Yesterday, Tyler disassembled the bikes in the lobby of our guest-house (with a cute little audience) and then joined me to clean the parts in the alleyway between Shanti Lodge and the next building over. It took several hours and most of the gasoline in our cook-stove fuel bottle to get all the tar splatters off.
Today has been spent sorting through our things, packing, and of course, writing.
If I weren't so busy right now, I'd be doing a jubilant jig, dancing on air. We came to Bangkok with eighty journals to write, and we're leaving the city to fly home with just three more to go. I really, honestly, have trouble believing that we're so near the end of this whole thing!
Before we leave the city, we head out for one final meal at "our place" before we head to the airport. Walking down our familiar block, passing the tailor shop and the travel agent, the restaurant-that-smells-of-pee, and the dusty, hole-in-the-wall pharmacy, the buzzing sounds of the city emblazon themselves in my memory forever: rice sizzling and steaming in a hot wok, scooters zipping by, children laughing as they ride bicycles two-by-two.
A rat skitters along, past the ancient tree that grows in the sidewalk, roots kicking up cobblestone and concrete, decorated with colorful ribbons for the spirits. I love Bangkok; I am so glad we've been able to stay here for so long. Smiling, I look over to Tyler and say, "Remember that time we lived in Bangkok?" He squeezes my hand and grins, responding, "I do." And with that, the walk is over—we've arrived at our little corner restaurant.
A friendly lady is there to greet us, and she asks if we want the same thing we always get—garlic fried chicken for Tyler, and chinese kale over rice with a fried egg for me. We do, but this time, we take photos and watch as she prepares our meal.
First, she makes my Chinese kale, and I learn that the seemingly complex flavor of my favorite dish comes from nothing more than a bit of oyster sauce, and a splash of dark soy sauce. That's all! Next, she ladles hot oil over the top of my egg as it's frying, lending it that signature blistery-bubbled look. Served over rice, my dish is completed in a matter of moments.
Tyler's meal is relatively simple as well: it is chicken and bean sprouts seasoned with chopped garlic, dark soy sauce, a spoonful of sugar, garlic-infused oil, and a final sprinkling of black pepper. I love how simple ingredients can be woven together to yield such intricate flavors.
The food is sensational as always, and we feel a little wistful as we eat it, knowing we won't be able to find anything like this for a dollar a plate back at home. We've been coming here for months now, and we're going to miss it!
Finally, before we leave, Tyler buys two of the restaurant's tin cups. For some reason, ice water is doubly refreshing in the them, and we've grown quite attached. With a tiny little "Thailand" logo stamped in the side, I cannot think of two better, more practical and meaningful souvenirs by which to remember our time here.
Wonderfully satisfied, we walk back to Shanti Lodge where a taxi should be arriving any moment. After hauling down our bags and moving the bike boxes outside, our ride shows up, and we laugh, greeting the food-seller from across the street who is waiting for us, apparently he also drives people to the airport.
The man helps us load the trunk with our luggage, and then we all hop in. The ride to the airport feels surreal. While ambient music lilts away on the radio, Tyler and I squeeze hands in the back of the van, watching Bangkok blur by in the blink of an eye. I feel so grateful that we've been able to spend the last two months living in this city.
"Happy life, honey" Tyler says, repeating a phrase we've told one other countless times. Sometimes, the mantra is muttered with gritted teeth and dripping sarcasm, when the reality of our situation is anything but the fun, easy, vacation we had envisioned early on. But more often than not, like now, the phrase is said happily, in acknowledgement of our gratitude, reminding each other just how much we have to appreciate.
Besides being grateful, I'm feeling relaxed and peaceful, and honestly, exhausted. I can't wait to sleep on the plane. Darkness falls and city lights glitter, and still we ride, until at last we arrive at Suvarnabhumi International airport. With airline names splashed about on bright signs and our luggage in tow, the fact that we're actually going home after two years is finally starting to feel real.