Play me first.
I’ve written this from many different places, fragments of time that is now memories embedded into words. As I write this sentence I’m in a Cambodian island called Koh Rong. It is Christmas day and I’m sitting on a table at a wooden restaurant just a few steps away from the sea. Music is playing in my ears, diluting the noises, laughter, and voices all around me. The girls are still in the bungalow, asleep from a long night of celebrating and dancing. Fragments of the past two months continue to run through me. Plane rides, boat rides, overnight buses, scooter rides, tuk tuks, hundreds of faces, places, memories, things, emotions, swirling all around my head. The days are dense. Memories are full. I’m playing back this film of memories in my head. Some are playing fast forward. Some in slow motion. Some I want to share. Some I’d rather keep for myself. There is no proper beginning, or proper ending. Just fragments. Fragments of fleeting moments, preserved in pixelated images and kept alive in words. Thailand. It’s almost as if I never left. Almost. I’ve changed since I was last here. Yet I still feel like I was that same girl wandering around by herself in the streets of Chiang Mai over two years ago, watching lanterns float up in the sky for the first time with stars in her eyes. Or that girl who found freedom in the back of a scooter as she smiles with her eyes closed and her arms stretched out to the wind. Or that girl who sat on the swing by the stream next to the dorm huts, humming songs to herself. Or that girl floating in turquoise waters under the caves of Railay. There were many times when I felt like her. As if her spirit had stayed there all this time until my physical body just joined to revive her. I like imagining that. But still, it’s different this time. Two years can fly so quickly and discreetly. Time is like water and always finds its way through the cracks. It seeps stealthily into people, flowing right through them before they could even fathom it. Despite its jaded areas, Thailand is still beautiful. Yet sometimes, discouraging. Like when I got in a little scooter accident in Koh Tao and got scammed. Or that one day at my hostel in Bangkok, someone stole all the money I had just withdrawn from the ATM, which I was going to use to get my diving certificate in Koh Tao. I was upset at first then shook it off because we were headed to the islands and I longed for the ocean. Three buses and a long tail boat ride later we found ourselves in Railay Beach, happily reunited with Krystle and Alexandra again. Krystle and I craved for the sea. We walk to Phranang Cave Beach. I dip my body in the lukewarm waters and float as I watch the limestone cave above me. Then raindrops start trickling down. The clouds became darker. Everything turns into a gray, ethereal haze. I watch the sea as the raindrops shatter into and I get lost in the entrancing rhythm of the rain making love to the ocean. Krystle and I look at each other, wide eyed, smiling and in awe of this world. We stretch our arms out and feel the life permeating through all of our senses. The water from the sky and the salt water I am immersed in is washing away my worries. I remind myself then that everything (good or bad) happens for a reason, which will unveil itself eventually. But for now I am here, breathing floating, living, swimming in bliss and happiness and beauty and gratitude. But I am reminder another lesson that the road has unraveled: Never lost faith in a country just because you’ve had a few bad experiences. It’s our choice to suffer or accept it. One day I drove the scooter to the Pai hot springs with Adi. Passed through beautiful tunnels of yellow trees and open spaces. We melted our bodies into the hot springs and let the warmth heal our colds and itchy throats, sinking into the natural phenomenon and watching the leaves dancing above us as steam slowly fills the open air. Sometimes I feel like I’m in a daydream. The same ones I would have when I left this place two years ago. It’s different this time. I’m different. The people I’m with are different. But Pai is still as achingly lovely as I left it. And that’s all you could ever really ask from a place that stole tiny pieces of your insides.
Never lose your childlike wonder. Those stars in your eyes will take you to big, beautiful places.
Railay’s rock climbing heaven drew me back in.
The best thing about climbing is that it forces you to be in the present moment. Just you, the rock, and the wind. The fear of heights and all other noises are silenced. And when you get to the top, especially in a place like Tonsai or Railay, the view is unreal. You’re on this intoxicating high and it’s damn well worth the climb. The same thoughts would arise everytime I’m up on a mountain, or in a plane, somewhere high overlooking a whole city. I look at the tiny shimmering lights coming from the windows and imagine the humans who live in it. The ones giving birth, the ones who are dying, the ones making love, the ones fighting, the ones crying, the ones swimming in pure happiness, the ones drowning in pain, the ones creating, the ones who are sleeping and dreaming. I can feel them, relate to them, understand them. Because those tiny lights aren’t just lights. They are the vessels to their humanity, a reflection of all of us experiencing ourselves. Different lives, different people. But in the end we are all the same tiny lights in the same tiny world spinning through a vast expanding universe, making sense of each other, making sense of it all.
Days keep flying, I struggle yet hold on to the present moment. Consuming every bit of it before it withers away. I find myself on a plane to Cambodia waking up from a nap. Then I get that feeling that I live for. I peer out the window and below me is a beautiful new country with infinite possibilities and the seduction of the unknown.
I carry on and keep moving. Live more moments, brew more stories, devour more beauty, and collect the hollow fragments.