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When my friend dropped me off at Beijing’s Capital International Airport yesterday, it was 15F outside. I was in my snowman outfit. No sooner had I checked in did I shred all the warm layers and change to summer clothes–I was bound for Bangkok, for the umpteenth time. About 6 hours later, including a brief transit in Hong Kong, I disembarked into a different reality, an 85F reality, one that never knows the frigidness and dryness of my previous reality. Skin is the first part of me that embraces this new reality as every pore in me feels nourished by the welcoming humidity that usually. Being an old hand that I am, Bangkok feels like home. Familiarity of the city means spontaneity: I am freed from my obligation to any toursy attractions I might wish to engage in.

Quoting Italo Calvino again, “Arriving at each new city, the traveler finds again a past of his that he did not know he had: the foreignness of what you no longer are or no longer possess lies in wait for you in foreign, unpossessed places.” In keeping the sentiment of Calvino, however home I feel about Bangkok, I still maintain a distance of an observer, because this place, the land of smiles, just never stop amaze me. I don’t want to possess this place, I rather be possessed by it, so long as it continues to entertain my senses. An advantage of being spontaneous is the complete disregard of time. Time, which dictates an agenda, no longer has a grip on the traveler. Breakfast can go on until I’m sick of the mimosa. Only one routine remains: reading over coffee.

I left behind The Likeness at The Bookworm Beijing to be added to the lending collection. I buried that murder mystery with the cold of the Red Flags capital. An inner voice told me to read it in the cold. The decision proves to be a sound one that when I opened Tom Rachman’s The Imperfectionists shortly before boarding the tropic-bound flight, my spirit was uplifted. The book reminds me a bit of Let the Great World Spin, which didn’t totally ring the bell for me but, Tom Rachman’s story revolves around the lives of journalists of an English-language newspaper in Rome, Italy. The strand of lives do become entwined and their boundary faded as the book progresses.

Other than simple and direct language, and correct usage, good writing also breathes humor and a sense of relevance. Read this passage:

Corrections have proliferated of late. A handful even earned a place on Herman’s corkboard: Tony Blair included on a list of ‘recently deceased Japanese dignitaries’; Germany described as suffering from ‘a genital malaise in the economy’, and almost daily appearances from ‘the Untied States.’ He types out his latest publishable correction: ‘In an article by Hardy Benjamin in the Tuesday business section, the former dictator of Iraq was erroneously referred to as sadism Hussein. The correct spelling is Saddam. We doubt that our typographical error impinged on the man’s credibility, however, we regret—‘ [80]

The reality of this passage is, the uncorrected lines might as well reflect the reality. It just cracks me up. I have a strong urge to sit here at the outdoor lounge until I finish the book. Sawadee krup!

8 Responses

  1. That is a huge swing in temps! And I bet very hard to pack for. I was checked out there for a few days on the blogs, but I did see on Facebook that you didn’t like The Likeness. That made me sad! I wanted to sit down with you and gently convince you that it is really in fact wonderful. But I do know that French is not everyone’s cup of tea. Personally, I want to have her children, but that is just me!

    • The 15F-to-85F transition was smoother than I thought, although some of the people at Beijing airport dropped their eye balls watching me undress right at the check-in counters. (I did keep my pants on.) I wanted to pack away winter clothes into the checked bag so I board the plane like I was heading to Hawaii!

      Tana French is a great writer who has a knack for literary flair. I just didn’t enjoy the turn out of the story, it’s almost predictable.

  2. It’s good to be in a warm place in this winter. Even HK is freezing cold right now.

    Enjoy your trip in this land of smiles and sunshine.

    • It’s almost too hot but I’m loving it. I have rarely vacationed in cold climates but I’m making it an exception for my friend who now lives in Beijing. I read about frost warning in HK!!!

  3. I love your sense of adventure..time be damned!! 😀

  4. You write so brilliantly and beautifully about your visit to Thailand. I love that you left The Likeness behind and am so happy that you have found a book that matches your travels now and the mood you are in. Enjoy the rest of your trip!

    • I think I’m just very passionate about Thailand, a country that embraces diversity of lifestyles. The great flavors of the food also makes me return.

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