Travel Blog: Week 53

Chiang Mai

Week 53 ……..and counting!

11.11.2013 – 17.11.2013

Well today is November 11th – day 365 of my year of travel. If the plan had, well, gone to plan I would be home. Obviously I’m not. The adventure continues!

The week started with an early morning to finish my packing and move out. I checked my emails whilst still in bed in the hope it might wake me up a bit. There was a message from Elizabeth, the owner of the house. She was not returning today after all, she’d be another couple of weeks! I rolled over and went back to sleep. I could stay a few extra days and then move straight into Matt’s which made life easier. Later that morning I actually got to speak with Elizabeth on the phone to sort out various arrangements and let her know I’d only stay until the 14th. I had a light breakfast, worked out and meditated, and then went to Smoothie Blues for eggs Benedict – my all time fave brunch.

  

That afternoon I had an appointment with Eva for a haircut. She’d moved to a new place and I knew roughly where it was. Leo was already there and they’d promised they’d look out for me and wave me down from the balcony. After driving up and down the road with no sign of my two friends I parked up and phoned. They spotted me before I saw them and so there was a brief ‘left a bit, right a bit’ conversation to guide me to them. Leo had already had a cut and colour so Eva was ready for my trim. We sat on the big balcony, tucked behind the trees, and chatted the evening away.

Back at the house I tried to explain to to Py Dtaa that Elizabeth was not back yet and wouldn’t be for a while. I had a small dinner, watched Luther and went to bed.

I woke early again, but felt great today. After the usual morning agenda I went round to Marian and Irene’s – bit like an old fashioned coffee morning but without the coffee. After that I wanted to go to the old town and headed off to see Waew.

The road seemed particularly uneven today but when I pulled over I realised I had a flat. First I run out of gas and now a flat tyre. Someone was really trying to tell me something about changing this bike. I managed to wobble my way to Dream House. Waew said the lady whom I rented the bike from was still looking to get me a different one, but in the meantime I could use hers. She would get the tyre fixed (20THB – 40p) and then use mine to get around. The new bike was sooo much better and I immediately felt safer.

Dream House was really busy so I left Waew to it and went to Birds Nest for lunch. It was quiet there and I caught up on my blog.

 

Now the new bike had a quirk which I didn’t know about. When you park up there’s a little metal flap which shuts over the ignition for security. I’d not seen this before and tried all sorts of things to get the key in before giving up and calling Waew for advice. For some reason she couldn’t explain over the phone but said she’d come round. Whilst I was waiting I worked out the puzzle – there’s another key, like a allen key shape, moulded into the plastic of the main key. It’s subtle but there, and it fits into a slot next to the ignition so you can swing back the little flap. I was soon on my way.

Marian had told me about a swimming pool that was close by to where I was staying. I parked the bike, collected my swimming togs and set off in search. It was only a short walk but I had to navigate the main road, a busy intersection and a construction site. I was very relieved to find the pool and equally surprised by how fabulous is was. Large, deep in places, modern and lightly salted water. There were great changing rooms, showers and upstairs a compact gym.

 

I had a great swim and managed 40 lengths with a few stops here and there. It was dark by the time I navigated my way back.

  

 

  

  

It had been a good day and it was good to feel tired from exercise. I made a pasta and tommy k dish for dinner – not the healthiest but oh it was so good.

On Wednesday, Norman who had been AWOL for the past few days, turned up on the balcony meowing – at least she left it until a reasonable hour! Now all she wanted to do was sleep.

  

I met Leo for lunch at Smoothie Blues (which was becoming a rather lovely habit!) and then riding pillion we went to the pool. It was busier today and I did less lengths. Just enjoyed the water. Leo left a little earlier than me and whilst sitting on the edge of the pool trying to get the motivation to dry off I actually met someone called Bart! There’s a first. Another tourist who decided to stay. That was five years ago. He was an interesting guy – maybe we’d bump into each other again at the pool sometime.

I walked back home, picked up a few groceries and had dinner.

I spent the evening starting to copy each one of my weekly blog updates into a word document. It’s a precious souvenir of my trip and I wanted to make sure I had a backup version. It would be a long process though ……. but worth it!

I finally finished packing up my things and started to move on Thursday. I had a few boxes and bags plus my hula hoop and Bali mask and so it took a few trips. It was after the rush hour but still early for me. Nimma road was so busy and it took a while to travel the mile or so wobbling along on my ladened scooter. There was something on at the university, which I needed to pass, and there were rows and rows of coaches and consequently students. After two loads I drove into the old town. Waew wasn’t feeling well and I wanted to check on her. I was also meeting Jelena for lunch. It turned out to be three of us in the end as Leo could join us too. Whilst we waited for our orders, Jelena (and eventually all of us as Jelena’s enthusiasm was infectious) started browsing the rails of second hand clothes at the back of the cafe, Free Bird. We ate our meals Leo left, just as a man from her Chi Kung class arrived and spoke passionately to us about food and the benefits of smoothies – I took some mental notes. Jelena and I paid up and then spent another half an hour trying on clothes. We all bought something, even Leo who’d left what seemed like hours ago. I found a bargain pair of sandals which are great for walking in, as they have a back strap, but are also quick to remove. Something important in this part of the world as you should cross any threshold in bare feet.

I mentioned to Jelena to give me a nudge if she ever came across a good one piece swimming costume. Trying to do lengths in a bikini has proved a challenge and pushing off from the side with any great force is a no no if you want to keep your dignity. She immediately said she knew of a great place and so we trundled off on our scooters in search of spandex. I wasn’t able to try anything on but I decided to live dangerously and buy the best swimming get up I’d found for under 300thb. The one piece swimsuits here all come with a twee skirt attached and that really isn’t me, so it was a two piece but a sporty one. Fingers crossed it’s up to the job. I’m pleased to say that it fitted ….just….but the circulation to my legs could be compromised if I wear it any longer than 40 minutes.

I dropped by to buy organic veggies, coconut oil and lavender oil at the usual place but also stopped at some of the street stalls around my new condo area for fruit. It’s so great that you just stop at places along the way, loop your shopping bags over the helpful scooter hook and then carry on. No parking issues and everyone is friendly.

I got back, unloaded my goodies and then went off to see Irene. I was going to help one of her Burmese students practice English before the class started. I was a little early as I was going to pop in to see Norman. I did feel sorry for her all alone in the house now. Marian had already been that afternoon and I was offered fried chicken for dinner!! So I stayed and enjoyed the food before Irene and I went to class. I met Sarah, who was 27 but looked like a teenager. Her English was good and she was keen to improve. We went to a nearby bar for a quick drink and a quiet spot to chat. The 30 minutes flew by, particularly as we had some issue with the bill. The bar wanted to charge us more than the prices stated, as “the menu was old”!!!!! They also charged us for ice. It was all resolved and was definitely a time to let things slide.

I dropped in to see Norman on the way home and collected my last box of things from the fridge, my precious marmite, balsamic vinegar and tommy k, and also my hula hoop. Another full load but I made it back in one piece. Arrhhhhh, this new place was fabulous and so quiet. It actually felt a little strange and there was no cat.

I spent the evening setting up a Facebook page for Dream House – this also meant setting up a new email account and new shell facebook personal page. I’m a bit of a technophobe but I actually ended up with something which looked good and hopefully will get them on the web. I think my mind was racing after all that exertion as I didn’t fall asleep until 4am

The last day of the working week (not that I know what that is!) and I dropped in again to check on Norman. She seemed completely oblivious to my presence and so I left – feeling less guilty about the fact she was alone in the house. She was fine and slept all day anyway.

There was a large flat screen TV at Matt’s room and so I bought this neat little gismo which links up my hard drive to the TV and lets me watch full size movies.

I went to Dream House to see how Waew was and show her what I’d done with Facebook and get some more ideas from her. Dream House was full and Waew was busy booking tours. Thank goodness the business was starting to flourish. I noticed my old bike parked up across the road – all fixed and road worthy! I stayed longer than expected so didn’t get to do any of the things on my shopping list but on the way back I tried to find The Yoga Tree – god damn, still no luck. Where is it!? I stopped at market to buy fruit – bananas and papaya. How ironic that papaya is the fruit which best supports the liver. For years I’ve referred to it as vomit fruit (as that’s what it tastes like to me) and now it’s part of my staple diet. Thankfully the fruit is really fresh here and so the flavour is much more enjoyable.

It’s the weekend! and I slept really well. I woke to the sound of the Buddhist chants over the load speakers. Another beautiful day and I was really starting to feel well. Life is good!

A lazy morning and a good breakfast. It was wonderful to have peace and quiet and the knowledge that the housekeeper wouldn’t be coming around anytime soon. I was due to go to a yoga lesson this morning but it got cancelled late last night and for that, today, I was very grateful. I did need to check on Norman though and leave the house keys for Houston. Elizabeth’s next guest to house sit. It was interesting trying to explain to Py Dtaa that I man would be coming to stay. In the absence of any real Thai I resorted to drawing a stick man and pointing at today’s date on the calendar. Py Dtaa was confused and phoned a friend to help translate. Eventually the message was received. As it happened Houston decide not to arrive until Sunday!!

Then off to Yoga Tree to meet Leo. She was singing there today and I popped round for extra support. Now The Yoga Tree had managed to elude me. I’d tried three times to find it but today, today I was going to win. After a number of wrong turns, more requests for directions which resulted in shakes of the head and vague arm waving I FOUND IT. I ended up staying a while, having lunch there and chatting with very interesting people. I also booked a head massage for Monday afternoon. I then got a text from Marian and Irene. They were going to Loi Kratong in Mae Jo, would I like to join them? I had 40 minutes to get across town,change and get to their place to catch the Song Tao.

  

There were 5 of us including Dorothy and Daniel. It was about a half hour ride out of town. It was already getting busy when we arrived and our driver parked up in pole position for a swift exit later.

I bought water from a local stall, who surprisingly was not after a quick buck. The prices were reasonable and he insisted on giving me my change. We followed the throngs, passing a line up of welcoming locals and tables of flower offerings. We bought our lanterns and picked our way through the crowds already gathered to find a spot to sit. We found the most perfect one but as we settled in we were moved on as it turned out this was the VIP area. We ended up under the trees which was not ideal. It wasn’t yet time for the lantern release but there were a steady stream released from behind the trees which circled the whole arena.

  

  

  

As dusk fell the monks came through the trees, dressed of course in their orange robes, and took their place centre stage. We took the chance to move across to the VIP area – it was perfect! There was much chanting, giving thanks and meditation which spread across the whole area. During this time locals, carrying candle lit lamps, were invited to the back of the stage and then walked a continuous line around the path that surrounded the stage area. All the while fireworks and firecrackers were going off in the distance.

 

  

  

  

The timing of the lantern release was crucial and “lady and gentlemen” (there must have only been one lady in the audience – which made me chuckle every time the MC said it) “please wait for the signal to light your lantern”. The moment came. IT WAS SPECTACULAR – really no words or photos can capture the truly emotional mood. Irene, Marian and I hugged as we released our lantern saying goodbye to all negative thoughts, leaving room for only good ones. The lanterns were endless and so were the smiles on everyone’s faces.

  

 

  

   

  

After a while we started to make our way out. I got separated from the group, took the wrong turn (which was totally ironic as I’d made a mental note of where we needed to go to get back to the truck) but eventually found everyone. 4 girls cadged a ride on our truck and we were on our way. We got back surprisingly quickly.

Back on the scooter, a quick stop at SevenEleven for a cheese and ham toastie as I was starving- my cupboards were bare and my intentions of shopping today had gone by the board – before calling it a night. And what a night!

The next morning was my absolute last trip to Elizabeth’s house. My Bali mask was still sitting on the table. Norma’s was once again nowhere to be seen.

Today I went out in search of a new supermarket called RimPing – out towards Airport Plaza. I made a stop at the plaza (the ONLY place with any sign that Christmas is around the corner), withdrew cash from the AEON ATM (woo hoo no withdrawal fee) and went to Boots to stock up on vitamins (magnesium and B complex) on the advice of Marion.

I also went in search of the Swarosky shop to find this year’s Christmas Star. It’s become a tradition that Mum buys me one each year. I started collecting the Stars when one year I was working in Cork and bought one at the airport on the way home. It was after Christmas and it was much reduced so a bargain. Since then it’s been an annual event. I’ve bought one from many countries of the world when I’ve been visiting around Christmas time. I also have many from York thanks to Mum. Now to find RimPing – I got back on my scooter but found myself at the airport, I asked the security guard on the gate where to go. Back down the road and then left. Nope! I couldn’t find it and I was already moving in the direction of the old town so I just carried on. I went in search of the RimPing on the east side. It was Sunday, Sunday market day and the second day of Loi Kratong, so the roads were bu-sy. But I found the place. It was fantastic and I think even better than Tops. I spent big time but got some really great food and the basics for keeping the apartment clean. It took ages to get back and I have to admit I’m glad I learnt to drive a scooter and learn the town’s layout when the roads were quiet. It was mad. Sooooo many tourists! This is great news though for the local people who rely on the 6 months of tourism high season to get them through the whole year.

I had a great dinner, made Ginger cordial and yoghurt, and spent the evening properly settling in – and getting to know my under the sink friend.

I actually hung up my clothes and unpacked some of my personal stuff to make the place look more homely. I didn’t head to the river for the second day of the lantern festival but sat on the bed in the dark and split my time watching TV (I could link my hard drive to the flat screen TV to watch movies) and with the curtains wide open the fireworks and lanterns which filled the Chiang Mai sky.

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