Emma Larkin, Bangkok


Windows on the World

A series on what writers from around the world see from their windows.

My study window looks out over an incongruous jungle located in the heart of Bangkok. As the rest of the neighborhood is dominated by high-rises and townhouses that have sacrificed yards for concrete parking spaces, all remaining wildlife seems to gravitate to our garden. Myopic fantail birds tap against the windowpanes, squirrels chew on the frayed corners of the shutters, and neon-green tree snakes sunbath silently in the rain gutters. (I keep the number of a local snake catcher in my phone, as the lack of rats suggests the presence of a well-fed python somewhere in the vicinity.)

There is another type of wildness here, too. The ficus tree on the right-hand side of this drawing is where the house spirits now reside. At the advice of a fortune-teller, a tricolored band of cloth was tied around its trunk not long after we moved in. In accordance with Thai custom, regular offerings of food and flower garlands are laid out for the spirits so that they might be enticed to exist outside the house, rather than inside—a practice that has put a stop to most (but not all) of the inexplicable shadows and footsteps that flit through these old wooden rooms.

This scene encompasses both the wild and the urban, the known and the unknown. It reminds me that the dividing line between fact and fiction is less clearly defined here in Thailand and that the boundary between the two is porous. In such a place, stories thrive. —Emma Larkin