The bitter taste of Bangkok still lingering, me and the P.I.C advanced our affair with Thailand, and moved on to Chiang Mai. The promise of seeing the “real” Thailand was a major driving force in moving our affair up north. However I was skeptical that this relationship would actually go anywhere now. She was as superficial and money hungry as any other affair I had been a part of, and she was not apologetic. As I look back, I likely was a bit too harsh in my judgement. My adjustment to her timezone, her way of talking, and her way of interacting probably had as much to do with my impression as did the unseemly characters. It makes me wonder, what damage had her past lovers done to make her so cold…but I digress.
Our arrival in Chiang Mai was uneventful. Our walk through the airport and eventual ride in the cab was as plain as vanilla ice cream. When suddenly, a glimmer of hope reared its head. She showed me the most beautiful place to stay. Chiang Mai offered your standard hotels and backpacker paradises, but this place was neither. It was called Ruen Come In, and it’s style was considered lanna style, and was decked out in all wood. Quaint and private, it had reflections of a B&B, but offering much more privacy to the guests. Shoe removal when walking on any indoor surface, or outdoor surface leading to a room, was required and added to the charm. I didn’t want the same ole same ole….or “same same,” as I saw written so many places, and this was far away from familiar for me. She made me smile, but I was cautious.
We walked through the town, and our first encounter was with a man trying to sell tickets to a Muay Thai fight, and I thought, “here we go again.” Another scam. Though genuinely interested, we held off on purchasing, and I immediately realized that he actually didn’t push too hard, if at all. This was followed by an individual who showed interest in us while we looked over a map…his interest was that he only wanted to point us in the right direction. We had a decent dinner while watching people come and go, and ended up at a nice little spot where a live band was playing. They were quite good, I might add, and the people watching was just perfect. As we lay that night, I had hopes that our relationship would continue to improve. With a visit to the Elephant Nature Park (ENP), it had to.
The visit to ENP showed me just how compassionate, patient, and dedicated one person could be. The love I saw given to these creatures was just amazing, and unlike anything I had seen up close and personal before. I saw personable animals that had awesome size, and such grace. Powerful in their movements, but gentle as they took food out of our hand. Seemingly disinterested as we doused them with water, but stood still because they knew we were happy and well…they had food and they were genuinely happy. I learned so much, and I am so thankful that I was able to experience firsthand. And this is where it started to happen. This is where I began to fall in love with her. This was followed by another nice dinner on the river, where the loud sounds of club music played in the background. I saw her younger side, and how she liked to party. There was a cover band, and plenty of 20-somethings singing along, and throwing back liquor.
Our chariots while there were these red vans that could fit eight people comfortably, and 12 people with someone hanging out the back. It seemed dangerous, but it gave her personality. Bargaining for the cost of a ride, and bargaining for goods was becoming second nature, and it started to become fun. It’s as if she took my hand and said, “relax…this is all a part of the experience,” and I began to let go. She introduced me to others on vacation, and we hung out with natives. She also allowed me to see how good she actually is in the kitchen. I enjoyed some complex food (khao soy….I still taste it), ate delicious dessert, and she showed me that breakfast isn’t all about eggs and bacon. It was here that I also learned how to wai…slight bow with palms pressed together. And it wasn’t forced; I meant it as I thanked people for various things. The P.I.C was really good at it…”kop khun krap.”
We explored the city on bicycles and witnessed amazing consideration. The traffic was chaotic, but there was rhyme and reasoning, even if I didn’t understand it. Oh the difference a city makes. Bangkok was uncomfortable, but Chiang Mai slipped on like a nice pair of old sneakers. She embraced me and made every other moment of my trip worth while. This here, was the land of smiles. They were genuine, and wider when I initiated. I wasn’t ready to leave here. We had much more to share with each other, but an affair is only temporary, and with limited time, we needed to move on. If only I could have sat in her embrace, in this beautiful city up north, a little longer. But alas, we must go…onward the island.
To be continued…