The nearest Disney
Souvenir Heap Theme Park may be a few hours away by plane in Hong Kong, a distance I generally appreciate, but that is not to say Thailand hasn’t been brushed with its own (mouse-free) magic.
Since arriving here 4 years ago, I’ve come to relish the moments I find something a little magical in this tropical land. Both the people as much as the funky things happening inside these borders that are so unique.
Thailand is a country that loves surprising you as much as it does changing prime ministers. There could be a hint of enchantment waiting just beyond the next crispy pork cart, ready to remind you that you’ve come somewhere special.
How many of these wonders have you spotted?
Let’s start with the fact that there is a whole list of uncanny talents Thai people have that nouveau foreigners will most likely never master. Thais have élan for days.
How else could you explain squeezing a whole family on a bike?
Somehow this whole smiling family fit snug as a bug whereas I can hear the motorbike groan when my American posterior gets a lift to the main road.
Thai magic starts young.
Thinking I needed a fresh hobby, I bought a skateboard. However many cool points I gave myself for becoming a skater are lost by the mountain of padding I put on while skating. I’m thirty and recognize my limits.
I go to the secret skate park under the Ekkamai canal bridge, which has phallic graffiti and swear words sprinkled about — just like a good skate park should have.
I go on Sunday mornings ostensibly because that’s when I’m free, but actually because that’s when I am least likely to be seen wobbling around awkwardly. Until the day this kid popped out of nowhere and schooled me on how to skate. He can’t have been more than ten years old, but he put me to shame.
He can skate better than I can, and even has the cool skater face down.
Then there are the inexplicable things that Thais can do that I simply cannot.
Whenever I make a bathroom trip and have to dry my moderately hairy farang hands with toilet paper, as we know is often the case in Bangkok malls, this is usually the result:
My hands end up looking like a burst of pulpy TP worms have moved in. Wet clumps of tissue become intertwined with the hair on the top of my hands, and I proceed to pick out clumps of the tissue for the next ten minutes.
This never seems to happen with Thai people. A respectable wad of tissue is torn off, hands are dried, and the wad goes – miraculously still in one piece – into the bin.
Please explain the trick.
Magic can be a state of mind too. This name for a school looks like it could be a whole sentence, or a scary German compound word, and I can’t imagine how any human being would ever be to say this out loud without practice beforehand.
Look at that name. Look at it.
By the time you finish reading the name of that school, the MRT extension will be complete.
Just kidding, come back in 2017.
The mystical side of Thailand seems to imbue animal life as much as the people. I once watched elephants play football* better than I could, even after 12 embarassing years of gym class. Look at that pachyderm Pele go! (*It took me a lot of restraint to not change that to soccer.)
Sometimes the whole country seems to be able to see inside your head and life. When’s the last time you went to a temple, just to see a representation of your family that understands exactly how you feel about your mother?
Guess what, Thailand knows about your mommy issues. (Proceeds to wipe tears with one of those adorable but pointless pink single-ply tissues.)
Finally, Thailand uses its special magic to make you feel better.
When life gives you lemons, Thailand gives you a quirky reason to smile.
The last time I was feeling a little down in Bangkok, I ventured out to 7-Eleven for a pick-me-up in the form of a crusty toasted sandwich. The story could end here, because Sewen is pure magic by itself, a paradise of air-con and cramped shelves bursting with guilty pleasures.
But recently, the tuna-stuffed buns weren’t the only things popping out at me in 7-Eleven.
Specifically, I met the best version of Nicki Minaj this side of Brooklyn, and she posed for this lovely photo op with me.
She put a spell on me that made me smile the rest of that day. Because Thai Nicki Minaj loves toasty ham sandwiches as much as you do.
So keep believing in the magical, and Thailand will deliver. You can start at your nearest 7-Eleven.
**No mother’s egos nor spaghetti-strap tops were harmed in the making of this article.
All photos courtesy of the writer.
Featured image is by Mike Behnken (CC BY 2.0 licence) plus text