showstopper

I am in a government bus that may well have been used on the school run in the US in the 1950s. I am travelling from Pai to a Buddhist forest monastery called Wat Tam Wua, which is excellent to say out loud… We are climbing the highest mountain in Thailand in this bus, which is packed to the gills and resembles more a migratory caravan in search of a better life. The gradient is severe and there are increasingly moments where I doubt we will win the battle with gravity. We stop, midway through a corner, and the driver grinds on the handbrake which only slightly limits the roll backwards. It appears this is necessary because finding 1st gear is as complex as extracting a tooth. When he does succeed we hunch forwards at an elephantine pace that would make even electric lawnmowers seem like well-tuned dragsters. Suddenly 105km seems like a very long walk. But we are trailing through heavenwards ridgeways of jungle trees, the tropical pine-scented breeze is caressing me and no one else on the bus seems to be in a hurry. It is such a wonderful thing: not to rush. Just to stop and breathe and watch the show laid on for us. And yet I treat myself to it so rarely. Whenever did I learn to prioritise the getting to somewhere else? And it must be learnt, because folks simply don’t do it here.

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