Billy. Remember landing here in Thailand? Remember being driven to the Airbnb through what looked like dilapidated streets where stray dogs roamed free?
Elliott. I remember. I remember thinking that we were really in for it.
Billy. Look at us now though: walking down the street at night sipping smoothies, feeling completely at ease. This is such a far cry from my memory of that first night.
Elliott. Things looked so much worse that first day. But in actuality we spent most of our time wandering the city, or milling about in cafés.
Billy. Thailand has been nothing like the news portrays it as, that’s for sure. What would our parents have said if we told them we were going to visit Las Vegas. Probably something like, “Don’t blow all your money at the black jack table! And remember, an STD won’t stay in Vegas!” Compare that to what they said when we told them we would be going to Thailand. “Make sure you be safe there. Stay away from big crowds and always walk together late at night. You never know who is out there.” That fear is so far removed from the truth.
Elliott. It reinforces the notion that you can’t take anybody’s word about a place as gospel. You have to visit the place in question to see for yourself.
Billy. We have to have a boys trip back here.
Elliott. Absolutely. What a week that would be. Though, as much as I’ve liked it here, three weeks has really been my limit. I couldn’t live here any longer than that.
Elliott. It’s too hot all the time for starters. I need somewhere that gets real weather, somewhere where the seasons actually change. That, and I don’t think I’m spiritual enough to live here.
Billy. What kind of reason is that? What do you mean?
Elliott. I mean there is such an air of spirituality here—what with all the temples and that. You walk down the street and there on the horizon is an unavoidably large statue of the Buddha, next to an elaborate Wat that is difficult to ignore. I don’t need to see the Buddha, temples, or Christian churches for that matter day in and day out. I’m always suspicious of outward displays of spirituality. I feel as though true spirituality is inward, and evaporates as soon as it is exposed to outside air. In other words, you don’t need a temple to practice Buddhism and you don’t need a church to practice Christianity. In my experience people who attend church punctually forget this notion, and are usually looking to prove something.
Billy. That’s some convenient reasoning. Is that why you can’t remember the last time you went to church back home? Too busy practicing Christianity in your bedroom?
Elliott. You know what I mean.
Billy. I do, and I think you’re right to a certain extent. Yes, believing that going to temple makes you a Buddhist isn’t necessarily correct, but there is still something to be said about the feeling of community temple offers. This community is even more important to Christians I think, right?
Elliott. Well. Shit. Yeah that’s true. The whole “Where two or three gather in my name, there I am with them” thing.
Billy. Is that a Bible verse?
Elliott. It’s Matthew something or other yeah.
Billy. I’m impressed. Are you practicing Christianity at home on Sundays?
Elliott. Definitely not. The Bible, however, has no shortage of trenchant lines of beautiful poetry. I enjoy those types of lines insofar as I enjoy poetry. In fact one of the first things I ever memorized was the Lord’s Prayer. You know, “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…”
Billy. I don’t know actually.
Elliott. Oh well. It’s in the book of Matthew as well, like the quote I mentioned earlier about God being wherever the community gathers. But the Lord’s Prayer also appears in shorter form in the book of Luke.
Billy. Uh huh.
Elliott. How did we get talking about this?
Billy. You were mentioning how aren’t spiritual.
Elliott. Right. All I’m trying to say is that it’s too in your face here, too much for my comfort, anyway.
Billy. I could see myself living here. Not for the rest of my life, but for a few years, sure. Life is well-paced here. It’s not a huge city with over-crowded streets and a sprawling metropolis. Most things are close enough to walk to, and there isn’t an overwhelming variety of things to do, but the things that are here are genuine in that you can do them multiple times and still get something out of the experience. Like Doi Suthep, the temple in the mountains we visited yesterday. I would love to go back there when it isn’t so crowded and just soak up as much detail as possible. I think I could do that many times and not get bored, or at least not for a long time. Plus, these smoothies man, are freakin delicious.
Elliott. The thing is that when I try and make them at home they will be nowhere near as good as they are here.
Billy. Exactly. That’s why we’ve got to enjoy then while we can.