The past 9 days have been a blur. Since arriving at Hotel Noppakao (my home until 10/24) last Saturday I’ve seen and done so much and spent a lot of time with some incredible people. It feels like just yesterday I tried to enter the driver’s side door when getting picked up at the Chiang Mai airport (apparently Thais drive on the opposite side of the road!). Luckily between Thai language and TESOL classes there is time set aside to experience some of the magnificent things Chiang Mai has to offer. I don’t know what I expected from this city but it keeps surprising me.
FOR ONE (that’s “neung” in Thai): The food scene is real (and so is Thai Tummy). I don’t know about you but I am all about food. And I eat whatever looks the most wild and undiscovered. As soon as I made my way through the narrow streets with speeding scooterists (that’s a word now) and no sidewalks, I entered the Mecca (too soon?) that is Thai street food. With no disappointment. Vendor after vendor presented different meats, curries, and surprises at prices in Thai baht that are equivalent to less than one USD (currently 1 USD=36.4 baht). After getting the fan-favorite pad thai (which I learned was only brought to Thailand as an imitation of Western food), I had to try the whole squid on a stick. As every other meal I’ve had here, it did not disappoint (CAUTION: If you eat food here, you will get Thai Tummy. All you can do is pray the nearest toilet is within 50 feet.)
Thais love spicy food (as you can tell, much of my life is centered around food). Although I’ve had some practice and tend to think I have a pretty high tolerance, spicy food here is not like spicy food in the States. I’m trying to get my tolerance up to the level of an average Thai person so I always ask for my food “ped mak maak” which means “very spicy.” Although I haven’t gone a day without sweating profusely out of my eyeballs, I think it is working.
The saying “mai pen rai” could not be more apparent in everyday Thai life. I have only been here 9 days and have already noticed this easygoing “whatever will be, will be” attitude. Specifically when using a songthaew- a glorified red truck turned into a taxi with a hood over the bed and two long benches inside. My first full day in Thailand, a bunch of people I had literally just met and I decided to go on a hike. We got in a songthaew and after a few minutes we asked the driver if he knew where he was and he shrugged his shoulders. After he stopped once to have a casual conversation with another songthaew driver and stopped again to pee on the side of the road, it was clear he had no idea where he was going. I guess he figured he would drive aimlessly until we told him to stop? So we hopped out of the cab and figured it out (even though we walked 3+ miles just to get to the beginning of the hike, it ended up being a great day). We even found this beautiful lake called Huey Tueng Tao Lake with bungalows on the water where small kitchens serve food. The water was oddly warm though.
They can’t get enough gold here- especially in the temples. The most well-known temple is Doi Suthep which my whole group visited last week. We hiked the 309 steps (sounds like more than it is) to get to the top and were rewarded with a beautiful view of Chiang Mai and more gold than I had ever seen. At Doi Suthep EVERYTHING is gold (unless it’s green or red). Like all Thai temples you must enter without shoes and do not think about greeting a monk before dropping the Wai (respectful Thai bow) while being lower to the ground than he is.
You can’t be a Farang (Westerner) in Thailand and NOT get a pair of Elephant pants. They are amazing and extremely comfortable, even though I am 98% sure no Thai person has ever worn a pair. You can even haggle for a pair at one of the many markets for 100 baht or less.
RESPECT THE KING. He is the man.
Durian, on the other hand, is disgusting and I do not know why it is a delicacy. If you can get over the smell of rotten eggs, it tastes like mushy mango with a garlic after taste.
I can now say I have trained in Muay Thai (once) AND been to a Muay Thai fight. Last Tuesday we went to Bangarang Gym a half hour outside of Chiang Mai and realized how out of shape we all are. We did countless sprints, a CrossFit circuit, and intensely practiced every combination of punching and kicking with the trainers. As we punched their pads they would hit back quite hard to give the impression we were actually punching with some “oomph”. They know how to make Farangs feel good! A few days later some of us went to a Muay Thai fight. Of course we had to bet on a fight. And naturally we picked the underdog named “Mawin.” We picked the sketchiest booky with a black fanny pack and 1-inch long thumb nails and quickly lost 100 baht each.
That’s all for now, folks. I’ll write again soon about my first lesson plan and food (my main focus in life). On Thursday and Friday I will teach English lessons to Thai children at an English camp. That should be interesting. Below are a few pictures of my newest friends- some of the most adventurous, fascinating, and like-minded people I have ever met. Eventually I will go through all of them, but I am tired and need to do something about these Durian burps I keep having.