The thing with me dealing with change is that I would try and resist it at first. The change may bring about a thousand good things but I will still continue to find ways to reject it, especially if the change changes something that I have loved for a long time. This is exactly what I was trying to do when I stood in the temple compound of Wat Arun, sweating all over my new t-shirt thanks to the humid weather, waiting for my cousin who was slowly coming down the steep temple stairs.
This is the first time I had travelled with someone, and I was not enjoying it. Having been a solo traveller for such a long time, I found myself saying
“I would have been in Wat Pho by now, if I was travelling alone.”
When he finally came down from the stairs after about six hours, (well it seemed like six hours) we went to the MBK mall because he needed to do some shopping and since this was his first time in Bangkok, with a heavy heart I decided to postpone my Wat Pho visit.
I have been to Bangkok many times and every time I go there I reserve a day to visit some of my favourite landmarks of the city. I would catch a boat to Wat Arun, then go to the other side of the river to Wat Pho, have lunch in Khao San Road and then visit China Town in the evening. But this time around, since my cousin was already “templed out”, I had to cut short that wonderful trip.
So, we go all the way to MBK Mall and all along the way he told me how badly he needed a new cell phone. We spent the next few hours checking out different cell phones, pushing its buttons, listening to their irritating ringtones, bargaining for price and then finally finding some stupid excuse to leave the shop. If the screen was small, he would reject it by saying he would not be able to watch Youtube videos on it. If the screen was bigger, he would reject it by saying it was too bulky. Finally, after visiting a dozen shops and rejecting them all, he decided to buy the cell phone from Kolkata, his hometown, citing some stupid reason involving after sales service.
This was not the first time that day he got on my nerves, however. Earlier that day in our dorm, he slammed the door of this locker, creating a loud bang which woke up a Japanese girl who was sleeping on one of the bunk beds.
She asked him to keep it down and to not be so loud, in polite Japanese accented English. Obviously he did not know that she was sleeping or that she was even there, but since I am a guy who prides himself on following hostel etiquette, I blamed him for not scanning the room beforehand.
He whispered to me, few minutes later when we were getting out of the hostel,
“I think she is weird. Did you see the stuff that she kept near her bed?”
“Dude, she was sleeping. You woke her up. You are the weird one.”
Anyway, after wasting a couple of years inside MBK Mall looking for that magical cellphone (well, it seemed like a couple of years), we went across the road to the Siam Paragon Food Hall. I love the Siam Paragon Food Hall. I love the variety of food available there. From chicken to beef to fish, they have it all. But the main reason I have been going there for the last three years is because of that one dish. Black Rice and Coconut Milk.
I remember the first time I had it. It was my first trip to Bangkok back in 2011. I was leaving for Southern Thailand the next day and wanted to spend the Bahts remaining in my Food Hall card. The dish was cheap and matched perfectly with the balance left on my card. Black Rice and Coconut Milk is basically served just the way it sounds. They put black rice in a bowl and then pour coconut milk on top of it. The best thing about the dish is that it is sweet, yet not so sweet that it will make you gag. It was just perfect. I loved it so much that I recharged my card again to have another bowl.
Back to 2013. I went over to the counter that served these bowls of heaven and ordered two bowls. It was lunch time and the hall was flooded with noisy school children. It was very hard to find a table, so when we finally found one I asked him to sit there while I brought the food.
“His life is going to change.” I thought as I put the bowls on the table.
“What is this?” He asked, making a face.
“Just taste it.” Was all that I managed to say before I could no longer control my greed and started to shovel in the milky goodness. I had almost finished it when I looked up from my bowl. He had hardly touched his.
“This tastes like khichdi” He said with a sad puppy face.
“But this is sweet”
“Fine. This tastes like sweet khichdi”
I did not think it was humanly possible to not like a dish a good as this. I was a bit disappointed that he did not like it. But thankfully, I had two bowls of heaven in front of me to help me deal with the sorrow. In the next three and a half minutes, both the bowls were empty.
We hung out in the malls all afternoon, thanks to the rain. Bangkok rains are funny. Just when we think the rain is at its lightest and we try to sneak out, it starts pouring out heavier than ever, soaking us all, making the hours we killed hiding from it a total waste of time.
We returned to our hostel, drenched, and changed into clean dry clothes. Looking at the heavy rain, I knew that we ran at a risk of being stuck in the hostel rest of the evening and missing out the famous Bangkok nightlife.
“Lets go out.”
“We cannot go out. It is raining heavily and I do not want to carry…..is that an umbrella?”
He apparently had brought an umbrella during this trip. It just seemed like one of those gambles that just clicks. (Like sending in Irrfan Pathan at number 3 during Greg Chappel’s regime.) Later that night, I rummaged through his suitcase (yes, he brought a suitcase) and amongst other things, I found a computer key board, a torch, chat masala, and formal shoes.
We had fun that night. We boarded a night train to Nana and had dinner in a very shady restaurant. We went to a bar and we ordered two jugs of beer and vodka. Turns out he is a light weight and I had to drink most of his jug.
Yes, I had to.
This was not as bad as I thought. I was finally accepting the change. Enjoying it, in fact. Solo backpacking will always be my style but travelling with a friend, in this case a cousin, was not that bad either.
You can eat his food when he can’t finish his. That goes for drinks as well.
If you get lost, you have someone to blame. “You screwed up with the directions, you idiot!”
You have someone to take your pictures. Some times it is hard to take a photo of yourself. He can be your personal photographer.
And somewhere down the line, you learn that your cousin is not that boring. He is okay.
It was quite late when we returned to our hostel, wasted. I laughed loudly as I saw him crash on his dorm bed that night with a thud. Something moved in one of the beds on the other side of the room. It was that Japanese girl. I might have woken her up this time. I quickly got into my bed and switched off the light.
And as I did so, I caught a glimpse of several bottles of oil, a pair of weird looking shoes, a leather bound diary and a small teddy bear that looked like a voodoo doll near her bedside counter.
She was weird !