Articles in Lifestyle Features
At the risk of inserting a spoiler at this point, my yoga friend’s Berlin Welcome Card didn’t serve as a lifeline when she was robbed — of her passport, credit cards, debit card and entire stash of cash — the first time she used it. Embarrassing as it is to admit, it was ‘streetwise’ and travel-wise me who fell prey to pickpockets. On the ‘up’ side, getting back on track was not the train-smash I imagined it might be.
“Mam” comes out and we chat. I ask her why she’s so busy when the others are empty. “I’ve been here a long time,” she says. She’s refined. Warm. Probably 50. I tell her I want a good strong Thai massage and had a bad one yesterday. She goes inside. Chats to someone. Comes back out…
Exploring tastes, traditions and cuisines while traveling — and savoring how other cultures eat, drink and make merry even in restaurants close to home or in ones own kitchen — opens up a whole new world and preserves culinary traditions.
An hour is not enough time to get there. Again I am a monsoon by the time I concede defeat. Am past where the map indicates he lives, when I show the address to a woman standing with friends down an alleyway. She calls the number. She talks in Thai. She tells me to go stand on the corner I just rounded and someone will fetch me. And so it is I meet Buppha when she picks me up on her scooter. Takes me to their house. Serves two scrummy dishes she’s cooked, fresh, spiced, nutted, then goes off to her shop near the night market.
No sooner than I am settled on my belly wondering which way to put my head as only at one place in Thailand did I get a massage bed with a hole for your face or head to settle into that I had thought was standard, she is on top of me. Elbows, feet, heels, hands, fists, full body weight at the ready.
Many people travel with someone who is not fun to be with because they feel they cannot travel alone. And many people don’t travel because they don’t have the right (or wrong) person to travel with.
And that’s a real shame…
Near the city gates in Chiangmai on Saturday night is a fabulous street food market frequented by locals and tourists that stretches on and on and has irresistible “everything” from whole fish being grilled over the fire, coated in coarse salt, to fat prawns and squid and — you name it. Smells, visual temptations and fresh fruit stands.
Walk down my side of the Ping River to upscale coffee shops and arty places. At some point across the Ping to Talat Warorot, which I now know is Chiangmai’s oldest and most famous market. Right next door to Talat Ton Lam Yai, which is the city’s fresh flower market.
The young monk’s English is broken, but OK. I have been surprised at the unselfconscious lack of English to date. “Thailand has never been colonized,” the young man explains. Guess a self-confidence comes with that. Of “just being Thai.”
He says here in Thailand they belong to the Theravada school of Buddhism. Asks me if I know anything about Buddhism. I tell him I lived for three years at the San Francisco Zen Center. Have meditated for many.
The swashbuckling mystery man from the tow path near Oxford writes, the night before I fly out: “You going to Thailand? On a whim? For four weeks? Wow. Well, if you find yourself in Chiang Mai or Chiangmai https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chiang_Mai , you might want to look into the ‘monk’s chat’ option. You go talk to a monk at a monastery. It’s so they can practice their English.”