20.03.2010 - 20.03.2010
Today finishes our second to last day in Chiang Mai. It’s hard to believe our 9 days here are nearly complete. In some ways it feels like it’s been longer, and in some ways it feels like it’s been much too short. Tomorrow begins our cooking class and hopefully I will come out with an inkling of talent for Thai cooking. I will consider the class a success if I can come up with a semi-decent Pad Thai, the country’s main noodle dish and probably as readily available as spaghetti is in major restaurants across the US.
Please pardon my incomplete or nonsensical thoughts here; Zac and I are up drinking vodka and pepsi again. Initially I thought it would be quite difficult for me to get drunk in this heat—sweating out all the alcohol I was putting in, but I’ve come to discover that this was an inaccuracy on my part. Good to know. It probably helps that I switched from Chang Beer and Tiger Beer to vodka.
We spent the majority of our day unwinding and doing very little in the shadow of our mountain trek. It seemed an appropriate reward to two days of hiking and adventure in the jungle. We all slept in this morning and took our time getting ready (I even had time to pluck my eyebrows!). Our tea was slowly enjoyed and showers had by all before planning our daily schedule, which for today was left wide open. We partook in the suggestion of our hostel host and walked up to a vegetarian restaurant about ten or fifteen minutes up the road we are staying on. The restaurant seemed to be frequented by locals, which we always take as a good sign, and the food was quite good.
After lunch we were picked up by a local tailor and Zac was measured for a good quality and well fitted suit, and pea coat to boot. I’m sure he’ll look pretty sharp when it’s all said and done. The price was great when compared to the US (I think about $200 for the suit, complete with fitted shirt and tie) and Zac implored me to get a dress made as well. I am fickle with money, and for whatever reason decided I didn’t want to spend mine on a handmade dress. In retrospect I suppose it would have been money well spent, but I’d just as rather use the money for a far out dive trip with blacktip reef sharks when we're down at the islands.
The rest of the afternoon was filled with laziness. Zac and Jenna went for Thai massages and I refrained again because I don’t like people touching me in personal places. Plus I have this wicked pain in my back that feels like my spine is all bruised in the center of my back, but no marks are present, just a bump. I’m not sure what that’s about—probably a spinal tumor, but I don’t want people touching me and leaving me more uncomfortable than when the massage began. Instead I stayed in the hostel and read Siddhartha. Siddhartha seemed an appropriate book choice when residing in a predominately Buddhist country. I tried to do some writing—legitimate writing, not this travelogue crap—but found too many distractions around me.
Jenna and Zac returned and we tried to do some planning for our island adventures (I want diving, but nobody else does. Boo.). It was then time for dinner. Zac got the final fitting for his suit after and I began drinking. Thus here we stand. It’s getting close to bedtime and I should probably get some rest before our class tomorrow. I’m stoked to learn to make some Thom Kah.
I have ambivalence at leaving Chiang Mai in two days for the beaches. On one hand I have become familiar with Chiang Mai and the people here. It’s a great city, hustling with chaos yet a short distance from isolation. As much as I’ve enjoyed some of the experiences here, I am ready to go. I don’t think I’ll miss the mountains too much, and I welcome the move to the picturesque beaches with their relaxing vibe and plentiful, fresh seafood.
I’ve read different takes on the Thailand of the south. Even guides on this trip thus far have told us the many differences between northern and southern Thailand (to the extent that older northern locals can’t understand southern locals), but I’m excited to experience it for myself.
On Monday we fly from Chiang Mai back to Bangkok and then Bangkok down to Krabi. From Krabi we’ll take a cab to Ao Nang, a beach town on the western side of Thailand’s long peninsula. We spend three nights in Ao Nang and then catch a ferry to Ko Phi Phi. Ko Phi Phi is supposed to be one of Thailand’s most beautiful islands, and the location where The Beach was filmed (you know, that shitty movie with Leonardo DiCaprio). About four nights in Ko Phi Phi (pronounced Pee-pee) and we catch a ferry to Phuket (thought we’d try a few nights there despite the gnarliness of it all). After Phuket we’ll have a few days to toy with. We may head back to Ko Phi Phi or Ao Nang, depending on what we liked. Or maybe we’ll take another ferry to the island of Ko Lanta. Many options, and we’re leaving them open.
So that’s where we stand now. I am drunk and excited for the possibility of diving with more sharks if the two turkeys I’m with will shape up and come with me. I suppose I could do it alone, but it’s never quite as fun that way. Still, the opportunity to see an oceanic white tip is one I would capitalize on, with or without Jenna and Zac.
I am also gearing up for some sunburns! We’ve been lucky that the haze of Chiang Mai seems to block out the hazardous UV rays and prevents sunburns, but the beaches are clear of the haze. The trekking guide, Tony, told us about this program the Thai government has of pumping sodium and other chemicals into the air to form clouds that will produce rain (a procedure I cannot fathom understanding in my current intoxicated state) and that causes part of the haze. Regardless, some real sunshine will be wonderful in my book. The air here is not as clean as down south, as evidenced by the many locals wearing face masks. There was some statistic or another that Tony told us about acceptable air quality having like 150 something or another particles per something or another as the legal limit and Chiang Mai has 250, hence the masks. Wow, how poorly explained. Thanks a lot vodka pepsi, and poor memory!
Clearly it's time to retire for the night.