Bangkok, Suvarnabhumi: Awake very early and in the car before daylight, through the empty streets and strange yellow sodium street lights on the elevated tollway over the rooftops of the town and out to the airport to meet the Air France flight, ETA: 06.15 hrs. As it turned out, the flight was delayed by one hour, so there was time to sit in the seats at the tour group end of Arrivals, near Gate 10 and open the laptop to write this.
Gate 10 is where the tour groups gather, bleary-eyed and sleepless, having just got off the plane from some distant part of the world. The people around me are speaking Russian and I see from the Arrivals board it must be the flight from Novobirisk (Wikipedia says it’s a large industrial city in Asian Russia). They assemble at Gate 10 and have their names ticked off a list by the Thai representatives of the tour. There’s 30 minutes allowed to have a cup of coffee; children run around, go to the toilets and everyone is ready to get on the coach. When they’re all accounted for, the tour leader gathers them together and they all leave. The mass exodus of the group is dynamic, all following the leader in front who’s holding a coloured flag high in the air so they can see it. Off they go, through the wide passageways and shuffling along with their luggage and running children and moving as one great lake of beings in the direction of the coaches somewhere in another part of the airport. In a short time all the seats at Gate 10 are suddenly empty. Bye-bye the group from Novobirisk.
But before that happens, the Russian tourists spend the time intensely absorbing everything around them; talking with the tour guides and taking pictures of everything; roof structure, walls, illuminated adverts, airport signage, and each other posing in front of vases of purple orchids, dressed up in their best summer frocks and smiling for the camera. It’s as if they’d stepped out of the 1950s, remote from anything I know of and yet there’s a familiarity; it’s possible they could be people I knew in my childhood in the North of Scotland. There are so many photos being taken, it’s like a small press event; digital camera lights flashing like strobe lights in a disco. I’m dazzled by it, blinded for a moment and have to look at the floor to allow normal vision to recover. Look up again and they’re leaving, the whole place captured in pixels and taken away back to Novobirsk, at the end of the holiday, where all the views of it are reassembled to form one composite image of the waiting area at Gate 10. ‘… and here is Aleksandra and Nikolai at Bangkok airport don’t zay looks zo bright and lively?’
The seating area is empty for a while, strangely quiet, light slowly coming up and then it’s completely daylight, people again start to assemble in the seating area. It’s another group from Beijing, same thing as last time but the conversations I hear this time are in Chinese.
‘… it seemed to him that these people were his brothers. Their vanities, appetites and absurd traits had lost their absurdity for him. These traits had become comprehensible, lovable; he even experienced them as worthy of respect. The blind love of a mother for her child, the ignorant pride of a father over his son, the raw hunger of vain young women for jewellry and the admiring looks of men – all these impulses, all these childish qualities, all these simple and foolish but incredibly powerful, incredibly vivid, forcefully dominant impulses and cravings were no longer childishness for Siddhartha. He saw that people live for them, achieve an endless amount for them, travel, wage war, suffer and persevere unendingly for them. And he could love them for that. He saw life, that which is living, the indestructible essence, Brahman, in all of their passions in each of their deeds.’ [Herman Hesse, ‘Siddhartha’ p128]
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