Hat Yai-khas Phanom Bencha National Park

Phanom Travel Blog

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July 29

Hat Yai-khas Phanom Bencha National Park


I am in Thailand.  & I am truly lost. 


I have no roles to play: no witty role, no fun loving role, no strange and morbid role (only a bit part), no big sister role, no cool and trendy role, no wide eyed and innocent role (I'm a tad old for tat anyway), no peace making role, no esoteric brainy role... & I am lost without a role, vulnerable to the influence of other stories. 


Like when I was a kid, hiding from my older brother's anger, my heart pounding to the beat of his fists on my locked bedroom door.

Southern Thialand
  If the door held, he would give up the vigil with a volley of curses, and I would be left, first deafened by the silence, then fascinated by the way the branches of the old oak tree scratched against my window. Breaking through my deafness. 


One day, about a year after my father died, a heavy winter frost sat like felt across the pane, recording the tree scratches.  Inscrutable hieroglyphic stories on a brittle glass page... asecret code that meant my room wasn't my room anymore. I was somewhere else altogether.


                     & I almost spoke of it to Johnny:

                       Childhood scars over scotch and beer.

                       But I won't talk of my childhood tonight,

                       I don't want your hand resting on my shoulder,

                       turning gentle now, offering sympathy,

                       "We are only playing Johnny"


Later, alone, the voices insist, recording scenes from the past.

Reclining Buddha, Thialand
Me remembering in an ordered mature manner, avoiding the uncertainty of a child's gaze...



& Thialand is still the place to begin exploring;  even if it seems cliche.  Past/present/future all together here in the land of ancient traditions. Where a rising middle class means no more romantic pre-Oedipal nostalgia for foreign tourists in search of an exotic "Other" world.  Here, where 75 million year old limestone deposits are greeted by a new superhighway, where "Western tourists" mix their curiosity, shoulder to shoulder, with orange and saffron clad novice Buddhist monks. Both out to learn the scope of things.


& Thailand is as difficult and as beautiful as it is expressive. 


The man who runs the restaurant at the park has two beautiful daughters.  He is my age.  He earns money at two different jobs, working more than 16 hours a day in order to send his three year old to the nearest school.  Which is more than 40 minutes away.  (An hour during the rainy season.)



"Here I am"  I  think,  "I am here in Thailand.

Andrew and Arlene on their way through the park paths to wash up
  Sitting in your restaurant.  In your home.  Eating the food your wife has prepared.  I am drawing silly pictures to entertain your daughter.  I am listening to your stories." 


"Here you are:  Painting scenes... making me see..."


& I am trying…

but, inadequately prepared to understand it all,

I am still a Western tourist with a Western tourist's eyes.

No.  I will not stop



& When I get home, when I finally sleep thru the night, I will dream of the things you're saying, and the things I'm seeing, and the order they take will not be affected by mature responsible, logic, working out all that has happened, making it add up, making it make sense.


It will come in flashes:


Like, the fisherman in the dark hours of the early morning that first night in Indonesia.

South Thailand
  Standing on a rough pebble and broken coral beach. A silhouette bathed in the moon's blue spot, his arm arching above his head, hypnotically spinning the line around and around, the faint hum of momentum, before casting out to the waves


Or glimpses of yellow green sulfurous mud with epoxy bubbles, as if it had lungs


Warnings of evil spirits on Malaysian beaches: ghost stories haunting a solo stroller--and me wondering about evil people more


Christine singing a haunting Moire folk song


I will remember stumbling thru the rainforest one dark night, taking refuge beside a candle that had attracted spindly legged unidentifiable insects too, and was holding us each steadfast with its flickering


Giggling the evening away in a mobile tent village beside Thailand's highway number 4;


Or learning about


from a young Indonesian man in Charita


& the way Arlene's word-less crocodile games drew scream-and-giggle delight from crowds of inquisitive Indonesian children


I will smile as I recall raindrop schools of fish


Or Anna's gentle encouragement when things weighed me down


& spending the night offering my own version of encouragement to another troubled soul.


I will remember times with absolute certainty:

"I don't know what you want..."

He is complaining, tho his smile means he's pleased with my teasing. 

"We are only playing Johnny. 

Tag you're it and the chase is on. 

It's supposed to be fun Johnny.  Come play with me!"


We are sitting on fold out camp stools, night shadows plotting territory on the white of the truck right behind us. I have his fingers at my lips, denying their calluses and unfolding their grip. 

            games in the dark.  a driving force. 


Everyone else has gone to sleep, but here, in a stranger's land, I am nocturnal.  And I am sure of everything...


Except that,

in a flash,

the memory is gone



August 2



Last night in the cab of the truck with Johnny

Music thru tinny speakers.

Everyone else  is sleeping

but we are listening


                       Vivaldi's Four Seasons fills my senses


"Did you ever think maybe life is a door?"  he asks me.  "It would be easy to learn how to open the door gently, but it would take a special talent to close it softly behind you."





I have forgotten how to breathe...

the music infecting my brain

reflecting our shared space



            too dense to contemplate




Another sleepless night spent walking the beach alone.

We are somewhere on the way back to Bangkok...

on our way to the end.

            and across the ocean


                                    is my home


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Southern Thialand
Southern Thialand
Reclining Buddha, Thialand
Reclining Buddha, Thialand
Andrew and Arlene on their way thr…
Andrew and Arlene on their way th…
South Thailand
South Thailand
photo by: constantquantum