Published: February 24th 2009February 16th 2009
After 10 Robinson Crusoe-like weeks, the need for doing, going, seeing had become untenable. I hence said goodbye to what had been my home during seventy days and to its (very few) tenants. Mimi, 4 years old little angel, gave the impression of being in that moment the saddest child in the world. She was losing her patient games' companion and looked as if with my departure I had just violated a tacit pact of eternal friendship. My life has always been that way: the farewells moment sooner or later arrives.
I stopped in Chumphon for one day. I didn't feel like being teletransported directly into the great metropolis. And it was good: it was a rest stop, an interspace between the thousands' years unchangeable quiet of an island and the social quicksand impregnated with lights and sounds of Bangkok. My abstinence from urbis
was such that at night I left the hostel to go for dinner, but I forgot my wallet back in the room (life on Ko Chang was based on mutual trust). Fortunately, I noticed it before ordering food.
The City of Bangkok must have clearly received some sort of terrorist threat and at the entrance
to the Hualamphong
underground station there were a policeman and a metal detector in service. The agent asked me to open my backpack, he casually glanced at its content for two seconds and then he granted me the most monumental of the martial greetings, as if I were Napoleon Bonaparte. The usual parody, mirror for larks.
In both Chumphon and Bangkok, sleeping is not an exercise as natural as it was on the island. Sea breeze can't be replaced by a fan, nor the crickets' song and the distant monkeys' call can be equaled by horns, shouting and neon lights. There are fewer mosquitoes, but, paradoxically, this is evil because beds are not fitted with mosquito nets. And one single mosquito free to sting is far greater nuisance than one hundred of them kept at bay by a net.
I dedicated my first day in the capital to shopping. I wanted a magnetic travel chess board that I was not able to find and a book on Taoism, my latest love, that I could not find either. But I did find a pair of flip flops. The seller in one of the many MBK
outlets asked me if
I wanted both slippers the same color. I looked at her with suspicion fearing that next question would be: "Do you want a right and a left one or prefer two left ones instead?" The lady was hasty to point out that David Beckham does wear two shoes of different colors. And it came very spontaneous to me: "David Beckham! Why haven't you said so before?" Here I must open a parenthesis on the use of rhetoric and sarcasm in Thailand. Do not use them. Never. This is a country where no one would understand a Monty Python
's movie. My sentence, I think I can say with reasonable security, should have sounded like a more playful and elegant version of "Who cares!", however the shopkeeper interpreted it literally, as a sort of reprimand for not having been more expeditious in the sharing of such vital piece of intelligence. I was therefore forced to reformulate in less British, more German terms the concept and eventually I left the store with two flip flops of the same color.
Two days in Bangkok and I was already exhausted. I miss the sea, the hammock and the daily contact with nature. I remembered
of Cafe Wawee
, an oasis of peace with even a small Japanese-style pond inhabited by fishes of luck and a cinnamon-colored cat who point at them hoping for his own luck. There I spend the afternoons reading. On this point, at least, I can keep up with my beach's activity. It's curious: it had taken me 70 days to feel the need to leave the island, but only 48 hours to want to go back immediately.
Social life is an altogether different chapter where the city plays on with clear advantage. On Ko Chang, this was generally limited to Ya (already mentioned in my previous blog) and John, a gentile, bald, always peaceful German guy. There were occasional visitors who stayed for a few days and sometimes I didn't even come to find out their names. The last amendment to my personal and not very democratic constitution forbids me to make friends with anyone who approaches me with platitudes (such as: "Where are you from?"). I'm somehow easy in establishing rules of Taliban intransigence, but such intransigence stems from my subconscious knowledge that sooner or later I will grow tired of that given rule and will change it for
another one of similarly absurd nature. It is somehow what a child does when he decides to never ever talk again to the child who until one hour before was his best friend. In a way, I've never grown up.
However, applying this rule in a semi uninhabited place is tantamount to total, ascetic solitude. The last guest we had, in chronological order, was a fat, boisterous, logorrhoic American, a former marine with three quarters of a century of life behind his shoulders. He stayed for only half a day. He did not stopped talking for a single instant. It was one of those people who love to listen to the sound of his own voice, unaware of the boredom that brings to his listeners. I managed to keep clear throughout the whole afternoon, but then dinner time came and I couldn't dodge any longer. It was six of us that evening. Only him speaking. I shred and chew the pieces of fried pork and, in spite of myself, listened to stories that, had been told with greater care and less desire to impress, would have probably made an interesting tale. At one point he interrupted his soliloquy to
ask me -Yes, you guessed it- where I came from. "Italy". Second question: "Are you on holiday?". "More or less". Fact is that I don't like to lie and to answer "Yes, I'm on holiday" would implicitly say that in two or three weeks time I'd have to go back to my work obligations from which I'd been temporarily granted vacation. "No", on the other hand, would force me to provide further information about my lifestyle. "More or less" is a way, as good as any, to not answering without been rude. Only that the sense for analysis of the former marine was equal to its physical form and so he went on: "Well, if you're not on holiday that means that you're hiding. There must be somewhere a wife hunting for you". This followed by a loud laugh on the edge of senile dementia. Now I wasn't keen anymore to leave the gun in the holster. "If I was hiding from someone or something and a stranger came and asked me if I'm hiding from someone or something I couldn't possibly answer that I was hiding from someone or something, so I'd be forced to tell him that I
am here on holiday. In the end the stranger would not know whether I'm truly on holiday or if I'm actually hiding from someone or something but I don't want to admit it". I didn't even want to make the sentence sound too unpleasant, was a simple little true-false-true
game, but it had the effect of silence the former marine whose mononeuronic brain tried for several seconds to unsuccessfully decrypt the encrypted message just received, and then gave up and went to bed (with great relief of all us diners). ITALIANO
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Link: L'Isola e la Metropoli