So I actually made it. 36 hours door to door, but I am here, in Chiang Mai! It was the longest sequence of flights ever: Chicago to LA, LA to Hong Kong, Hong Kong to Bangkok, Bangkok to Chiang Mai. Oy!
The flights were uneventful, my miles-clad father was able to call AA and they confirmed me a business seat to Hong Kong, which made all the difference because not only was I pampered with warm towels and nuts, but my chair went all the way back, letting me sneak in about 9 hours of sleep. Slightly turbulence interrupted, but still quite nice. Additionally, my business ticket let me into their business club in the Hong Kong airport, and I had just enough time between flights to run down there and shower. Hot water has never felt so good!
Arriving in Chiang Mai, a Travel to Teach coordinator, Jim, was there to pick me up. She is 26, from the Northwest part of Thailand, near Nongkhai. On the way to the dorm she told me about my current housemates: 2 dutch guys and girl, all on a gap year (18), 2 Americans, who i have yet to meet, Elke from Germany (40) who’s leaving tomorrow, Meena (23) from London, Emma (20) from France, and Sarah (23) from Holland. Jim told me about the boys’ intense drinking, which I must admit did not make me terribly excited (I hadn’t planned to come all the way here to get trashed, plus, I never drink too much out of the house when abroad- I need to get home somehow!). Walking into the house, the two boys were sitting in the living room smoking, playing cards and on their 3rd liter each of beer (it was 4pm).
Jim gave me a tour of the house. It’s a rather large, what they call “Western style” house with 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, a nice sized kitchen, washing machine, and computer with internet. It has a definite dorm feel- it’s not dirty, but people’s stuff is all over. It feels like a crash pad- totally comfortable and relaxed.
After the tour, I talked for a bit with Nick and Bob, the two dudes from Holland, who it turns out are very nice and took a walk around the neighborhood. The fresh air soothed my lungs and sinuses which had taken a beating from so much time in a plane (my left ear is still clogged!). The house is situated between Chiang Mai and Doi Saket, in a small suburban-like area filled with rice patties and small convenience stores and homes. It reminds me a lot of Costa Rica- the way the houses are built, the communities of people just hanging out on the street. The most notable difference here is the number of people who use motorbikes. I love the old men with their loafers and straw hats riding past. The neighbors definitely looked at me with some wonder, but everyone smiled as I went by.
For dinner, Elke encouraged me to go out with them into town, a 15 minute drive away. Now how do you get into town? Go to the street and hope to see a yellow “bus,” if not, hitchhike. So we waited on the side of the road and after 10 minutes we saw the yellow bus coming…and we saw it pass us by. “Girls, it’s your turn,” Nick said to us. We stood on the road with your hands out, hoping for someone to stop. Eventually a pickup truck stopped and we hopped on the back.
The breeze blew my hair back, and I faced the wind, taking in as much of the scenery as possible. Cars whisked by, lights on restaurants and bars, 7-Elevens (there are a ton of them here), and all I could think was, “I’m in Thailand!”
In town we met up with Emma, Sarah, Marisha, and Meena at a placed called Roof Top Bar, which was, in fact, a roof top bar. I had my first Chang beer and chatted with the girls. It seems like a great group of people, super interesting and friendly and I already feel like I fit in. We each shared why we’d chosen to come to Thailand, what our plans our for the rest of our time in Asia and so on. Then we went out to dinner, where I ordered Larb with chicken. It’s a traditional thai dish of minced Chicken with a blend of herbs and spices like Thai basil, onion, mint. It was way spicier than I’ve had it at home but SO good!
I didn’t get to see much of town, but from what I could see, it felt comfortable and quaint, easy to get around. I hope to go back today or tomorrow. Teaching begins Monday!
Until next time.