Sunday, September 30, 2007
A Walking Tour
So, I've done a fair amount of walking around Chiang Mai, and I must say it's nowhere near as overwhelming as Bangkok. That place is just a jumbled mass of main roads, side roads, and alleys no wider than a midget's back. Spin around in a circle once and that's it, you're done. And with my incredible sense of direction added to the mix, there wasn't a map in the world that could have saved me. Most of the time I just found my guest house purely by chance. I would wander the city for hours, ducking around corners and under the many dangly things that I'm sure are the Thais' private little joke that they like to play we tall Westerners. We're just not used to looking at that extra added dimension of up.
Anyway, Chiang Mai is dived into 2 halves: the old city and the new city. Thus easing navigation, sort of. The old city, located near center of town, is surrounded by both a brown muddy moat (disappointed that there are no crocodiles in there by the way) and a very, very old, wonderful, semi-dilapidated wall. On the inside of the wall there are a series of markets, temples (the oldest being built in 1296 by King Mengrai) guest houses, restaurants, street vendors, cafes, dogs, cats, tourists, monks..well you get the picture. The roads that surround both the the moat and the wall link to an exact square (1.5 km/side). This being said, I typically have a 1 out of 4 chance of knowing where I am in relation to the rest of the square. Unfortunately though, I have not ever been one to be successful at the game of chance. Each time I would pass a landmark, I would know exactly where I was on the map and where I had to go. That little moment of brilliance would typically last for about 1 to 2 seconds max. Every single time I thought I should go left, I should have gone right. I've tried to trick myself by saying out loud, "OK Dan, you think that your guest house is right, so you should definitely go left to get there.' Walking down the street after happily committing to the direction of left, I felt pretty good about out smarting myself. Though as chance would have it, this was always the time the 1 to 4 ratio would have worked in my favor.
I have my sweet mom to thank for that wonderful inherited trait. To this day, when asked which direction it is to Clinton (right) and which direction it is to Flemington (left) my mom will stand out in the front yard and proudly point left to Clinton and right to Flemington. My mom has lived in the same house for over 15 years.
Today while on my search for a market that I've been to three times already now, I inadvertently took a lap around the city. I had a feeling that this was happening, and that my destination was on the other side of town, but I was really powerless to do anything about it. Well, not really. I suppose I could have just hopped on a Tuk-Tuk. But after about 5 km of steady walking, I made it. It was a lovely walk past flower merchants, wats & parks; despite the smog and 90 degree heat. Needless to say by the time I got to the market, I didn't feel much like shopping. But I did take comfort by being in the shade of the overhanging awnings for a bit. Sticky with sweat, I pawed over 'vintage' t-shirts that just about 8-12 years from being cool again. (or never at all) Then I saw it. It kind of had that shimmery wavy look all mirages cast in your finest deserts, salt planes, and roads that you really shouldn't be on at that time of the year. I found an ice cream parlor! Oh man, Ice cream and air conditioning?! Sure it must indeed be a mirage. I ran across the street, playing tribute a version of Frogger . Only replace the fast moving cars with Tuk-Tuks, rickshaws, songtaews and other modes Thai vehicles that I can't pronounce (or spell). I reached out my hand to grab the door, and sure enough it was real. The air conditioning almost instantly turned my sweat to salt, leaving a thin layer of rime on my arms. No matter, I was in a whole now sugary sweet and civilized world of desserts. I ordered a waffle cone and 2 scoops of cookies and cream. The total came to a whopping 236 baht. Holy crap, I paid less on my hotel room! That 's like $6.40...for an ice cream cone. You know what, I don't know if that ice cream cone was worth $6.40, but it was pretty damn good! Ice cream, Thailand's fillet mignon.
OK guys, time to go shower and hit up the night market. I'll be back to the states in 2 days!