Necessary steps to drive a motorcycle in the United States of America:
1. Take a motorcycle education course and acquire the certificate to certify that you’ve passed.
2. Take the certificate to the DMV and take the permit test.
3. Wait six months.
4. After the six months have passed, go to the DMV and take a driving test.
Necessary steps to drive a motorcycle in Thailand:
1. Pay 300 baht.
We stood in the rainy driveway of our hostel straddling the bikes, examining the mass of red metal for a key slot that didn’t seem to exist.
It was the very first rain since December and the pavement was slick.
Feeling a couple of pounds more than ever so slightly pathetic, we asked a man hurrying by, newspaper held protectively over head, how to start the motorbikes. In one solitary swipe he turned the key, flicked his wrist across the handlebars and literally, we were flying.
I believe the single most rational thought we’d had all morning occurred while circling the breakfast table, debating as to who would drive the bike. Neither one of us trusted the others driving ability, so we simply rented two bikes and agreed that we would be responsible for our own deaths. To each his own.
Feeling the rain pelt my face I flew downhill, folding with the curves in the road and slipping casually between traffic.
Lightning mixed with thunder in an explosion of bright sound.
And the pouring precipitation somehow seemed to amplify the greens of jungle and the dark reds of bark.
Sounds seemed louder and the air shoved against my face with every meter of speed as all I smelled was clean. A clean much stronger than any other supposed smells of purity I’ve been sold in my life, like air freshener or new car, or confession.
But it’s right around the moment of hitting that puddle and beginning to skid recklessly across the pavement, staring contest lengths away from oncoming traffic, that I really began to respect the fragility of existence.
And all parts of your body begin to pulse with life, noticeably feeling the presence of each vein and the thin stretch of gossamer skin protecting them.
Destination: Phra Puttamingmongkol Akenakkiri Buddha: The Big Buddha of Phuket. An enormous hilltop statue covered in 135 tons of Burmese White Marble, 45 meters high and 25 meters round.
Our map-less journey was guided mainly by maneuvering ourselves in the direction of the towering Buddha whenever we caught glimpses of it behind the hilltops.
Taking whatever path appeared to bring us closer.
The engineers of Thai roads gained their inspiration directly from a frantic game of jumbled pick-up sticks.
Throwing a handful up in the air, they quickly mapped the pattern to successfully create the most hectic frenzy of cluttered streets.
Upon arrival at the Big Buddha, it appeared to be just that, a rather large Buddha statue hanging out on the hilltop. By rather large I mean not quite Statue of Liberty status, but it held its own respectably.
We smiled and posed, circling the Buddha and snapping shots.
More entertaining than the chunk of marble itself were the tourists surrounding it, babbling on in their various dialects so absorbed in the lives they were leading, so focused on their own pasts and their own futures.
All living out their own legacies.
And it saddens me just a little bit, the way in which I’ll probably never see them again, ever. Not that I felt the need to throw a ten year reunion, it just reminds me of how considerably cumbersome the world really is.
The Buddha statue is still a work in progress and there are collection boxes surrounding the premises to complete the project.
My favorite part of the entire place, I believe, were the incredible onsite bathrooms provided.
No really, they ranked among one of the best places I have ever peed in my life.
In the shape of an enormous irrelevant log there are a couple of doors carved out and the bathroom stalls are actually in the tree trunk itself.
I couldn’t help but wonder whether it wouldn’t have been slightly more productive just to put all the money they’d invested in the toilets towards finishing the thirty million baht project, but hey, that’s just me.
Spiraling down the gravel roadway with no particular destination in mind but an accommodating amount of gas in our tanks, we encountered only one slight, slightest of incidents.
Driving aloud, feeling for once like my actions were creating much more poetry than my pen could ever produce.
I was free styling.
I was poetry slamming.
I was action.
I was soul.
I was an adjective.
And a verb.
I was silence.
I was sound.
I was…driving into a ditch.
Somehow caught up in the splendored concentration of living, I managed to forfeit the act of steering in lieu of spotting the perfect photograph.
I saw it in an instant, my photo, and it was gone just as quickly.
I struggled to recall how the brakes worked in the midst of overwhelming beauty barging into my senses.
But unwilling to sacrifice my picture, and desperate to keep this bike from driving on as it seemed so determined to do, I could see no other solution than driving into a ditch and using the grassy emerald forces of mother nature to pad my fall.
Desperate times call for desperate measures, or something to that effect.
Lo and behold, I got my picture!
But after returning to my abandoned bike-in-a-ditch, I realized just how immensely heavy the machine was and just how deeply slanted this ditch was.
I’d never thought about that before, I was kind of just focused on stopping the bike without incorporating thinking into the entire ordeal.
But a bit of universal goodwill hurtled my way as a mini-van pulled over and a couple of men from Denmark stumbled out to rescue the foreigner from the ditch.
It was pretty dramatic, in a Bear Grylls sort of manner.
Eventually, the bike was successfully pushed back on to the gravel with only the slight misfortune that my right foot managed to be under the wheel the entire time.
A fact that I didn’t really want to bother going through the effort of pointing out because I was already pretty embarrassed about the whole situation and didn’t want to inconvenience them any further.
I gritted my teeth with a smile and waved as they pulled away before assessing the damage.
Nothing to gaudy or gruesome, Thailand had just become a bit wider and slightly more smeared.
And the very best part of all was that the certainty of it scarring had risen to about ninety-seven percent, Thank God.