It’s taken a couple of beers and a lie down (not necessarily in that order) for me to feel remotely like blogging. I’m not sure whether it’s jetlag from virtually 24 hours travelling, 2 hours of root canal treatment last night, the visceral effects of my moral objection to being a ‘tourist’, or the fact that it’s the anniversary of my mum’s death, but I’ve been feeling, well, like shit! Beer helps!
My dig here in Chiang Mai’s eastern district, just beyond the moat that defines the ‘old city’ is well placed (especially in relation to fang specialists), quiet and worth $13 a night because the internet is free and if all else fails and my dental work is too painful or a too excruciating symbolic reminder of the circumstances that precipitate my need to be here in the first place, then I can always stay in my room, direct the fan onto my face, trust my creative imagination, and surf the net for hours!
This morning I walked. Down the spine of the city, and around the western/southern perimeter, following the moat and ancient dilapidated brick walls that once bordered the city. The moat looks clean, and has been gentrified with western-style fountainesque installations since my last visit 30 years ago. The snaking canals on the other hand are not. Much as those gaudy-coloured fruit drinks look enticingly cool and refreshing, I think not when I consider from where that ice originates. Better beer! Typical and atypical signs of life proliferate … rickety bamboo scaffolding heralding progress, McDonalds, the slow, dark, prolific and insistent creep of rot, the Irish Pub! In the food market I marvel at skewered frogs and unidentifiable masses of small grey things that are probably innards, swimming in brownish oily matter. Mmm! Perhaps I’ll be brave and try some later!
Back at Chiangmai Thai House I drink expensive espresso, ruminate, and have a frustratingly fractured skype chat with Sal in Bali. In an attempt to find some nourishment I type ‘socially and environmentally-conscious elephant tours, Chiang Mai’, ‘underside Chiang Mai’ and ‘subversion Chiang Mai' into google. Despite the obvious propaganda, I’m partially pleased with the result as I locate the Writer’s Cafe, which happenstance is just down the road, the local independent rag published in English, and a splattering of consciousness-raising eco organizations. Things are looking up!
Back out onto the street, I head off to walk the eastern/northern section. Discombobulated, I turn right instead of left and wander, aimlessly content. Wat upon Wat I trampse, holy, holy, holy. Gold inlay upon gold inlay. Belonging to a distant past … reflections of reverence, of veneration, of memory.
Ambling past a street food vendor I stop momentarily to salivate at what looks like sweet pork, dripping with goodness. It must be lunchtime. Pointing to the man who’s dish I've just seen served, I awkwardly order the same. Soup … wanton, noodles, sweet pork, greens – delicious. Really delicious. 80 cents.
Night has come. I’ve walked miles today, my first day, but I must get to the Night Bazaar.