Version 0.56 (What Does it Mean to Have “Seen” a Place?)

04/22/19

Fresh crisis today? I don’t know.

That’s not exactly how I wanted to start this journal—so dramatically—though it was bound to be on something about feeling a bit lost, a bit without purpose (how many times have I written about purpose now?).

What the fuck am I doing in Bangkok? Honest to God I truly don’t want to be here. Maybe I really need to embrace some of the more touristic things, and head into the older part of the city and the areas near the river? Maybe I’ll be more inspired and motivated to photograph there? The heat makes any time spent outside miserable, though. It doesn’t help that in some sense I feel that what I am doing is a waste of time, that my photography is not appreciated, will never be appreciated, is unimportant, doesn’t matter (though why should it?). I have been feeling like an absolute trash photographer lately. The lowest of the low. I am a coward, too scared to face someone on the street and take his/her picture (not that that is a new feeling, but the intensity of it is). I feel like the dumb, white tourist offending the “exotic” locals by photographing them; every glance in my direction is discouragement. Maybe I just need a change of scenery in the city. Maybe I just need a change of head-space, a change of head, a change of brains. a change of self perception. Having moved hostel locations should help with that. The biggest problem here, though, is purpose, as I wrote in my third sentence. I have no purpose. The purpose of the whole trip is travel, and I’m not doing much of that. I take some sort of vehicular transport from spot to spot, mosey around the place, then move on. Can I really say that I’ve visited Thailand when I haven’t left the city of Bangkok? What does it mean to “see” a place, anyway? How much of a city or country does one have to explore to qualify as a person who may say he has seen it?

I’m writing all this in a smallish hall within which numerous food vendors are set up by the Thong Lo BTS stop. I’m at a bright, canary yellow table, sitting on a metal stool. All around me is a rush of people swooshing to and fro: vendors running out food and drinks, and visitors looking for an empty or near-empty table, or searching for a food stall that looks appealing. It’s all metal and plastic stools here, as it seemingly is at all street food stalls throughout Asia; and colorfully painted square metal tables; and white tile floor, definitely not right now very white. The aroma of food cooked or cooking or raw suffuses the space, and all those smells and aromas mingle together into one homogeneous scent of food unless someone walks by with a plate of something, which has a tendency to waft up right beneath one’s nose as it is brought past. Right now I smell cucumber or papaya, and some sort of meat sizzling on a grill, and I hear distinctly something crackling in a wok, mingling with the voices of those behind the counter. Mostly the space is a rumble of conversation pierced periodically by a passing scooter, the gait of a woman walking in heels, the bright high voice of a child, the tinking of silverware, the stacking of plastic plates and bowls, the low almost imperceptible rumble of a bus (or is that the sky train?) Fans and iced drinks are the only means of keeping cool in here, though occasionally there is a draft from outside that blows pleasantly into the complex. A couple sits at a table and laughs out loud together. He has just arrived, and brought her something, but their relationship I don’t think is what that statement might immediately cause one to think, and she walks out from behind a stall to chit-chat at a table and look through what he has brought. I like this place. It is for all peoples: westerner, easterner, and Thai alike. It’s not for the rich, it’s not for the poor. It’s for anyone who comes hungry, no matter what his or her place on the rungs of the social ladder.

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