By Guest Blogger Jamie Gault
I was walking along Soi Sukhumvit in Bangkok with Murdoch. The noise was rich and overflowing. Sporadically the sun would peep through the clouds letting some out of the engine racket and sounds of water boiling from the street carts. But mostly the clouds kept everything in, not that I was complaining.
Bangkok is a city that sits innocently and pokes away at each of your five senses. The smells flow richly from quiet alleys, flashes of golden temples catch your eye in the distance. You keep on walking and run your hands through the green grass at Lumpini Park and your taste buds come alive sampling the street food, the more crazier the better. The noise takes you in, until…
I turned to Murdoch as suddenly I felt the SkyTrain move above me, but I could not hear it. A local man stood and clapped wildly in front of his stall, his mouth moving quickly. I could see that he was shouting but I could not hear a thing. I faced the road and watched as a fresh batch of cars sped past but not a noise was to be heard.
Ok, either in the last 20 seconds all cars were fitted with perfect noise cancellers or my hearing aid batteries are dead and I am deaf in this huge city.
Murdoch stared at me for a while and continued walking. I followed him and for some reason I couldn’t help but have a smile on my face. I don’t think he had realised yet, for all I knew he was probably talking to me for five minutes about how we needed to do more touristy things and not just drink Leo all day. But I didn’t know. I knew one thing: I had no more batteries.
Slowly however a whole new world began to open up in front of my eyes. I couldn’t hear but suddenly the smells became even stronger and without the noise distractions of rapid cars and Tuk Tuk drivers I discovered a whole new Bangkok.
I finally realised the amount of deaf vendors that set up shop along the main road (it wasn’t until much later that I found out about the vendor permits for the deaf community). I was so swept up in the what was for sale and the atmosphere that I did not see the sign language and the quiet musings going on. I vowed that I wouldn’t make that mistake again.
I looked around and saw the friendly competition, the salesmen and women making do with their circumstance and putting in their best efforts to make some baht and support their families. It was a community given an unlucky path but being strong enough to live life as if they were just anybody else. I was awakened and inspired.
I tried to keep up with Murdoch but his long stride and my own wanderlust that kept my feet planted on the same bricks left me shouting at him to wait up. He kept walking. I shouted. He kept walking.
It took me five minutes to realise I wasn’t making any noise.
A short vendor with rich grey hair was staring at me confused. I couldn’t help but laugh.
I ordered a bag of fried banana from him and hopefully got out a thank you before I ran to catch up with Murdoch.
We wandered along and passed Soi Cowboy and the inevitable unhealthy flashbacks that made me walk a little faster. We turned the corner and reached our hotel.
It wasn’t until that dreaded ding-aling-aling-aling and the elimination of one of my five senses that I realised how hard it can be to take everything in, to live in the moment without distractions even when travelling. But without hearing I was able to focus on the small things and discovered a Bangkok I could never have imagined.
Murdoch was saying something to me. He was smiling and slowly he began to laugh. I figured he was telling a joke or something. He was getting all excited and was threatening to shoot up through the roof.
I walked towards him, put my hand on his shoulder and smiled.
Then I told him:
Murdoch, I can’t hear you.
Photos by Jamie Gault