The Simple, Unexpected Pleasures

“The more a man knows about himself in relation to every kind of experience, the greater his chance of suddenly, one fine morning, realizing Who In Fact ‘he’ Is.”

~Alduous Huxley, Island

White road-lines sped backward like ticks of a clock, measuring out time against distance. And the truck bed smelled of composting meat.

The Fool breathed it in deeply, unperturbed by the displeasure. His feet were crossed, legs extended, shoulder-blades splayed out against the rim of the pickup. Like a flower tracking the sun, he tilted his head back to feel the warm tropic rays on his cheeks. The wind whipped his hair into his eyes. In that moment he was unburdened and happy.

The Fool had come to suspect that his time was ill spent plodding down worn, well-traveled paths. Ever since he crossed the border he’d been lugging disappointment along. The diversions that delighted others incited in him only a forced, imitated excitement. He needed something more, something different, something rugged and far flung that he could selfishly call his own. Something that would shred some part of him then build it up.

The Fool wanted unique experience, and was willing to suffer pains for it. He was willing to face uncertainty with resolve. He’d meet danger with trust. He’d endure deprivation with gratitude. He knew how fleeting discomfort was compared to the lasting gains of fortified character.

But there in Thailand in 2016 discomfort was heresy. Hardship could be so easily, so cheaply, dispelled. Air conditioned buses, package tours, luxurious accommodation reined. Western demands met by local supply. But the shining achievements of tourist demand don’t slake deviant thirsts.

The Fool left Tonsai in the south on foot, heading for Chiang Mai. He forsook the easy route to test his mettle. If clasped hands honor supreme deities, then an extended thumb worships pure Chance. The Fool worships nothing above Chance.

The Fool stood under the tropic sun drenched in sweat. With his thumb out, and his bindle at his feet he hitched a ride on the back of a scooter. It sped down the highway. He sat precariously perched with all he owned pulling him back, back, backward to a brain-stem grating demise. He didn’t know the driver, nor the back-road that they were on which meandered through the Thai countryside.

But the Fool knew he was covering ground. He was travelling. The air tasted like nectar. The panoramic view shimmered from every passing blade of grass. The balding head of the driver looked like a giant hairy thumb sticking up in front of his face. Bit by bit, ride by ride, this is how he made his way North.

One young Thai man brought the Fool to a Buddha temple where he worshiped. He brought him home and showed off the fine, finished tables his father made. They ate spicy, and drank fresh.

What but absent throngs makes this temple unworthy of visitation? The Fool thought. What but centuries of preservation makes those tables unworthy of distinction? Beautiful architecture and fine art are abundant. The pieces that enjoy massive fame are merely lucky in time and place and creator.

The young man wanted to continue his father’s work, but instead he had to sell phones in Bangkok to support his family. People are too often sucked into cities through no will of there own. It is a wicked effect of modernity. And there in the flesh was a victim of that. The Fool felt compassion for this man, and gratitude for his hospitality.

But he hitched on.

The Fool ate dinner in a small restaurant in a small village while the sun set outside. He sat indolently, contemplating his next move. Should he strive for a few more rides, or find some guesthouse. As the kitchen closed, the owner asked where he would sleep the night.
‘I don’t know. Do you know of a cheap guesthouse around?’

The owner offered some floor space in the back for free, and the Fool accepted. He laid out his mat, pulled down his eye shades, added a tally to the generosity of folks, and slept. The next morning, feeling lazy, he hopped a local bus to Ranong, the halfway point to Chiang Mai.

Ranong was a town grown around the ferry hub to the nearby island of Koh Phayam. Most travelers stay a night before heading off to ‘paradise.’ But those beaches held no intrigue for the Fool. So he stayed in Ranong.

He indulged in a cool cafe, drank iced coffee, and wrote. He played board games with the family that ran his bus-stop hotel. He talked with the tourists before they scattered to their beach resorts and yoga retreats. And when the night cooled, he wandered to some nearby hot-springs to relax before sleep.

The hot-springs were such a sweet pleasure, the Fool stayed in Ranong for a week. Sometimes it’s the small things that catch him. Nothing touted in guidebooks, nor praised by significance, nor planned by careful research.

Just the simple, unexpected pleasures.

Thank you for reading.

-C

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