Sunday, November 30, 2008

In the middle of somewhere

The best things in life aren't things.
--Art Buchwald
Sometimes the best thing you can do is to sit down in one place and wait for something interesting to happen. This idea was presented to me by a friend in college, and her wisdom at that young age continues to impress me as I go through life. She's right time after time, and this has been especially true during our travels. Liz and I aren't see-as-much-as-possible travelers, even though we've tried that several times on this trip. Discovering the depth of a place is what has revealed our best experiences.

If you asked most travelers about their trips through Thailand, few would probably mention the town of Phitsanulok. Located in central Thailand between the bustle of Bangkok and the natural beauty of the northern provinces, Phitsanulok is just a simple Thai town with little to offer the sight-seeker. It has a train station, several markets, a few hotels, and a riverside nightlife scene. The nationally-revered Buddha image at Wat Yai is probably the town's most significant tourist draw, but that alone wouldn't be enough to pull in most foreign travelers on their way north to the cultural hub of Chiang Mai.

We stopped in Phitsanulok as a base for a side trip to the ancient city ruins of Sukhothai, an hour away. While we enjoyed the ruins for their historical value, our time in Phitsanulok extended beyond what we had initially intended simply because the town was such a pleasant place to just be. Its strangely comforting to try to live a normal life in someone else's normal town.

Over three days, we enjoyed walking around, getting the lay of the land, eating three square meals a day, and taking time to learn and practice speaking a bit more Thai. We mastered numbers, greetings, basic commerce ("How much is this?"), and the always necessary "What do you call this?" so we can ask for something we've enjoyed in the future. After several meals in the same small morning buffet, we were greeted with smiles and encouragement at our communication attempts. We started recognizing and passing people we'd seen several times on the street, and they recognized us as well. We found the post office, talked to high school students and shopped at the local market.

The highlight for both of us, I believe, was a string of interactions we had with a little girl and her mother over three days. Its amazing how much you can truly communicate without language. I hope I never forget the feeling of those three days. Its richness will certainly outshine any souvenir I could possibly hope to bring home.


At December 1, 2008 at 5:02 PM , Blogger melissalou said...

HI guys! Thanks for the great posts. I love living vicariously through the both of you :) Any news on the airport situation? Hope this hasn't hampered your travel plans too much. Looking forward to reading about the rest of your journey!

At December 7, 2008 at 5:36 PM , Blogger kch said...

Wow. wow. and wow. It's not nearly as adventurous as what you two are doing, but I'm heading to Scotland and Switzerland for a week before the New Year. Travel bug is huge and kickin'! Happy travels and all that they include. There is no such thing as mishaps on a trip like yours. It all adds to the fun of it, right?!


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