Day 60- holy basil!


We arrive at the Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok just before midnight, but by the time we check into the Novotel hotel it is around 1am. Due to jet lag and a long sleep on the plane (how good are those quiet flights where you get a whole row between two of you?), we are starving for some dinner. I had very meekly denied the meals on the plane as they had forgotten that I was a vegetarian so between week old shrimp and beef, I chose more sleep. At the hotel, the buffet is already preparing for breakfast so we order some noodles and then wonder up to the room for three hours of sleep. I want to stay up and watch a movie but the only thing on is the Omen and I am not in the mood for something as terrible, horrifying and unbearably gruesome as that acting. At around 7am my eyes fly open and I wonder over to the window to find that there is a beautiful garden right beneath us. There is a water feature, a bridge, some statues and a bell. I get dressed and wonder down to the floor where I calculate the garden to be, but find only more rooms. I go down to the lobby and before me are an enormous set of marble steps with a sign; GARDEN.

When I enter the beautiful garden, it feels like it could have been created for no other purpose than meditation. I mean, even a place as unlikely as the glossy Western city of San Francisco has a yoga room these days, so a meditation garden at the Novotel Airport Hotel in Buddhist Thailand is like old news. I step over the wooden bridge and stop to look at the names of the trees. Holy Basil? If I eat this, will I be endowed with sacred and mystical holy powers? Or is it like holy water? Because I know you aren’t supposed to drink that. I sniff it anyway and move on. The statues in the moat are of goddesses playing various instruments, which reminds me of the Hindu goddess Saraswati, सरस्वती. She is the goddess of knowledge, learning and intelligence and is associated with literature and music so is often depicted playing a sitar. She is also the river goddess, as the flow of water symbolises the growth and flow of knowledge. Actually, I am sure these statues are Saraswati.


I find the small space of floor beneath the window where I first saw the garden. I attempt to sit on a rock but realise it is hollow and made of plastic. Ah, yes, the sacred and holy airport hotel meditation garden. I sit on the ground and take of my shoes and close my eyes. I sit in the quiet revery of being completely alone with myself and wonder why it is that nobody else is in this beautiful space. The bubbling water feature beside me is a gentle reminder to stick to the present, but after only twelve minutes my eyes are open again. I may have found this small sanctuary in the most unlikely place and I may have all the ingredients for a satisfying meditation, but the difference between a noisy airplane and the secluded garden in this case is only time. On the plane yesterday, I knew I had ten hours in front of me. Here, underneath the bamboo and holy basil, in the depths of my mind, I am secretly aware of the clock ticking before we need to check in for the next flight. I take my leave of the lotus flowers and go back up to the hotel room where I sit at the window and look down at the garden. The rocks may be hollow, but it is holy enough for me.

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