Saving A Friendship In Bangkok

2016-03-15

Bangkok-streets

September 2015

How far would you go to save a friendship?

After some back and forth that included a spontaneous trip to Manila, it finally works out: I’d meet up with my Burmese friend in Bangkok – as a compromise between Yangon and Singapore, where I’m staying for a couple of weeks. We met two years ago at a beach party in Singapore and subsequently got closer through Facebook – thanks to his insomnia and the fact that I, living in Switzerland, was the only one online due to the time difference.

For a while we had a quite intense friendship – despite our age difference of seven years and totally different cultural backgrounds. We wrote for hours and skyped at times. But during the last couple of months we hardly talked or wrote anymore and whenever I contacted him because of a possible reunion, he didn’t seem very interested and replied only irregularly.

Most people would have gotten the clue and moved on, but I hold onto people who used to be dear to me for a long time before accepting that I have to let them go. This sweet taste of nostalgia.. So I’ve kept trying to organise a meet up even though it seemed like he didn’t care. Foolish me, but at least I told myself that I’ll give up on our friendship if we don’t manage to meet up this year. I’m done chasing up people who don’t care.

The reunion in Bangkok is literally a last-minute thing and I don’t know what to expect – I just know that we’ll lose touch if we don’t see each other again while I am in Asia. The last couple of months have come down to that.

corn-seller-Bangkok

street-vendor-Bangkok

Bangkok receives me with streams of rain, my flight is delayed and at the immigration I have to copy the hotel name of the guy behind me to fill the mandatory piece of information because I didn’t book anything. Not the best start. I just hope that I wouldn’t have to look for Kevin, my friend, for too long.

He finds me before I get through the control. I see him standing there, a huge backpack shouldered, and can’t believe it has actually worked out. He’s come to Bangkok because of me, he cares, no matter how often he ignored my messages and seemed as if he didn’t.

A hearty hug, followed by a bit of a reserved, cautious friendliness from my side that soon dissolves. He makes jokes, teases me about selling me to an old Thai dude and it’s as if the months of distance between us have never existed. I didn’t dare to imagine that it would go so well.

thai-people

Bangkok intimidates me. I’m a small girl with bright blue-green hair, curious eyes and a camera around my neck. I stare at things and people for too long and attract attention I don’t want to get. I stick with Kevin, he’s the only familiar thing in this unfamiliar place. Safety.

praying-women

We arrive at the hotel and get a room together to spare my tight budget. We enter the room and a single queen-sized bed laughs at us. Without hesitation, we go back to the reception to ask for a room with two single beds. People assume we’re a couple, but our friendship is strong enough that we know exactly that we’re nothing more than friends and don’t feel uncomfortable because of the others.

fresh-juice-Bangkok

sticky-rice-with-mango

The familiarity slowly comes back while we eat sticky rice with mango and street food and share coconut water from a fresh coconut. With my camera in the hand I walk at his side and sometimes almost get lost because my eyes spot an interesting subject and I stop mid-pace without letting him know. I’m glad he isn’t bothered by my slow pace.

street-vendor-Bangkok-2
This guy was near our hotel and I walked past him a couple of times, intrigued by his look but too shy to stop to take a photo, afraid he would mind. Eventually I found the courage. He didn’t mind at all.

guy-under-bridge

street-vendor-Bangkok-1

We roam through shopping centers that make me feel like in Europe, walk amidst streams of people with facial features similar to mine, features I’ve gotten used to see during the last couple of weeks. We talk about businesses and dreams and he tells me about Burmese women who study but want to marry a guy that can provide for them and about how important money and prestige is in his social circle. I’m happy that I’m just a rather simple girl with big dreams who doesn’t have to care about reputations or wealth.

Since I look Western and Kevin like a Thai, he handles all the bargaining with the tuk tuk or taxi drivers. I don’t feel comfortable being in a country where I don’t speak the language because I like to be able to take care of myself, but it’s good to have someone around who is in charge so I can relax a bit – however, my stomach tightens when we pass near the place where the bomb detonated just two weeks ago. You never know when you wake up for the last time.

tuk-tuk-rides

Then there are tuk tuk rides and conversations about a broken heart. I don’t understand. How can someone treat a person like him that badly? How can you let someone else treat you so badly? Where’s the self-respect that tells you that you deserve better? I don’t understand how people can love someone who’s bad for them. But then, I used to be in an unhealthy relationship as well, so I got a taste of these emotions that swallow you up.

“I talk so much when I’m with you. With her, I hardly get the chance to speak. She talks all the time and I have to listen.”

Bangkok-Chinatown-by-night
Chinatown

Night time, Chinatown. After dinner and the best mango smoothie I’ve ever tasted, I’m together with a small group of Burmese, two of them business owners, all at least seven years older than me – and I wonder how the hell I got here. The only thing we have in common is Kevin and I’m amazed how knowing him has led me to this place with those people I otherwise never would have met.

Then I realise with how much ease they navigate through Bangkok, they’re all so familiar with this region because they’ve grown up in South East Asia while I was cut off from this part of my heritage. It fills me with sorrow. I’m the foreigner even though I belong, at least a bit.

His friend drinks too much Japanese whiskey on the rocks and heaves beside me in the car. I soothingly touch his shoulder. I know too well how it feels like to be in his position.

(to be continued)

night-lights

best-mango-smoothie-Bangkok
Look out for this cute family if you’re in Bangkok and want to try the best mango smoothie ever!

Kev-and-me

thai-selling-bags

thai-lady

thai-man-peace

guy-Chinatown-Bangkok

43 Comments
    1. I like the vibrant colors in these pictures, they remind me of my honeymoon (Sri Lanka) and how colors in Europe tend to be much more faded, matching, safe. Especially fabrics and vehicles. The old rickety buses in Sri Lanka that are just completely painted in a kaleidosope of colors is something you’d never see here.

      1. wow, Sri Lanka is an interesting choice to spend the honeymoon! Those buses you’re speaking of remind me of the vehicles I drove with in Manila – an exciting experience. I agree, many places here in Europe aren’t very colourful and everything is so .. streamlined? Thank you for your comment and have a great week! :)

    1. Really enjoyed reading this post, happy it worked out between you and your old friend! Especially in Bangkok =)

      1. Thanks for reading and commenting! :) I checked out your blog – cool idea! I’m also in a North-South relationship with me living in Switzerland and my boyfriend in Uruguay.. so I can relate! :)

    1. I’m so glad you were able to spend time with your friend! It can be quite challenging to maintain long-distance friendships. The internet helps, but it’s not the same as being able to walk/drive to someone’s house.

      1. Thank you for your comment, Josh (also for the elaborate one on your post – I’ll take my time to reply to it after handing in my portfolio!) :) Yes, I think the internet really helps, that’s what makes the long-distance part of my relationship with my boyfriend bearable, but my Burmese friend hardly communicates with me what made/makes me feel like he doesn’t care.. but I guess thinks are never black and white :) have a great week!

        1. Thanks Monika, and I hope everything goes well with your portfolio! Please take your time to reply to my other comment, I don’t want you to feel rushed :)

          1. Thank you for your understanding, Josh :) I’m going to reply to your comment this evening!

    1. I absolutely love this! Friendships are beautiful and especially more when you can both be yourselves even after months of not communicating. Enjoy yourself! Beautiful pictures too.

      1. Thank you so much, Elizabeth! :) Yes, I was really glad we clicked right away. I looked at your blog and wondered, are you in a long-distance relationship? :)

    1. It’s amazing to see your dedication to keep the friendship alive:) I admire the determination you have and the investment you put in to keep a long-distance friendship going. It’s really not easy to keep in touch when you live apart from each other–it’s beautiful!:) Plus, I love your photos. They are so vibrant in color haha

      1. Thank you very much for your kind comment! :) I can be very stubborn at times, for the good and bad haha and well, normally I’d say that it’s not that hard to keep long-distance friendships alive when both communicate regularly with each other, but unfortunately, that’s not the case with us.. but yeah, at least the meet up in Bangkok worked out :)
        aw, thank you!! :D I can only encourage you again to take street photos in Korea haha

      1. Thank you very much for reading and commenting :) yes, I really like to take street portraits, those little exchanges with the person I’m photographing are very fun :)

    1. You are a ‘find’. A find in this context would be a treasure. Your presentation is inviting. The content is varied, but you always bring the reader back to your focul point, the friendship. You hooked my interest right away and kept it. That is not an easy task. Your style is similar to two other writters I follow online, but each with a unique personality. All of this plus your photography. Great shots. Thank you –

      1. Dear Jane, sorry for the late reply, I was quite stressed and wanted to take my time to answer to your beautiful comment. Thank you so much for these kind words, they mean a lot to me. Could you tell me the names of the other two writers you follow? I’d love to check them out. Thank you again for your comment and have a wonderful week!

          1. Thank you for your quick reply, I’m going to check the blogs out now :) take care! xox

      1. Thank you very much for reading and your kind comment! :) Unfortunately it’s not burning anymore haha but at least I know now that it doesn’t mean that it’s not there anymore :) have a lovely day!

    1. Very well written. Loved these lines in there;
      “Bangkok intimidates me. I’m a small girl with bright blue-green hair, curious eyes and a camera around my neck. I stare at things and people for too long and attract attention I don’t want to get. I stick with Kevin, he’s the only familiar thing in this unfamiliar place. Safety.”

      Meaningfully expressed.

      1. Hi Tariq, thank you for stopping by and leaving this kind comment – have a nice week :)

    1. Hello! I really like your blog and photos can I have an interview with you for my site nikisreviews.com?

      Niki

      1. Hi Niki, thank you for asking! Currently I have quite a lot going on but I’d love to do it in April/May if it’s okay? xox

    1. Hi Monika, I love your blog and would like to subscribe! However, I see the only option is to sign up to email updates. I never check my emails really and prefer not to put my email address down for things. Is there anyway I can follow you so you will show up in my WordPress reader? Thanks!

      1. Hi Sean, thank you very much for stopping by, your kind words and reaching out to me! It’s weird that the WP-Follow-Button doesn’t appear in the bottom right, but you should be able to follow me via Reader > Followed Sites > Manage > Follow Site (Top Right) :) have a great week!

    1. Monica, your photos are full of life! And your words make me fall even more in love with Thailand. I really want to make it there someday.

      1. Thank you so much, Cara! :)) I believe Ghana would be amazing place to document as well. haha actually I loved Manila more than Bangkok, but I’m sure you’ll love Thailand – I hope you can make it there soon :)

    1. Your blog is definitely an interesting read. I like the sincerity and openness of your writing. Kudos. I’ll be back to read more ;)

      1. Thank you very much, Alia <3 I'm working on being open and vulnerable and it makes me happy to hear that people notice that :)) I'm looking forward to hearing from you again! you're from Malaysia, aren't you? :)

    1. Wow I really love this post, and I felt every feeling that you have written <3 It's personal and with a touch of your descriptions of Bangkok. This really makes me miss Thailand more, it makes me want to go back! :)

      1. Thank you so much for your lovely feedback! <3 You've got a new follower now btw :)) I read that you're not too fond of Manila, but I absolutely loved the capital of your country because the people were so amazing there :)) I'd love to return to Manila.. I hope you can visit Bangkok again soon! :)

    1. Checked out a couple of your posts and this resonates so well with me! Thanks so much Monika xx I hope I have the courage to save my long-distance friendship too!

      1. Aw, thank you for your kind words! I hope I could help a bit. About courage – DO IT if you think it’s worth it! What’s the distance? :) take care <3

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