Gratitude

Gratitude

I just had the most amazing experience that honestly makes me feel like I was blessed with a miracle. Really.

I was leaving Songkhla bound for Hat Yai to catch my flight to Chiang Mai. It would have cost  700 baht for a direct cab to the airport, which just seemed like too much. Besides that, I had plenty of time to take the bus. Hat Yai is a very small airport and I’d most certainly have enough time to arrive early. My flight was at 1:40 and I left my hotel just before 11:00 knowing that the minibus from Hat Yai to Songkhla took 1/2 hour as had been my experience on the way in. Add probably another 10 minutes in a tuk tuk to the airport. Simple. I’d get to the airport about 11:40 ish, which was 2 hours before my flight. No worries.

I took a tuk tuk to the bus stop. This was a real bus, not a minibus. When I got there it was 11:05. The woman told me the bus would leave in 5 minutes, then she said, “Maybe 10 minute”. Ok, I’ll leave at 11:15, and still be at the airport by around 12:00, fine. Still an hour and forty minutes before the flight.

As I was sending a text with flight information to the person picking me up from the airport, whoops, my flight isn’t at 1:40, it’s at 1:20. Shoot! We better start moving soon. We left at 11:30, and again aligning Songkhla with my memory of Puerto Colombia, the bus moved at a glacial pace leaving town. I knew in the first few minutes that I should probably get off the bus and flag down some type of more direct transport to the airport, but I did not for some reason. I kept thinking, Hat Yai isn’t that far away, surely the bus will start to speed up soon, people will stop getting on. OK we’ve passed the University, surely we’ll speed along now. Maybe we did, for like a kilometer or two. Then we stopped at a bus stop for about 5 minutes. I got off the bus with my bags trying to hail a taxi. It was nearly 12:00. No taxis, tuk tuks, songthaews, or motorbike taxis to be found anywhere. When I said, “Bpai Hat Yai, taxi?” Everyone just pointed to the bus.

I decided to re-board the bus, and maybe get off somewhere that looked like there was more possibility of there being a taxi, at least we’d be closer to town. Hat Yai is only 26 kilometers from Songkhla, it was 12:05 and I saw a sign that Hat Yai was still 19 kilometers away from where I was. At least we were moving at a reasonable rate. Oh, but then we go stop to get some gas. That’s it. It’s 8 past 12. I’ve got to be at the airport in 10 minutes, and that is not going to happen.

I grab my backpacks and squeeze past the head-covered Muslim women toward the door. I see one of Thailand’s ubiquitous 7-elevens. I decided that someone there could call me a cab. I peek in and there was a long line. Nope. I headed next door to a kind of nondescript restaurant/coffee shop. The guy at the counter didn’t understand my mostly English with a limited peppering of Thai (who can blame him?), but realized quite obviously I was desperate for help. He pointed to a table. Three men in some kind of chemical company uniform shirt are sitting at the table having coffee. They could see my sense of urgency. I wanted them to call a cab for me or something. At this point it was 12:10. I could not register the expressions on their faces. The oldest of the 3 men asked me in very good English when my flight was. I said, “1:20 – I should be there now.”

He calmly replied, “OK.”

I asked, “How?”

He replied “No charge.”

I smiled, but still didn’t quite understand how I’d get to the airport. One of the 3 men, the youngest looking one this time, stood up and said in fairly good English, “I take you in my car.”

Those of you who have not traveled out of the US may be thinking, are you crazy Elizabeth?!! Don’t get in this strange man’s car! But, I sensed everything would be fine. More than that, I was grateful. Thank God for my Piscean intuition, which has served me well. I knew it would be OK.

Sweating as I enter his immaculate new-ish car, I see the clock which reads 12:11. We exchange names, Wilson, or Windsong, not sure which, says it will take 1/2 hour from here. Yikes, that’s even further than I thought! If I arrive at 12:41, will I make it on the plane? It’s not looking good, but luckily Hat Yai is a small airport. It will take a minor miracle for me to catch the plane, but we’ll see.

Wilson, or Windsong and I talked a little bit about things. He is from Nakon Si Thammarat. He works for Chem something. He lives in Hat Yai and is going to back to Songkhla after he drops me off. So, that means he is driving a 1/2 hour each way just for me. Again, I cannot believe the kindness and feel indebted to him.

We cruised along down the road. I arrived at 12:44, he was right about the 1/2 hour. I sneak some money in his glovebox which he refuses and he said to me, “It’s a gift.” Unbelievable! I leave the money there anyway. I cannot thank him enough in Thai or English. I ask how I can pay him back. He just says, “Mai pen raiMai pen rai means a lot of things in Thai, but it can translate to, it was nothing, you’re welcome.

Can you in your wildest imagination picture something like that happening in the US? I cannot.

I go through a mini security check point at the airport door, which to me seems like a logical place to have security, and once inside I run to the Air Asia terminal. It’s 12:51. I say,  “Chiang Mai, I’m very late.”

The woman sends me to counter 1, where people are amazingly still checking into the Chiang Mai flight. She waives the 100 baht late check in fee. I run upstairs to another security. As I’m in line, I can understand enough Thai to know they have just begun boarding my flight. It’s 1:05. I board the plane at 1:10. We take off on time. I made it! I can’t actually believe it! I am writing this on the flight now.

So, yes, I love Thailand. I love Thai people. I am extraordinarily thankful to Wilson. Metta loving kindness to Windsong or Wilson from Nahkon Si Thammarat. This just goes to show how lovely and warm Thai people can be. I am still astonished that I made it on this flight. I am a very lucky and grateful person. This display of kindness to a complete stranger in a foreign country has not gone unnoticed. I need to start giving back…and then give back some more. Metta metta metta.

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Thailand, I Love Your Beauty

Thailand, I Love Your Beauty

This title sounds like a bad pick up line, but it’s true – I unabashedly love Thailand. Where else in the world can you stay in a nice clean room with a bathtub in the center of the city, but on a quiet street for $8, have a lovely vegetarian Thai dinner in a restaurant for $1.85, then get an hour long massage for $4.80? It’s ridiculously good here in Chiang Mai.

Sometimes it’s the little artful ways things are presented. The beautiful textiles to tropical plants hanging, and tiny fish swimming in a bowl. Here are a few pictures to give you an idea:

Beautiful Thai silk

Flower arrangement in a bowl

This is a store in Chiang Mai

Then, there is simple and artful food presentation. The dishes pictured here cost between $0.60 – $1.25.

Fried tofu with corriander and spices in a completely biodegradable leaf bowl.

Vegetarian green curry with rice

Spring rolls being made

There are always the little elegant touches all around the city of Chiang Mai:

Elephant door knocker

Flower market

Golden wat and mountain view from a guesthouse in Chiang Mai old city

What makes Thailand such a special place is the people. Thai people are some of the warmest, gentlest people on the planet. Trying to speak a little Thai goes a long way. I am still a complete beginner, but I try to speak a little bit each day.

The little girl who was intrigued with me while I was eating breakfast.

The funny and friendly Jara, and Kapoon his dog, from Kavil Guesthouse. This is Kapoon doing the wai guesture (putting hands, or in this case paws, together in a prayer position when saying hello and thank you) Sawadee Khaa! Khap khun khaa! (Kapoon is a girl dog).

Then there is Yaya. She and I have had loads of fun together. She invited me to participate in this Buddhist celebration at Wat Sumpow and the lunch afterward.

Thailand is one of those places that surprises me everyday with just how warm and beautiful it is.

Suay maak!