Chiang Mai, Thailand
I awoke today to what I took to be the sound of trunks thumping. I wondered at what was upsetting the elephants (it being a sign of distress and warning) before realising I was in a hotel in Chiang Mai next to a construction site where hollow pipes were being dropped!
Although I enjoyed the sleep in and getting ready at a leisurely pace, I have to admit I felt a little at a loose end without the sense of purpose my morning chores had instilled in me. I have no doubt that I’ll adapt back to holiday mode in no time at all!
When I changed my itinerary to include these three weeks in Thailand, I mapped out all sorts of agendas that would see me traveling the length and breadth of the country and into neighbouring Laos and Cambodia and into Vietnam – constantly on the go to take advantage of every opportunity as is typically my way. I even contemplated spending a few days in a resort to try it on for size. I sought out advice from friends who’d traveled extensively in the region, I read guide books, asked travel experts but then I stopped to realised that I wasn’t listening to myself.
For the past 7 months, as this blog will attest, I have filled just about every day to the brim. I have been adventurous and brave. I have proved to myself and the world that I am capable of so much more than I knew possible. In this final fortnight before I face the unexplored frontier of my future, I have nothing more to prove on this journey. More than I need another adventure story, I need peace and ease and small days to deal with big emotions. It’s time for reflection, not distraction. With this in mind, I gave myself permission to stay put and the relief was profound.
Then again, a leopard doesn’t just change its spots so if I’m staying in Chiang Mai, the least I can do is move around within it! I had only intended to stay at Hotel M for one night but now think I might stretch it for a few more before heading to a more budget conscious guesthouse. It’s an interesting choice to make – AU$40 is cheaper than anywhere else I’ve stayed on this trip but if I can find a nice guesthouse for AU$15 (or less if I really cut all frills), then I figure I should. Aside from that, Hotel M is lovely but a bit bland in terms of cultural exposure. For now though, it’ll do very nicely.
I left the hotel with no mission for the day other than getting my laundry done. I’d only taken a few steps before bumping into Kate, a fellow volunteer from Elephant Nature Park. She was wondering as aimlessly as I was so we joined forces to do not much together.
Kate is quite simply amazing. She is 18 years old and traveling the globe by herself. Her overall trip will be about the same length as mine although she’s still near the beginning of hers. She certainly jumped in at the deep end, starting her trip in India. I’m yet to visit there myself but by all accounts, it’s a confronting place to be and I would imagine infinitely so for an 18 year old first time traveler! On the night of Loi Krathong, Kate was hit by a sever bout of homesickness which made me feel quite protective of her. I was glad to be able to spend this time with her just talking about travel and stuff in general.
We found a laundromat near my hotel in one of the sois (side streets branching off major streets) and then just roamed without either of us having a workable lay of the land. I think we had it in mind that we’d come across a town centre of some sort but we didn’t. Just some sections of road with a few more shops and guesthouses than others. When the heat got too much, we stopped in at a cafe for fresh fruit smoothies – so refreshing! Kate then had to get back to her guesthouse to pack up and leave on an overnight bus to her next destination – that girl is going places!
Left to my own devices again, I headed out of the old city towards the other end of town where the Night Bazar is held every night. Although it was still too early, at this stage it was just a general direction. En route, I came across “Taste of Heaven” restaurant which I immediately recognised as the same group who prepare all the meals on site at Elephant Nature Park. Towards the end of our time there, everyone had been fantasising about their first meal in the outside world – steak, burgers and pizzas were the most coveted. Me? I was hungry for more of the same so I marched right in and ordered the house special! Delicious!
Continuing up the road, my eye was caught by an ad for a massage and beauty salon. I suppose I was still feeling a little grubby so I popped in to ask about getting a manicure and pedicure… and leg wax… and what the hell, how about a full body scrub and oil massage? Yes? You can do all that for AU$40? Sold! I went in at 6pm. I came out at 10.30pm more pampered and preened than I have ever been! It was amazing! I feel all shiny and new without even the suggestion of poo anywhere near me!
Although the Night Bazar would have been in full swing, I had no desire to kill this blissful buzz with its frenetic pace so I turned tail and strolled back to my hotel stopping only to get a fried banana roll from a street vendor – I can see a bad habit forming and I don’t mind.