“You have to jump now if you want to make it. The driver does not wait.” The small woman working the boat admonishes as she’s about to latch the rope to block the exit. The vessel and dock rise, fall and separate unpredictably as I hear the sound of the boat’s engine revving to take off. A larger craft bulled its way along close to our boat causing it to rise higher than usual. Taking a step forward and being lifted to the apex of the ascent, clutching the handle of my GoPro, I go for it. Jumping down off the boat and over the water to land with a strong bang on the metal below, only to realize that I’ve gotten off at the wrong stop. All I can do is turn my head to watch the boat pull away. I have no idea where I am. I could get a cab but cab drivers in Bangkok are an ordeal even when you know where you are. I’ll just wait for the next water taxi.
When the boat is out of earshot, I realize all the recent pandemonium left along with it. All I hear are the sloshing sounds of the water colliding with the makeshift dock of metal, concrete, wood and rubber under a bright blanket of January Thai sunshine. I’m only guessing but how rare it must be to see the Chao Phraya completely void of any boats and man-made noise if only for this moment. Before long the occasional hotel water shuttle and personal boats rush by but once they’ve left, the silence returns.
I gather my thoughts at the end of the platform which is at the mercy of the river. Standing as alone as the sun over me and as restful as the slow and gentle, rise and fall of the waves beneath me. Even though I don’t know where I am, it’s nice not to be so on edge. Especially after the overcrowded chaos compounded by all the hurry up and wait I’ve just been through. From the frenetic, it’s calmed into a quiet, hot and lazy time over the water in the heart of one of the greatest cities in the world. What else can I ask for? Having a small slice of waterfront property all to myself.
After a few moments, I hear the footsteps of the employee who works the dock. The intense sunshine really brings out the blue shirt he’s wearing compared to all the grey behind him. I acknowledge him, he smiles and motions to suggest that I step away from the edge to sit on the heavily sun beaten and tattered bench behind me. He looks like an odd but happy man with a lot of wild black hair, dark, sun sponged skin and sunglasses that hug his chubby face. “Khap khun khrap” I say bowing my head and placing my palms together close to my chest to perform a wai. Again he smiles, slightly bows his head and quickly returns the wai by clapping his hands together to which he starts to sing and dance. Every Thai person I’ve encountered has been incredibly nice and I understand this is the “land of smiles” but I think the sun has fried his brain.
So here I find myself at the side of a mighty river temporarily stranded on a small bench, hunched forward with my elbows resting on my knees. Staring out, I recall the experiences I’ve been through to this point and resolve to let the inconvenience and pain often borne out of misfortune, just flow away like the river before me. Recognizing that things could be worse than sitting alone in an amazing city, listening to water splashing all around beneath me, feeling the warmth of the sun above me and watching a politely animated, delirious Thai man dancing, spinning and singing to himself out of the corner of my eye.