Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Tourist In Formation

Wednesday -

Took a walk around Chiang Mai…successfully circumnavigated the city. It started out just muggy and got progressively wetter over the two hours I was out & about.

First I walked along Si Phum and aquired both sun screen (70 SPF) and an adapter for my laptop. Yay!!! The NE corner seemed to have a number of banks & ATMS, then along the Northern road there were a lot of electronics type stores… but you know they look like someone’s garage. The tuk tuk drivers kept honking at me to see if I wanted a ride. It had started drizzling by this point, but I’m no stranger to rain so I kept walking.

When I turned the corner to Arak street – along the western wall there were suddenly all kinds of pet supply stores. And again, most of them looked like it was just someone’s garage – all open in front, just your basic shelves & tables. Oh, and everything’s kind of dark. No major lighting. I’m guessing this is because it’s HOT here and it’s just nicer if everything’s in the shade. But it does make it a bit hard to see what’s in each shop until you actually get inside and your eyes adjust. And in my case, until my transition lenses clear up. At this point I was pretty wet. It was still just misting – but you know you walk in the mist long enough and you’ll get pretty wet. I was feeling pretty comfortable though because it was warm and the rain felt cooling. But when I came across the craft store I didn’t want to go inside – it was too high-end looking (glass front, closed door, lights on). I didn’t want to get the floor all muddy. It looked like there was a lot of cool stuff in there, yarn in one corner, embroidery threads on the other side, and in a separate little sewing room there were tables a manequen wearing a trendy little skirt and a quilt on the wall. I’ll have to check this place out a little more when & if it ever gets nicer out.

(see the splashes in the water - RAIN! )
Along the southern wall – Bamrung Buri Road, it started raining in earnest. I was looking and feeling a bit like a drowned rat. It was starting to be not so refreshing. There was a park along this road… I couldn’t quite tell if there was an admission fee or anything, so I just peaked in as I went past. There was a man doing Tai Chi (something I would like to try while I’m here) and an orchid festival. I remember my taxi driver saying something about a flower festival but I couldn’t really tell what she was referring to. So it was nice to actually have some idea of what that was all about.

There was a big old shoe store that made me happy. I didn’t actually buy anything, but there were flip-flop type shoes for pretty cheap, and I might go get a pair later. My red Keens are probably ruined - they got so dang wet. I’m glad I brought a pair of flip flops, even though they’re not fantastic for walking they won’t get destroyed in all this rain.
Half way down the street there was also monk supply store. Apparently when your son/grandson/brother/whatever decides to do his term as a monk, the family buys him some supplies. An alms bowl, some food, candles, insense, and whatever else he might need. It’s all wrapped up in gold paper. Oh – I had my first monk encounter today and it was all kinds of scary. I’ve read over and over that monks are not allowed to have contact with women and it’s inapropriate for a woman to touch a monk etc. And I remember reading somewhere that it’s most polite to like walk on the other side of the street to avoid running into a monk. I’m not sure how strictly foreigners are supposed to abide by these rules… and there were no other Thai people around so I didn’t really know what to do. The monk (he actually looked about 14) was exiting the Wat and getting a tuk tuk. I basically just stopped on the other side of the drive way and waited until he got into the tuk tuk before continuing. I’m sure it would have been fine if I’d just walked past him and not bumped into him… but those guide books had me completely freaked out! I mean, I’m sure I’ve committed at least a dozen faux pas already… but I do want to at least try to be polite.

Then almost at the end of that street there was a covered market! It was a far cry from a Fred Meyer, but it was pretty awesome in it’s own right. There were plenty of food vendors… you know something will smell really good then half way down the aisle something will smell really really bad. I think I’ve figured it out though – fish sauce. Everything smells very vaguely of fish sauce – even my shower. I wasn’t really hungry because I’d had a big breakfast (and I am soooo going back there again tomorrow – it was yummers)… but there were tastey looking sweet treats there along with all the fish related products. Towards the back there were more convenience type stores – with just a lot of stuff. One had mostly clothes, one had like toiletries, and another had bags and just you know stuff. I started looking for an umbrella but didn’t see one. But just as I got to this other stall a Thai woman was asking the shop keeper something and the shop keeper brought out a box and opened it revealing a bunch of umbrellas. Success!! It was funny because I just pointed and was like “Oh!” and the shop keeper smiled at me. I know they just smile because that’s the culture but plenty of the shop keepers don’t smile and I think this one was a “You poor pathetic soaking wet farang.” I asked “how much” and a woman behind me said “85 baht” – I’m guessing the gal holding the box of umbrellas didn’t speak any English. Again, I didn’t try to bargain with her… just bought it. As I handed over the money the woman with the umbrellas said very clearly “Thank You.” And I replied with what I hope was a passable Thai thank you - “Kohp kuhn ka”. That’s about as much Thai as I’ve used today, thank you and “Sawadee ka” to the internet lady.

Amazingly, I’ve gotten by just fine with English. I mean, I break it down to the basics… “Sun screen?”, “How much?” Etc. I really wish I knew a little more Thai, but I’ll just focus on using my hellos & thank yous more for now.

Anyway I was glad to have the umbrella, but it didn’t really help all that much. They’re not kidding when they call it Monsoon season – it was just pouring down buckets. And the wind would just whip the rain towards me as I walked. There are a lot of umbrellas and awnings, but that just means it pours down rivers in the gaps between them. So even with the umbrella as I made it up that last road Moon Muang by the eastern wall again, I was really just eager to get home.

Now I’ve managed to plug in my laptop using the adapter, and am relaxing, writing up this post. Thanks to the fan in my room - I’ve dried off considerably laying on the bed in my underwear. Yes, it’s all very glamorous this world traveling! Don’t you wish you were here? LOL. But the rain sounds like it’s stopped, or at least tapered off considerably, and I’m hungry so I might make brave another trip outside for lunch.
I wrote the above yesterday and am only now uploading it at the internet cafe.. so here are a few more pictures:
My guesthouse - CM Blue House... it's all kinds of blue. There's a nice shaded garden cafe... but so far it hasn't appeared to be open. I guess I could go out there and just read for a while... but between the rain and the humidity, all I want to do is sit inside in front of the fan.
Here is my "shower" - when on the hook it sprays almost directly onto the toilet. Unfortunately, I need it to be up when I'm washing my hair. The upside is, when I got home from my walk and my feet were filthy, I just sprayed them off without having to take a full-on shower. I guess you could do that in a bathtub too though. OK - there is no advantage, and I don't really understand this whole set up. Oh, and I identified the smell this morning, it's not so much fishy (that's everything else), the water is more sulfur smelling. Lovely! I'm going to find a new guest house today (Thursday)
re: the title... I really really REALLY appreciate all the English signs around here, I would be completely lost without them... but some of them are just a tiny bit off. TOURIST IN FORMATION is one... the other one was BOSS CARRENT, at first I thought it was just some guy's name, and couldn't figure out what the store was... but then I realized it was by the MOTOR BIKE FOR RENT obvioulsy it's where you rent cars, the carrent. ;)


Kashmir Knitter said...

You seem to be faring well. I'm glad you found sunscreen, I was concerned for you.

It's so strange, we've never met in person but I feel, oddly proud of you like this is somehow also my accomplishment or a Knitty accomplishment. Is that strange? In any case I admire you for your tenacity and bravery. I'm looking forward to reading all about your amazing adventure.

IamSusie said...

It really does sound exotic. I love it that you already found the craft store, but you are going to have to be brave and haggle for a good price!

IrishgirlieKnits said...

Wow!! Aren't you excited you are really doing this! So proud of you! And I love that you're blogging this!

T is said...

Good luck on the staying dry thing... It might just be easier to get used to the being wet ;)!

d said...

you can just shower and use the toilet at the same time! two birds, one stone, etc.

it sounds like you're adjusting pretty well.

Beverly said...

That shower reminds me of the showers I encountered in England and Greece. It's nice to have a sprayer on a hose, but the mounting bracket isn't much use.

I'm really enjoying reading about your move to Thailand. It's a place I will probably never be able to travel to, so it's nice to hear about it from your point of view.

Magatha said...

Good luck with your new guest house search. Your current one seems nice enough, although the Smurf sheets are pretty hilarious.
I could not deal with that bathroom at all.
I was wondering if you needed an umbrella or three but was certian you could get one there, and you did. :-)

Melissa said...

I'm glad you made it safely and are settling in and getting comfortable. I've heard that a lot of bathrooms in Japan are like that. They are installed as single "units" where the walls and floors and fixtures and everything are all attached. Not sure if that's how yours is though.

Exuberant Color said...

It sounds like they have a lot of shops there. What is the population of the city? That bathroom sure isn't the H*lton Inn but better than nothing. How long is monsoon season?

jenn said...

I feel your pain with the lovely shower/toilet combo. But if it makes you feel any better, by the looks of your picture, your guest house accomodations appear to be cleaner than anyplace I stayed in India or Ghana (well, except for the night I crashed in the 5 star hotel in India with the expat that worked for Goldman Sachs...). And I'm impressed that the towel they provided you even *looked* clean. do you have hot water?

Anyway, it's sounds like you're doing really well with adjusting to your new surroundings (you may not feel like you're doing well, but by my standards you are--and aren't my standards really all that matters?).