I’ve written before about different aspects of Thai life. Notably, catching a night bus and getting a massage. That’s pretty straightforward, practical stuff. I’ve tried for a long time to get my head around the finer points of Thai (and Chinese) philosophy. Some of it is quite easily understood, but most of it is much more complex, especially to our pre-conditioned Western brains. It’s such a huge area that it permeates every aspect of life in Asia and I find it easier to break it down into more manageable chunks, especially within the context of a story.
So, here’s one.
After landing in Bangkok and living it up in Pattaya for a while, I headed north to Chiang Mai where I stayed at a beautiful little place in the Old Town called ZZ House. It was a very relaxed atmosphere, and when I wasn’t out exploring I hung out with some of the other guests and the owner. I noticed that he would buy a lot of bananas. Not that unusual, you might think. But he would buy them when they were still green, then put them in a bowl in the sun and wait patiently for them to turn ripe enough to eat. He would sit there for long periods, staring at this bowl with a whimsical expression, seemingly willing the bananas on.
One day, I couldn’t resist asking him why he didn’t just buy yellow bananas to begin with. Then he could just eat them right away. The answer he gave stayed with me. He said, “Because the longer you have to wait, the sweeter the taste.”
Now, maybe unripe bananas that have been in the sun for a few days really do taste sweeter than shop-bought yellow ones. I mean, literally. But I doubt it. I think, like most things in Asia, his answer works on several levels and what he was actually doing was making a point about all the waiting making the end goal better. Or he could have been making a point about patience being a virtue. Either way, it was zen as fuck.
At first, I dismissed the notion. Fucking waiting for bananas to turn yellow. I’m a Western dude and I want everything yesterday. But pretty soon, I found myself sitting with the owner in the mornings, watching the bananas and waiting for them to turn yellow.
And you know what? They really did taste sweeter.
Read more about my Thai adventures in my book, 27 Days of Sin