Chiang Mai, Thailand

Where is the road calling you?

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Chiang Mai, Thailand

A Bruised Hip, More Than Just The Tip, and A Serious Weather Dip

Following a short stint in Bangkok, we once again boarded the all too familiar train headed for Chiang Mai at ten o’clock in the evening.  With sleeping berths ready to accommodate our heavy eye lids and dra
gging asses courtesy of the humid heat throughout the day, we secured our big packs to the luggage racks as we’d done so often before and hunkered down for the night.  I found myself grinning slightly in response to the déjà vu feeling of never quite fitting properly inside of the berth, my head pressed tight to one end as Wat in Chinag Mai, Thailandmy feet struggled to find room at the other with my small pack, harboring all of our expensive electronics, situated between my legs as always for safe keeping. As the train continued to rock back and forth I began to drift softly into a momentary sleep, waking frequently to adjust my cramping legs or prevent myself from being thrown from my upper birth courtesy of an uneven bump in the tracks until morning came and the green, mountainous scenery outside of Chiang Mai became visible with the rising sun.  I could scarcely hide the permanent smirk on my face as we neared the city we’d come to love so much, eventually slowing to a gentle halt and strapping our packs on.

Having successfully weaved through the small train station, we were greeted as always by a plethora of eager songthaew drivers (small pickup trucks with the bed converted into bench seating used as cheap public transportation) and a few guesthouse representatives hoping to recruit some of the dis-embarking passengers.  In typical fashion we smiled and shook our heads at the repeated attempts to charge us three to four times to correct amount to reach the old city inside of the moat, walking less than five minutes to the main road and acquiring a ride to town with little effort for the usual fare.  Eventually we would secure a room after the ‘ole “drop and shop” method (where I leave Jessie at a local coffee shop with all of our bags as I walk from place to place trying to find a place to call home temporarily), ready to fall into our typical routine.

Although we wThe Road is Always Calling at Wat Chedi Luang Chiang Mai, Thailandere quickly becoming accustomed to our home away from home, it was hard to ignore the difference in visiting Chiang Mai in high season versus our many experiences in low season.  The city was buzzing with excited tourists and our usual guesthouse of choice had become overly saturated for the moment, forcing us to try our luck with a nearby accommodation.  Upon first impression our choice seemed to be the perfect fit, providing us with a clean room, hot shower and…never mind the comfortable bed.  It’s quite possible sleeping on a piece of cardboard on the floor of a ferry terminal while stranded by a Super Typhoon in the Philippines years ago may have offered a more suitable option.

Lying in bed that first hip bruising night we couldn’t help but whisper to one another and laugh quietly while admitting to ourselves we had truly widened the gap between us and the following generation.  The thin walls and open slots of the windows facing the walkway outside our room allowed us to unwillingly hear the sounds of young lust from the room next to us.  It was also blatantly obvious the girl moaning and groaning had watched one too many pornos, sharing her exaggerated excitement with those “fortunate” enough to be sleeping in the rooms neighboring hers.  I couldn’t help but understand why our own time as a couple would be put on hold until moving to our favorite guesthouse down the block.  The sounds of the porn star echoing into our room, albeit fairly entertaining, continuously spoiled any attempts of our own.

Luckily for us the panting from the room next door was short lived and we would be allowed a sufficient night’s rest to explore the numerous wats scattered throughout the old city.  It never ceased to amaze me how we can visit the same wats time and time again and still be amazed at the feeling of the vibe and energy in the presence of such holy Wat Chiang Mun Chiang Mai, Thailandplaces.  Resting on the ground with our legs crossed in front of us while looking up at the face of the golden Buddha perched high above us, a quiet calm began spreading through me as I quickly remembered yet another reason I’d longed to be reacquainted with this land so far away.  We were reminded of the importance of slowing down the pace of our lives, including the pace we set on a daily basis while navigating the winding sois (alleys).  Coming from a western world full of hurried, bustling agendas, we paused to appreciate the slow pace of the locals walking calmly around us.  Truly, we were in need of a slight reality check, and we weren’t alone.

Even the weekend markets proved to be a bit different from the memories I’d clung to so dearly, quickly forgetting how effortless moving through the closed off streets during low or rainy season had been.  Instead, anxious tourists bumped off of one another as they scurried from one vendor to another similar to spooked cattle stampeding through a narrow gate into their pasture.  We detoured to one of the small alleys leading away from the market, seeing light at the end of the tunnel where we could capture a small reprieve from the chaos around us.  As we neared the end of the vendors packed tightly lining the edges of the street, we found ourselves bottle necked in a crowd of bobble heads apparently confused as to how to turn around and make their way back to the market.  A quick tap on my right front pocket immediately confirmed my reasoning for always wearing a pair of cargo shorts with a lower pocket to zip my wallet in for safe keeping.  Although I may have long hair pulled back in a nub, I tend to believe this wasn’t someone looking for confirmation as to which sexual organ lurked between my legs.

As we re-acclimated oWat Chedi Lunag Chiang Mai, Thaialndurselves with the slower pace of life in the “land of smiles” (Thailand), we once again began observing and appreciating the consistent and pleasant hellos from the always friendly locals.  Even while coping with the ever-present rude tourist speaking from a perch of arrogance, we could still find a returned smile of simplistic happiness.  Surrounded by so many genuinely positive people, I found it nearly impossible not to feel uplifted and grateful for the opportunity to be immersed in such an incredible culture.  The sights, sounds and smells accompanying every walk through the city seemed to pull memories of years passed to the forefront of my mind.  Even the random lofts of raw sewage emanating from beneath the concrete slabs of the sidewalk were oddly welcomed as well as appreciated.  I’m not saying I enjoy the ripe scent of freshly birthed sewer snakes floating beneath my feet, but those who have ventured to this part of the world will understand how surprisingly comforting it can be to be exposed to such elements after being away from them for so long.

Although it’s hard to believe, even the rumbling of tuk-tuks and motorbikes navigating through the alleys outside of our guesthouse at night provided us with the perfect background noise for a refreshing night’s sleep.  I dare to compare it to singing a lullaby to a newborn baby, though not everything would be as we remembered it.  Most recently a cold front moved in from the towering mountains just outside of the city, though I should be using the term “cold” quite loosely with respect to our friends and family back home.  In Chiang Mai, 55 degreFreezing in Thailandes Fahrenheit (about 13 degrees Celsius) accompanied by rain and a strong breeze after a 95 degree day (around 32 degrees Celsius) saturated with humidity is plenty cold enough to inspire the locals to bundle with scarves, winter hats and proper gloves as if readying to plummet down a ski hill.  I’m not ashamed to admit, we weren’t far behind, layering up with our warmest attire and bitching in our minds while eating our words, “it never gets ‘cold’ in Thailand.”  With no form of heat to provide any amount of comfort, huddling together under a pile of blankets in bed would have to do.  Few things could actually prevent us from keeping our clothes ON while being in bed together (other than the slapping sounds of the couple in the room next to us), but exposing our most sensitive body parts to any amount of cold was all the inspiration needed.

Nevertheless, within the next couple of days the sun will return and temperatures will rise as sweat begins beading down our thighs yet again.  We’ll be renting a motorbike from a local vendor and exploring the countryside and nearby towns and cities.  Until then…the road continues to call…and we continue to answer…


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