As a kid, I remember gawking at the slides my grandparents brought back from their trip to Hong Kong and China: glittery images of dragon boats, Chinese junks and golden hotels. I found myself yearning to visit the exotic Orient, to immerse myself in the sheer wonder of it all. The years passed, of course, and I got busy with school and college and work, forgetting about my grandparents’ slides. Until, that is, I went to the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok, Thailand.
The river itself isn’t all that exciting. Big, wide, and dirty, the Chao Phraya feels more like a conveyance, a means of getting around than a place to picnic on a lazy summer day. What’s absolutely wondrous, however, are the palaces and temples that dot the river’s shores.
Paying my 20 cents at the little window by the jetty, I climb aboard one of the regular ferry boats that plies the river regularly, providing an airy alternative to the clogged, smog-filled, Bangkok streets. It’s a hilarious scene, with the ferry backing into the dock, slamming into the rubber bumpers and then straightening out more by rebound than intention. I now have about 45 seconds to scramble aboard the boat and grab a seat before it chugs away from the shore, spewing noxious fumes out the exhaust. The boat, not me.
A few minutes later, my jaw drops in astonishment. There on the shore is the most exotic building I’ve seen since my grandparents’ slides: The Grand Palace! Red and green sloped rooves, golden stupas—it is flat-out gorgeous, like a movie set from the musical Anna and the King. Where is Yul Brynner?!! A bit further downriver, we come across yet another stunning structure: the Wat Arun, otherwise known as the “Temple of the Dawn” – a towering white stupa flanked by four slender pagodas, resembling a Thai Lunar Module.
All I can do is pinch myself and think, “How does this all still exists in the world? Why hasn’t anyone told me about this? How am I lucky enough to be here?”
And also: “My grandparents would’ve loved this!”
What inspired you as a child? When is the last time you tapped that feeling?? What if you could build a job or career out of your childhood passions? How might that change your life?