Travel Stories

Basketball in Bangkok

We spend our last day in Bangkok wandering aimlessly, a perfectly lovely thing to do.  We take the train to the other side of the river and walk around until we get back to the river, which we re-cross on a ferry that serves the locals and costs six cents.  We have a drink at a riverside bar and hang out for a while with half a dozen very animated Thai men focused on three very young puppies playing.  We accidently find ourselves in Chinatown.  We eat spectacular Thai food in a restaurant where we point to the type of noodles, meats, and vegetables we want and watch as they are thrown in a vat of boiling water before being brought to our table by a waiter who guides us in the spicing of our dishes.  We order refills.  We walk down a street on a whim and find a basketball court where a dozen guys on a school team and their coach are preparing to run a practice.  Sam asks to joins them in his flip flops.  His participation is focused, egoless, and earnest.  While far and away the biggest and most experienced player on the court, he participates in the drills with an unselfconsciously hard working, good spirited, discipline that, to my eyes, is exemplary.  The other players are quickly and obviously comfortable with him and Sam is clearly enjoying himself running in these most rudimentary drills; laughing, smiling, encouraging, pointing to where the player should go.  They run the drills for an hour, then play full court five on five, Sam running the court now barefooted, never tiring, in on every play, not bullying, not dominating, just totally engaged and playing with his new mates.  It grows dark.  The lights go on on the court.  The mosquitoes come out.  The girls watching the game buy bottles of water they share with Sam and me.  The game continues for at least two hours, guys laughing and sweating, and just not wanting to stop.  At the end, when I pull Sam away or we’d still be there, there are high fives all around, email and facebook addresses exchanged, and a group photo taken which Sam sends to his new buddies. Then again we hit the streets of Bangkok at night.  We eat a crepe-like thing, made at a portable gas fed food stand by a beautiful girl who can’t be eleven years old, with an egg scrabbled in it as it is frying and then sweetened.  It tastes like really good French toast.  Really good.  We eat a crazy kind of curled and sweetened milk custard.  Not so good.  We take the tram back to Nana station and our hostel where I get a haircut and shave and Sam another foot massage. Later that night Sam tells me how much he enjoyed himself playing basketball in Bangkok.  He tells me the next day on the beach in Pattaya how much he enjoyed playing basketball in Bangkok.  Later that night he even says maybe he’ll come back early from Laos so he can again play ball with the guys in Bangkok.