Monday, August 17, 2009

Last Days in Chiang Mai

Saturday was a pretty calm day. We didn’t have to pack yet, but we didn’t have anything to do. I ended up reading for a large part of the day, and met Henry: a nice Colombian guy at the pool who worked for the Millennium Project, which is an awesome NGO. We had a nice talk about his job, he works in Iraq, and ended up exchanging information. I hate networking, but that would be an awesome NGO to work for. Afterward, I just chatted with the people in the program and we decided to go to dinner at the stalls near the hotel. Andie has a friend, Landen, who works in Chiang Mai and we ended up meeting her at a market Saturday evening. They had tons of clothing geared for college students here in Chiang Mai, as well as shoes, phones, face masks, anything you could imagine. It was fun to just browse, even though I wasn’t in the mood to buy anything. The only thing I was really close to buying was a shirt that had a bad English translation, but it ended up not fitting my truly un-Thaish frame. After the market, a group of us went to a little cocktail bar called ‘Street 4’ where every price ended in a four. It was a little gimmicky, and not that great of cocktails. I wanted to try a gin fizz because I always thought it would be interesting to try a cocktail with egg in it, but I don’t think they made it right… Andie, Sam and I ended up going home together after skipping out on a posh-looking lounge for University students and instead asked a tuk-tuk driver to bring us to the old city. Instead, he brought us to a prostitute bar (the same one from the night before!), and, after we insisted we weren’t interested, swerved through a random market trying to bring us home. This tuk-tuk was crazy, and I’m surprised he got us home safe. Back at the hotel, it looked like people were out and about. I was drained of energy though, and just crashed and fell to sleep.
Sunday was an interesting day. It started out in a rush to get everything together before the move out from BP Chiang Mai City Hotel. I packed my bags, which were a little heavier than I remembered, and waited in the lobby with the group. Half of the students were going to Bangkok immediately to apply for their visas. As I have to wait to get my notice of application, I had to stay here in Chiang Mai for a couple of more days. I’m staying in this nice hostel down the street from the hotel, which has better beds and pillows. So an upgrade for a cheaper price! It was sad to see everyone go, but luckily, 90% are going to be in Korea, and five of the ATI students will be in Seoul with me working through the Seoul Metropolitan Board of Education. Regardless, it was a little depressing to see the end of this chapter of my trip, not knowing when I will get to see some of these students again after having such a great, albeit short, experience with them in Thailand.
Sam, Jim, Liza and I were left in Chiang Mai and decided to go out for lunch. We went to this amazing noodle place and I got Pad Kee Mao with pork, which has a lot of basil and a lot of flavor. It was just what I needed after saying goodbye to my friends. After lunch, we went to a book store to sell back some of our books to lighten our load and get a couple of baht and Sam showed us the hostel she is staying in. It is more of a guesthouse actually, and quite beautiful. However, I am content with the Seven Suns, even if it is a little more cramped. Book selling turned to book reading, and I ended up finishing the second novel of Asimov’s Robot Novels. Sam has already given me the third, so it’s on to ‘The Robots of Dawn’. After this reading session, Liza and I played a couple of games of cards. I taught her ‘Kings in the Corner’ which always reminds me of Anna, because we used to be obsessed with that card game. Since it was Sunday, we decided to go to the walking market on the street over. I bought some delicious pad thai off of the street, and it may have been the cheapest and best tasting one yet. The thing about food here is you want to go for the cheaper meals on the street, because they tend to be better. It is a win win situation, but you can't sit down. That can be a little disconcerting. I also found this cute ceramic sheep with a funny little face. He is my favorite thing I have seen here, and they are all over the place. Normally, they are gigantic, but this one was small, cute and able to travel. Besides the two shirts I bought, it is my only souvenir from Thailand. I just brought too much stuff from home!
I’ve started to eat lunch-like meals for breakfast. It just makes more sense to get a lot of protein in the morning than search through the city to find something resembling Western breakfast at Western prices. Spicy Korean pork for breakfast today was actually quite fulfilling, and it has given me energy throughout the day. I just got back from a glorious walk around the moat. This time I was better prepared with sneakers and a book to read in between each of the legs of the square moat (which have to be around a mile and a half each). It still was a rather long walk, but I was able to take pictures of all those things I had taken the second day I was here which were recently lost with the death of my computer. I also was lucky to stumble upon sweet chicken curry pastries, which were probably one of the best things I have ever eaten in my life. Now, I just have to wait in Chiang Mai until my visa, which should arrive either later today or tomorrow God willing. Wish me luck!
One last musing … have you ever heard the Thailand is the land of smiles? Well, it definitely is. I have never seen so many smile in my life, except maybe Minnesota. This got me to thinking, because although there is a Minnesota nice, it would be naïve not to think it was coupled with a measure of passive-aggressive behavior. The same is true here in Thailand, but to a greater degree. The niceness also has a characteristic in which Thais do not want another to lose face. That means that if, for example, you did something stupid at work, your boss would likely not face you directly, just smile and try to get you to fix your ways. However, he might very well talk behind your back about what you did, and through this method you would need to figure out what to change. Such traits, while pleasant at first glance, are quite annoying. Another example: at the hotel, instead of telling us to be quiet at the pool after hours, they would complain to the program director who would later warn us. The whole time, of course, all the employees would have huge smiles on their faces. I guess my point is that you shouldn’t always trust someone’s smile.

No comments:

Post a Comment