Chiang Mai, Thailand
With yesterday still rattling my cage, I touched down in Bangkok a year to the day that Matthew and I had our little talk that bought our 17 years, 10 months and 7 days to a sudden close. It was almost exactly a year to the hour by the time I was standing alone by the baggage carousel seriously sizing up my fellow passengers in case I needed a hand or more likely a hug. I said in the introduction to this blog that this event isn’t its subject, rather information offered only to provide context for all that followed. I bring it up now by way of explaining the emotional crisis the anniversary imposed upon me. Regular readers will know that this journey has had its ups and downs but, despite a few major wobbles, I’ve been bolder and braver than I knew I could be – but not this day, not this hour. I begged my body to fly apart into a million pieces as it felt sure to do but it has always been disobedient and the best it could offer me was trembling and the return of a tremor that I thought had left my system.
Although there were kind looking people about, this was too big to expect happy holiday makers to handle so I put on my sunglasses, steadied my hand and considered calling a sister to come and rescue me. One deep breath and I knew I couldn’t actually do that; a second deep breath and I knew this was a make or break moment; a third deep breath and I gave myself a pep talk and when it came around, I picked up my baggage – actual and otherwise – and made my way to the exit.
Mercifully, the arrivals procedure was far more streamlined than tales of other travellers had led me to believe. I was through the other side with plenty of time to make the earlier connecting flight to Chiang Mai rather than the later one I’d booked. Unfortunately, the one I booked was the cheapest I could find which invariably meant that it was devoid of any common sense flexibility clauses. This left me with not quite enough time to go explore Bangkok but far too much to kill in my sleep deprived and emotionally volatile state.
I did, of course, manage to fill in the empty hours by walking laps of the airport, leaving no shop unexplored and picking up a few bits and pieces for my stay (primarily sunscreen and insect repellent). I hoarded and frustratingly used 15-minute free internet vouchers which had a habit of timing out mid-message. I read & wrote and eventually boarded the quick flight to Chiang Mai, it being the only form of transport currently available to the North due to the still worsening floods.
Once I landed, the first thing to hit me out of the airport was the heat. It was 10pm and still balmy. I headed straight for the taxi rank and although first in line, still had to wait close to 30 minutes for one to become available despite the constant ebb and flow of traffic.
On the way to my hotel, I got a brilliant snap shot of the city – tuk tuks (kinda like a canopied ride-on lawnmower with a back seat), songtaews (covered utes with two long bench seats facing each other in the back) and bikes piled high jostled for position on streets bustling with food markets and people. It was a titillating promise of escapades to come in my days and weeks ahead. But not tonight.
It was close to 11pm by the time I checked into Hotel M and I was glad I’d made the choice to splurge for my first night at the princely sum of AU$40 for 4 star luxury. The hotel is perfectly located at the Tha Pae Gate within the old city walls. This is basically ground zero for everything in Chiang Mai including the famous Sunday Walking Markets which start here and run along Ratchadamnoen Street, the spine of the old city. Being Sunday night, the markets were in full swing and although the traveller in me cried out to get amongst it, I bowed to the greater wisdom of staying in and ordering room service (a luxury I’ve indulged in so infrequently that I could count it on one hand).
It has been a long day, 2 days really since I left London with barely a few hours of broken sleep in between. I have survived the worst of it but it needs a line drawn under it. I watched the market from my window for a while knowing I’ll be back next Sunday but for now a good nights sleep is in order. I have an early start tomorrow for what I hope will be a healing and life affirming adventure!