mindset, the right way of looking at the world. But ideas are just the beginning. Anyone can have an idea. It’s what you do with your idea that matters. How to validate, how to implement, how to market, how to sell, knowing when to go all in and when to quit…
I love being early for an appointment and slowing down on amber instead of speeding up. I love walking down the street and remembering to appreciate that my body is functioning perfectly, that nothing hurts. I love typing this on my laptop and looking over and seeing her sleep. I love when she wakes up and asks what I’m writing and then giggles when she reads these very words.
The trail is barely visible. We’re pushing our way through a Thai jungle, heading towards the falls. The rain is hitting hard, and we’ve accepted that we’re going to be soaked. Somehow we find our way back to Haew Suwat, the most famous falls in the nation. There were crowds here earlier but now with the rain we have it all to ourselves. We clamber on rocks and across fallen trees, snapping pics and breathing mist.
On the hunt for junk food at a roadside market, we pass a meat stand. Fat legs of pork out on display, with bright yellow and black hornets tugging at the flesh. The butcher sees our jaws drop and picks up the leg, grinning proudly, as if the insect infestation adds to the value of his product. We shake our heads and walk on. Dead insects taste bad enough.
We haven’t talked about it much, but we both feel it looming. This time next week I’ll be gone, on a bus somewhere between Vientiane and Hanoi. I like to think we’re both better off for having had this time together, but the guilt is beginning to build, the guilt of leaving her behind. I’m always the one leaving, always the one disappointing. I guess I’ll just have to live with it, because I’m not ready to change. I might never be.
The most fucked-up thing he’s ever seen, that’s what he calls it. He was a little drunk, got chatting to a ladyboy on the street, asking about the plumbing and whatnot. One thing led to another and he ends up in a hotel room watching the post-op and her pre-op friend screw each other. It culminated with the latter throwing up in the toilet. “I have pictures and video on my laptop,” he tells me. “I’m a bit worried about airport security.”
I sometimes wonder if I use people, only wanting them around if there’s some direct benefit to me. And I wonder if this is wrong, overly selfish, egotistical. Or maybe it’s just smart. There are lots of good, kindhearted people here in Bangkok I could hang out with, but, right or wrong, plain old hanging out doesn’t interest me much. I think of the opportunity costs: the cool projects I could be working on; other people I could be spending time with and learning from.
I spot a young Thai chap in a Hornets cap. Flash back to another lifetime. In many ways, that teal and purple bug led me here, to this train in an Asian sky. Those three years spent in New Orleans, stalking that very team, those years changed me significantly. That was when I really came to know myself and laid the foundation for the life I’m now living. The young man and his memory cap get off at Ratchathewi. I continue on.
She asks if I’m okay, tells me to relax. I thought I was relaxed. Now I’m nervous about how relaxed I am. Probably not enough. I find it hard to let go in these places, with a stranger’s hands on my naked back. “Relack, relack,” she tells me again. I try deep breathing, see if that will calm me down, but still feel myself tense when she digs in with her thumbs. I’m not sure how anyone can relax with this deep tissue malarkey. Pain isn’t conducive to stress reduction.
It’s getting annoying, all these freeloaders crowding beside our table, snapping pictures of themselves and the view. Some even rest elbows like we’re all hanging out at the bar. I should say something. They’ve crossed the line. And she’s getting annoyed. I run through the words in my head. “Sorry guys, would you mind giving us a bit of space here? We’re trying to have a quiet dinner.” Yeah, sounds good. I should really say that.
I look out past her shoulder at an endless grey sky, a color fit for the occasion. I’ll soon be in a taxi with tears in my eyes, speeding away from her, this girl who loves me. And I love her. Yet I’m still leaving, still not ready to commit, still too selfish. But I can’t help but wonder if these past three months we had, all better than a dream… if that was as good as it gets. What if I never have that chance again, never feel my heart blush warm like it did in her presence?
I find myself middle seated in a row of five, Thai elbow to my right, American to my left. It’s a tight squeeze, even with my ankles hanging out into the aisle. After a few hours of reading and restlessness, I sit up defeated and spot a lower, padded level below the sleeper seats. It looks so inviting that I wonder why nobody else has commandeered the space. No matter. I crawl and sprawl under there, and proceed to sleep better than anyone else aboard.
We’re dropped off in Hanoi’s Old Quarter, the tourist area. I love the challenge of getting my bearings and finding my digs, becoming gradually unlost in the chaos of Asian streets. The A Dong hotel isn’t where the map said it would be, but I find it eventually and check in without fuss. I’ve been offline for about 27 hours, and in that time more than a thousand dollars have been deposited into my PayPal account.
Sidewalks are scarce here, mostly taken up by parked scooters, forcing pedestrians out along the gutters. I leave the wreckage and cut through some alleyways, exchanging smiles and waves with cute kids. Darkness has fallen by the time I cross the tracks and hit Phung Hung. I find a decent-looking restaurant and read my way through a delicious five-course meal. The bill comes to about $15. I pay up and call it a night. Tomorrow I leave for China.
In the comments below, let me know which of the above is your favorite. Which can you relate to?