“Not all those who wander are lost.” – J. R. R. Tolkien
If only that were true…Today was my last day in Bangkok, so I packed my luggage and left it at the hotel desk for the day. What I didn’t realize until I got to the river taxi dock, was that I had packed my map of Bangkok. I knew I wanted to go to China Town and the Indian Market, and knew where to jump off the taxi, but beyond that, I had no idea where I was actually going.
I got off at the dock and asked where to get a map. I was directed to a board with about three streets marked and the general location of the sights. I thought, “how hard can this be?” Well, let’s just say it was harder than I thought. There are hundreds of side streets, alleyways covered in tarps with stalls selling everything from knock-off barbies, to whole octopus, to air conditioners and no real street signs.
I started walking in the direction of the Indian Market, a promise of scarves, fabric and curry waiting for me. I walked, and walked some more. Suddenly it occurred to me that I had not seen another European or other foreigner for quite a while and I had wandered VERY far off the beaten path. I stopped at a shop and a sweet little old Chinese grandmother got her grandson, who in broken English directed me to the street I thought the Indian market was on. So I walked and walked some more, when I stumbled on a flower market - blocks of of the most beautiful cut flowers I had ever seen. I forgot about the scarves and the curry and just wandered the aisles. As I came out of an alley, I walked right into the Indian Market. Sometimes, when you get lost, you end up right where you are supposed to be!
Next stop China Town. I got where I was going once, surely I could do it again. I walked and walked some more (apparently the theme of the day). I found myself in the middle of a giant wholesale food market, piles of cabbage in baskets, nuts, fish, and hundreds of things I had never seen (or smelled) before - and not another tourist in sight. I emerged on a main road and headed towards the direction of the river (or so I thought). I realized after an hour that I had been up and down so many alleys, but crossed the same corner on this main road three times, so really, not actually getting anywhere.
Then it happened, the moment I thought, “I’m in over my head, I should hail a taxi (if I can find one) and just go back to the hotel.” I took a deep breath and realized I had spent the last four hours seeing things I would never have seen if I stuck to my map; that I could, at anytime, get a taxi, but really I wanted to see what was beyond that corner. So, I took a good hard look around me, and started walking. I passed the same corner for the fourth time and just kept going.
Eventually I made it back to river taxi dock. My day was nothing like I planned when I left the hotel this morning, but maybe that was the point - to trust myself to know when I’m in over my head, but also, to not let the voices in my head stop me from experiencing what is around the corner.