Monday, August 13, 2007

Back in Chiang Mai – July 23, 2007

Back in Chiang Mai, things were pretty much the same. My job was still there and it was easy to jump back into routine, because in Chiang Mai, nothing ever really changes.
Today Ben and I rented motorbikes after we finished up with class and took off all over town trying to take care of bureaucratic visa shit. As soon as we pulled out of the rental place, Ben grabbed the accelerator too hard on his bike, sending him crashing into the curb and flying off like a disabled bird with tourettes. Surprisingly, he emerged relatively unscathed, but it put him on the skids a bit.
When I got back to the apartment, I found a letter from Lane waiting in my mailbox, which is ironic because he should be receiving my postcard around the same time. That means we both waited exactly the same amount of time before attempting legitimate correspondence since parting ways four months prior, though he had to wait for my aunt to send him pre-addressed and stamped envelopes before he sent his. He did say he tried to call me several times but had the wrong number. In the letter he talked about having sparked something romantic with a girl who came to stay at the Zen center for a week and whether anything will come of it, even though she had to go home and he's committed to a life of celibacy for another several months there before heading over to Thailand in October. Turns out he's already researched a respectable monastery to live in, Wat Pah Nanachat in Ubon Rachathani, several hours from Chiang Mai in a totally different province. So much for coming over to see me. He'll have to shave his head and his eyebrows as well. It's such a shame that he always has to be so extreme about things – either dreadlocks or baldness, celibacy or incorrigibility, John Denver or Catharsis.
In the afternoon Ben and I took off on our motorbikes once again, this time for some leisure riding up the mountain past Doi Suthep (the famous Temple overlooking the city) and off into the Hill Tribe villages about 20km away from where we live. It was a pretty ride, which got a little cold as we sped higher up with the wind slapping against our bare arms and legs. The Hmong tribe village was not exactly what one would expect from a tribal people as it was comprised of the same kinds of craft and purse and jewelry shops as you encounter all over Chiang Mai. They didn't live in huts or anything, but rather tin shacks with corrugated roofs decorated with satellite dishes. It was a town obviously struggling to maintain part of its traditional lifestyle in the face of modernity while apparently not having the best go of it. The people there spoke better English than most of my university students. Supposedly there are less touristed hill tribe villages further away.

Our afternoon exploits left us feeling like we got the most out of our motorbike rental. We ate dinner with Leah at this restaurant called the "Art Cafe", which turned out to be much more expensive than what was listed in the guidebook, and while my turkey burrito (with Thanksgiving style turkey) was pretty good, it definitely wasn't worth 165 baht, plus they didn't even give us free water which is a total sham when you're paying that much for a meal in Thailand (conversion: $5). On the ride back it was torrentially downpouring, even though we had already waited half an hour for the storm to lessen, but no such luck. I couldn’t see and was sure I might die since my glasses were completely spotted with rain drops and fogging up pretty bad. Guess it's back to the trusty ole' songtaews.

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