He literally ran across the plaza. I couldn't understand a word of the Thai that trailed behind him over his shoulder to his parents but, judging from their faces, it probably included something like, "Leave the poor man alone! He's doing just fine by himself." The truth is, i was. I just had no idea how much better my day would be after it was infused by a spontaneous act of lovingkindness.
A few hours earlier nine bystanders had gathered to help me down the steps into this massive complex of ancient temples in Ayutthaya. I rolled along with smiling tourists and pilgrims spending some time with a languid but appreciative dog who seemed to have adopted one temple. I stared up at the gold-gilded Buddha towering overhead inside while we exchanged smiles. Outside I had disappointed a lottery ticket salesman when I subverted some unwritten rule by selecting the shy disabled vendor over his energetic and domineering neighbor. Even at the feet of the Buddha my role is to see to it that the meek inherit the earth.
Travel with a disability is not easy - but it is certainly not wholesale suffering either. The can be something about embodying visual difference, and still going about your business with purpose, that can call out compassion in others. Witness the young boy in the photo fresh from his sprint to be my unsolicited temporary companion.
No, not always easy to travel with a disability. For years my friend Volker Posselt had been trying to convince at least one hotel in the entire city to go beyond the bare minimum of required numbers of accessible rooms. To be economically sustainable Volker fills the entire wheelchair-accessible bus he rents when he brings tour groups from Europe to Thailand. However, any one hotel only has rooms for half the busfull. Even with a concrete payout of doubling nightly profits multiplied over several trips a year the hotels continued with their upgrades by refused to add accessibility. The new feature at the hotel Volker sent me to? A narrow curved ramp paved with slippery polished stone with a slope angle of 45 degrees. Fortunately for me my travel companion Jan, Dean of a university in Bangkok, saved us from another "gotcha."
Apparently there are two prices in Thailand - tourist and native.
After bristling at the idea that I was about to be hidden from the desk clerks because of my disability I realized the game we were playing. We saved 50% on our rooms by me blending into the lobby plants. Dinner was on me that night!