Hanging Ten

Bangkok, Thailand. On the leading shoulder of the monsoon season where temperatures are blissfully cool after the searing, humidity-drenched weeks surrounding the New Year festivities of Songkran.

Last night, around 8pm, the city was slammed by a tropical storm. The weather men had said it was going to rain and they were not wrong. Endless, heavy, steady rain fell through the night and on into the morning from a bulbous sky bruised grey and purple. No break, not even for the span of a breath. Obscurity welcomed me throughout the day when I turned my ever-hopeful gaze to my sky-high window, longing for a break in the incessant rain that I had so ironically been yearning for. Night has fallen now. A deep inky blackness broken only by rain drumming on the roof to the bellowing cadence of bull frogs.

At 7.30am this morning my shoes were off and water was rippling around my ankles as I waded out to a waiting taxi, ever thankful I had thought to order it the previous evening. The roads in the village had become fast flowing rivers overnight, almost to the top of the hub cabs in places.

Between the house and the guard hut, all of 300 meters, the taxi broke down four times. It was 25 minutes before it recovered from its last shuddering halt. The demon in my head chuckled. He thought I was going to get wet. But what was the point of getting out? Taxis are rare when it rains in Bangkok; in floods they become all but extinct. So the taxi driver and I began to talk. The start of a long conversation that traversed many topics over the two hours it eventually took us to cover the 14kms to the TV studios. Our first subject was the bad quality of starter motors closely followed by what happens when batteries get wet. Riveting conversation but I would do very well now if I ever had a car again in Thailand and had to take it to the garage.

Finally, after we had both wai’ed the nearest spirit house and the ornate monk statue secured to the taxi’s dashboard, the car spluttered into life. We slowly inched our way to the main road where, with a woeful groan of indignance, it stopped again. The demon in my head laughed once more. The angel in my heart smiled. She knew something I didn’t as yet. That this was to be one of the most entertaining taxi rides I have ever had.

We wound our way through the traffic, weaving from this lane to that in an endless search for that extra millimeter or two of forward motion. As we turned off the main road in an effort to avoid the traffic jams and floods we stopped again. The water levels were even higher. It so happened that we juddered to a halt outside the tea shop where the taxi driver’s best friend was having breakfast. Unbelievable, but true. They had a chat while whatever it was under the bonnet that didn’t enjoy the dunking it was getting dried out. The taxi driver even introduced me,
“English lady. She no have problem with jam,” he said with a smile.

Traffic jam, strawberry jam? Not clear…but who cared.

After another five minutes we headed off into the chaos again, surfing the waves of the floods. Accompanied by songs on the radio. A radio that was tuned to the English drive-time show. They had decided to honour the rain. If you can’t beat it, join it. Embrace it. Enjoy it. What a glorious attitude to have.

Each and every song had a ‘rain’ connection. Music from as far back as the days of Perry Como. The taxi driver’s English was quite good and he could understand the lyrics well enough to tell me that the Everly Brothers were “Crying in the Rain.” We both knew the words and so we began to sing along on the top of our voices. A serious amount of fun. And what was the next song? Neil Sedaka’s “Laughter in the Rain.” How perfect. How surreal. Much laughter ensued. Deep, unrestrained belly laughter. Quite marvellous.

So there we were, Pichai, as the taxi driver was called and I. Stuck in the floods in the midst of Bangkok. Hanging ten. Taxi surfing to music.

After an hour or so I realised I was hungry; I hadn’t eaten before I left home. I found four mini Toblerones in my bag. Two milk, one white and one dark. Put there literally ‘for a rainy day’. And a rainy day it certainly was. I shared them with Pichai. Who says you can’t eat chocolate for breakfast? Only the demon in my head and he was soon gagged, bound and thrown where he belonged.

All good journeys eventually come to an end. And so did this one. Two hours had passed in the blink of an eye…riding on the waves of the floods…on the taste of chocolate…on bells of laughter.

It is experiences like this that make my soul soar and the angel in my heart sing on the top of her voice.

It is experiences like this that fuel my love affair with traveling, with having adventures. After more than a quarter of a century the light of this love hasn’t diminished. The opposite in fact – it burns ever brighter.

It is experiences like this that show us that even a situation that looks frustrating can be the greatest gift if we change our perspective; if we view our world from a space of play and laughter rather than anger and exasperation.

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© Jacqueline Le Sueur 2007
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