Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Lazing on a Chiang Mai Afternoon

January 2010

Awoke early for the bus to Chiang Mai. Shared a truck with a Swiss teacher who'd made a visa run to Laos. We discussed Thai politics and the expat situation here. This country is very strict on outsiders, apparently worse than Japan, which surprised me. We talked about Burma. He said that the current situation with the Thai king is frightening in that if the military takes over and takes a militaristic stance, it could become another Burma. That country, on the other hand, is slowly changing, prodded by China. The road up to Mengla will always stay open for the flow of goods into Thailand. When I mentioned my talk about Kengtung, he told me of a government clash with the Shan, the fighting going all the way to Tashilek. Some shells had accidentally fallen on Mae Sai, whose residents flew south. The world media had nary a word.

Our bus wound lazily through the hills into Chaing Mai. We spent about 2 1/2 hours at a cafe, reading and having coffee, then went exploring. We visited the city's oldest wat, then walked past the museum and the women's prison to Wat Singh. It was busy on this Sunday, people strolling the buildings, and under the trees that had pithy sayings strung to them. In the shade, and old car sat to be admired. A few blocks up was Chedi Luong, whose massive stone ruin hovered above all but one tree so tall it was out of proportion to the rest. The grounds were packed for the funeral of a famous, high ranking monk. Rows of chairs were lined between the pillars like in a Catholic cathedral. Men in white military uniforms patrolled around. The King's son was due to arrive for the actual funeral service the following day. Before the chedi was a two-story boat with a black elephant on the prow--the monk's vehicle to the next world. His life-like wax figure sat in a smaller boat nearby. The grounds were filled with tables offering free food. We walked and ate, walked and ate.

Out front, the Sunday market was just revving up. We walked a little but I was somewhat burned out. I can only take so much of markets. I did partake of a cheap massage, probably the best of the trip thus far. Afterward, there was a brief moment of panic when I couldn't find my cherish jade necklace, but it eventually turned up. We walked past the string orchestras sitting in the street, along the klong, and through a maze of soi to our room, the cheapest yet in Thailand, and the grottiest--cold water, mosquitos, broken windows. But the comfiest bed made for good sleep.

On the turntable: Van Halen, "Fair Warning"
On the turntable: Willa Cather, "Death Comes for the Archbishop"

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