Tag: lost

Self-guided Khlong Tour

When you get to a new place, get lost. Wander in space, wander in time. I adhere to the words of Rebecca Solnit in A Field Guide to Getting Lost and often find myself in the moment in a new city.

I finally had some free time at the American Arts Incubator program and set out the other day to the Thonburi district to see one of the temples. Here, I would have been amongst tourists snapping digital photos. Instead, I got distracted myself on a self-guided Khlong Tour.

 The khlongs are the canals in Bangkok, a city which used to be called the Venice of the East. Centuries ago, they were used for transportation, irrigation and flood relief. But, this was before concrete and pavement redefined the city.

Floods are now a huge problem as the rainwater has little place to go except into storm drains which quickly overflow. The stormwater drains often ends up into the khlongs.

 

The khlongs do have mechanisms to contain the water, which appear to be mini-dams that can be raised to open into the Chao Phraya. This stormwater, which is not clean water at all then flows out to the sea.

The khlongs are mostly stagnant and filled with garbage. Of course, they could be beautiful waterways and a source of community pride. Garbage cleanup would help, but ultimately a better drainage system would be needed.

Water needs to flow to be healthy. I’m not at all trained in civil engineering projects, but this seems pretty basic. We control the water and confine it and its health suffers.

Strangely, there is still a lot of fish in these mucky waters, which I believe is mostly catfish. And where there is edible fish, people will try to catch them, despite the health risks.

I saw many little things. Here are “soi dogs” (not those kinds!), but since Soi is the Thai word for street, these are street dogs or strays. They are skinny, though not malnourished. Mostly, they seem to want love. Don’t we all?

The narrow khlongs had small bridges to various houses. They were just…there, a neglected feature of this urban space. No tourists were in sight.

What was most certainly a lost cat sign.

And a hole in a corrugated steel fence with an offering in it.

Street art, like in every city.

 Why would a tourist come here when the temple was prettier? Still, I made the right choice. I noticed more in my walk than I would have in a temple. At tourist sites, you are supposed to look at certain things but when you wander through the landscape, your gaze is free.

 

Book Review: A Field Guide to Getting Lost

gettinglost

I began reading this book while I was lost. For the last several hours, I had been riding a rental bike around Berlin with its flat terrain, mixed-up architectural styles and streets whose names perpetually change as they twist along imaginary rivers. At a coffee break in a Turkish cafe in Kreuzberg, I read her introduction which described my day: a deliberate act of surrender where time ceases to matter. I had entered a geographic state of uncertainty — of being lost — where the mind can be fully present. Her field guide came in handy.
Embracing the geographically unfamiliar is an old concept, rooted in histories of adventurers and the imagination of childhood, but our society is drifting towards fixedness. Maps, knowledge and time are increasingly objectively quantified, such that Solnit’s field guide becomes well-needed.
After her powerful introduction follows a series of short plotless narratives— its hard to categorize these texts, which combine her personal history with larger cultural patterns.  She writes of the color blue and speaks of the infinite horizon, the science of molecules and of Yves Klein’s leaping into the void. She meanders about ruins, Blade Runner, punk rock and urban renewal. She discusses Borges’ labyrinths, the Spanish explorer, Cabeza de Vaca and the film, Vertigo. These strands of thought all revolve around themes of getting lost and we fall into the words, not knowing what comes next.
While her personal narratives are less interesting than her ability to wind together historical threads, nevertheless, her own stories are the ones that activate the imagination. This book is a departure point. Like getting lost, it opens up possibilities rather than resolving them. I’d recommend reading it while you are traveling alone, and then you can apply the principles insid

“A Field Guide to Getting Lost”
by Rebecca Solnit

I began reading this book while I was lost. For the last several hours, I had been riding a rental bike around Berlin with its flat terrain, mixed-up architectural styles and streets whose names perpetually change as they twist along imaginary rivers. At a coffee break in a Turkish cafe in Kreuzberg, I read her introduction which described my day: a deliberate act of surrender where time ceases to matter. I had entered a geographic state of uncertainty — of being lost — where the mind can be fully present. Her field guide came in handy.

Embracing the geographically unfamiliar is an old concept, rooted in histories of adventurers and the imagination of childhood, but our society is drifting towards fixedness. Maps, knowledge and time are increasingly objectively quantified, such that Solnit’s field guide becomes well-needed.

After her powerful introduction follows a series of short plotless narratives— its hard to categorize these texts, which combine her personal history with larger cultural patterns.  She writes of the color blue and speaks of the infinite horizon, the science of molecules and of Yves Klein’s leaping into the void. She meanders about ruins, Blade Runner, punk rock and urban renewal. She discusses Borges’ labyrinths, the Spanish explorer, Cabeza de Vaca and the film, Vertigo. These strands of thought all revolve around themes of getting lost and we fall into the words, not knowing what comes next.

While her personal narratives are less interesting than her ability to wind together historical threads, nevertheless, her own stories are the ones that activate the imagination. This book is a departure point. Like getting lost, it opens up possibilities rather than resolving them. I’d recommend reading it while you are traveling alone, and then you can apply the principles inside.