We're very satisfied in our new space so far. Lots of things to get used to, but Thai Bahts to tuk-tuk rides we're gonna seriously enjoy this place for the next six months. As promised, some overdue photos of our fabulous apartment:
Looking from the front door, through the living room, and towards the east-facing balcony.
Spectacular kitchen with cook top. Lot's of places aren't really set up for cooking much more than rice and boiling water.
Scooter rental. Check!
Thrilling ride, on the back of said scooter, through near-rush-hour traffic, to the gigantic Airport Plaza Mall. Check!
New iPhone5s with Thai sim cards/numbers. Check!
It's pretty surreal to be here. Our landing was soft, thanks to Mike and Loree (the friends you probably heard of as we talked of our plans to relocate here.)
CVG to YYZ
Good morning. Whereas, divested of the vast bulk of our material goods, a few things in storage (all fit easily into Tony’s VW van), and now with our traveling things packed and ready to depart these Americas for the far East, to live as digital nomads for a while. If all flights arrive and depart on schedule, our travel time from here (to Toronto, to Tokyo) to Bangkok will clock in at around 26 hours. Our good and great friends Mike and Loree will meet us @ BKK baggage claim, and after one night in Bangkok (insert Chess joke of choice here), we’ll fly to Chiang Mai on Wednesday afternoon.
Ok. So this is happening, right?
Rented a scooter yesterday from a very patient man named Pol, then took a quick spin around half of the old city in light traffic (as light as it gets during daylight hours) to get the feel. Not quite like my old touring bike from bygone days, (more Pee Wee than Brando) but does the trick. Soon, i imagine and hope, we’ll ride up the mountain to behold up close that distant temple.
[Blog correction: the mountain & temple mentioned in yesterday’s post are west of the city--not east. I’d somehow gotten the impression that our room’s balcony faces north, but not so: i had it backward, an indicator of (a) my self-absorbed mindset, thinking that i am the axis on which rotates our galaxy, and (b) my impinged masculinity, since i did not know which direction is NORTH. I don’t think this necessarily sexist, but at all times a guy should know where north is.]
Food is a major attraction in Thailand, and our first few meals have been great. Yesterday’s lunch: a no-noodle pad thai w/ shrimp--outstanding. The quantity of options is a bit bewildering, but thus far, every dish a bullseye. This weekend: the Night Market.
Yesterday late in the afternoon, following a peaceful hour of good conversation in the Bird’s Nest hippie hangout coffee & juice bar, Heidi and i (on scooter) followed Mike and Loree (on scooter) to the enormous Airport Plaza Mall for to procure phones. The traffic was decidedly not light, but we kept it together and arrived intact. Impressive mall: big, loud, shiny, multi-storey shopping situation. First stop: phones, check. Afterward, we stopped at one of the (who knows how many) mall food courts to order coconuts. We’d inquired about the availability of certain things we’d become used to in the States, such as electrolyte powder. Coconuts are a superior solution: sweet, natural flavor, and a great goodness for deep in the innards. Drink the water, spoon out the meat--good eatin’.
In celebration of Mike's 50th B-day, we enjoyed a fabulous dinner with Duke and Loree at "Why Not?" Bistro & Wine Bar. The salmon lasagna was to die for, and I've never tasted a better (nor seen a bigger) Caesar salad. Oh, and the ice cream...I'm not a huge ice cream fan, but this is Graeter's caliber, as far as I'm concerned. To date, I've tried the Pistachio, Mango, Forest Berry, and Nutella flavors. It reminds me a little of that place that Mark and Bevin took us in Delaware, Ohio—Ollie's, I think. Mike and Loree both ordered the chocolate mousse, which was also fantasical.
Prosecco and dessert at "Why Not?"
Mike on his birthday morning
Chiang Mai is an old, gritty town, with deep history and fresh weirdnesses (to these newcomers) around every corner. Yesterday Heidi & i scooter’d fully around the old city twice--counter-clockwise within the moat, clockwise without--to get a fix on some landmarks. Concluding these bold orbits, we cut south through the town center, and with my attention-paying capacities way severely deeply taxed, i followed another scooterist the wrong way down a one-way street. A scooter-policeman at once flagged us both down, wrote the other man (a Thai) a hasty ticket, but had me follow him around a corner into a parking lot where he had me pay a “fine” of 200 THB (about $6 USD).
My first bribe to a public official. We learn.
We exited Chiang Mai's northwest gate (where we're staying while we apartment-hunt), through the university district, and up Doi Suthep mountain to Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, a gigantor temple that can be spotted from our balcony when not shrouded and clouded. As we neared it, we entered the cloud, and rain began to fall. Still feeling a bit of a newbie on the scooter, and not crazy about the idea of driving our human bodies over wet road in altitude (on the other side of the planet from pretty much all we know), we about-faced and descended. Great ride of a thousand switchbacks, beautiful day.
I’d like to report that i’m a natural world-traveler, but i confess: most everything is a bit of a blur, and somewhat o’erwhelming for yours truly homeboy introvert. I’ll catch on, but it’s gonna take some time.
hello there southeast asia i’ve only just arrived we’ve not met formally though i do hope we’ll be friends no pressure, i just wanted to introduce myself you may remember my parents who met you here some years ago how many i really couldn’t say and it has been quite some time don’t remember them? well, no matter take it from me, they’re nice enough people whom you once met or so they claim
southeast asia, i am wearing the same green shirt i wore in the americas i wear it not as a gesture of familiarity nor a token of goodwill but because i am a lackluster fellow who has not shopped for new clothes since coming to meet you i hope you won’t think ill of me
southeast asia i grew up with stories of you with slideshows of you glowing ghosts onscreen my parents young slim dark-haired smiling before temples fountains statues slides shown to guests after dinner as i played on the rug beside the sofa with my trucks
southeast asia my sister and i were the only kids we knew who ate with chopsticks thought it was exotic knew the old names of your countries siam peiking burma bombay when this was that for whatever reason
southeast asia will it mean anything to you anything at all if i say that before i left ohio left the americas i made pictures of you in my mind i cringe now at the poor likenesses and mourn that in them i made you only a sort of charicature of what i’d imagined of this of you of a continent as far from my own as can be imagined
Dinner in open air, at the Tiger Kingdom. Inside the moat: east side of town. They have live music there every night—two bands, one hour sets each.
It was oddly comforting to hear John Denver, The Beatles, Glen Campbell, and James Taylor, along with some traditional folk tunes. The five piece band consisted of a blind guitarist, violin, upright bass, dobro, and mandolin. The guitar and mandolin players crooned in near perfect English, such familiar tunes.
And the food, well...delicious! We shared 6 or 7 small dishes (about tapas-sized), of which I especially enjoyed the soft shell crab in yellow curry and the spicy green papaya salad.
This morning i made my second journey to the Chiang Mai Immigration Office--this time solo--to collect our proof-of-residence for which i applied two day past. Word from Duke, (our man on the ground here in Thailand), is that to obtain this document typically takes fully one week. So: great success. With this piece of paper (to which is affixed my photo, and contains no English writing whatever thereupon, save the word “signature”) now in hand, i may now advance in the protracted process of obtaining a Thai driving license, which will ease considerably the process of buying a scooter, rather than continuing to rent a scooter.
I’ve lost count of the bureaucratic hoops through which we’ve lept since arriving here, though it must be hastily added: all hoop-holders have been kind, courteous, and accomodating. The gent who officiated my PoR paperwork this morning was all smiles, and provided yet another reason to learn to speak Thai: he had an obvious sense of humor, and radiated goodwill--conversation with him would likely have been a treat. (This same guy put me at ease two days ago when we’d come to fill out and turn in the PoR paperwork, the sort of process that typically causes me to chew through any and all available fingernails; the sort of guy you'd want to invite to your card game, or sit with around a campfire.) So many cool people to meet.
Last evening on our way to dinner (at Salad Concept--a new favorite), Heidi stopped into a shop to browse, and i stood on Nimmana Haeminda Road and tried to take in the whole shebang. Soon, a group of nine young men sporting identical polo shirts approached me. Weilding a piece of paper, the frontman told me he was a student of tourism, and might he ask me a few questions. He asked how long i’d been in Thailand, how long i planned to stay, what i liked / disliked about the Chiang Mai, my opinion on the prudence of city subway or bus system, etc. I managed to turn interview to conversation and get his opinion on a few of the same, but it became soon evident that by asking of him i disrupted the intended process. They all emphatically thanked me before taking their leave, as though i had done them some great favor. In fact, i was grateful for the brief interaction.
Whaddya know: more nice people.
1610h. The first afternoon shower since we moved into the new place is now nearly spent. During our first week here, i was struck by the weather’s similarity to the Florida Gulf coast: just a bit of rain for an hour or so most afternoons--sometimes heavy, sometimes not. The north side of the city is now shrouded in mist while the mountains far to the south--many kilometers distant--are clearly visible.
Enjoyed last eve a reggae band in the NE quarter of Chiang Mai's old city. Pretty good, played well together, complete w/ obligatory sax & trumpet harmonies. I meant to stay only briefly, but ended up spending a pleasant hour-plus digging reggae and ska renditions of ‘take me home country roads,’ ‘handyman,’ ‘let it be,’ ‘stand by me,’ and so on. Not a single Jamaican tune as such, but nonetheless a fine stew of audio-import. Drummer & bass player were both terrific, shoveling a grave-deep groove trench in which the frontline settled, flaunted, and prevailed. [Almost as enjoyable: the soul-crushing spectacle of drunken dancing Westerners.]
Moving backward in time: yesterday afternoon we took the scooters a few kilometers south and west to the foot of Doi Suthep, and dined outdoors at The Galae Restaurant, a lakeside cafe. Ordered two allegedly disparate menu items, and were presently presented with two identical plates of fried rice, both of which--i hasten to add--were quite good, despite being identical. Sizeable fish swirled and swarmed in the lake water beneath the please do not feed fish signs. And, for our dancing and dining pleasure: Kenny G. Not a whole record, mind you, just a single track on infinite repeat … at least i think it was the same track infinitely repeated ... it sounded infinite. (Though i here admit: i may not be the ideal candidate to comment with authority regarding Kenny G’s music. Pat Metheny did so extensively and to great effect some time back, and his authority on such matters exceeds mine as does the sun a Popeye nightlight.) Nice place, great view, and i imagine we’ll return, irrespective of the soundtrack.
I’ve yet to achieve plates for my bike. Upon its purchase i learned that i needed to present another proof-of-residence, the first of which was retained by the Thai BMV at some point during the full day i spent getting my Thailand motorcycle license. By full day i mean a Whole Entire Day, the afternoon of which (immediately prior to the driving test) produced a fine example of Thailand's mon-freaking-soon season. So i’ve just been riding around on a bike without plates as if i own the place, (though with official paperwork in the ready position in the 'neath-seat compartment, should the bike’s legality ever be challenged by local authorities ... at least i think it’s official paperwork. Most of it’s in Thai script.)