The second week in Chiang Mai and Dorothy's Auction

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January 27th 2020
Published: February 5th 2020
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The start of a new week , and I'm determined not to continue with this faffing about in the morning and late breakfast malarkey. So I made an appointment at the acupuncture clinic for 9am. The river looked still and reflective as I crossed over the bridge and wove my way through the narrow streets inside the old city, arriving in good time. Yet again , a different doctor and this one looked about ten years old! Never mind - he must be recently trained and qualified. I donned my blue cotton hospital gown and climbed up on the bed. As before , needles were inserted (painlessly) and a mild electric current that felt like a beating pulse, travelled between the needles around my shoulder blade. The time whizzed by and I was soon back out on the street and going for a saunter, heading for a nearby park. But the fence around the park was shrouded in a black covering and teams of gardeners were busy planting out the flower beds in readiness for the Chaigmai Flower Festival which will happen on the weekend of 8th and 9th February. I walked by the Pinn shop which sells sewing machines and all sorts of craft materials , and is owned by the parents of two of my former students.

I stopped at a vegetarian cafe-restaurant and spotted oatmeal porridge with fresh fruit on the menu. Just fancied that late breakfast comfort food. Heading back to my side of the river, I revisited the temple which gives its name to the area around my homestay, Wat Ket. It's the Dog Temple, so I always enjoy visiting the golden dog statues. Another annual event is the Dragon Phoenix exhibition in an old wooden house. It's on every year when I'm here. An interesting American man and his Thai partner travel around Asia and Europe, buying up beautiful textiles which they then sell on to collectors. I've never actually bought anything, but they seem to appreciate the interest their visitors display, and are always at the ready to explain about the fabrics, costumes and jewellery. They've also got some fascinating books ( not for sale) about the region. I was captivated by the black and white photos of Scottish photographer John Thomson, who travelled around Asia in the mid to late 1800's . Those old glass plates were so clear and the definition and details was truly amazing. He photographed all sorts of people, from Royalty and those in power to street vendors and working people.When he was older he returned to the UK and took many photographs of people on the streets of London.

I set off home along a quiet lane and came upon a street vendor making ( among other things) banana roti.He was probably waiting for the children to spill out from a nearby school . Couldn't resist having some. The flattened dough sizzled and browned on the hotplate ..... and before I could stop him he'd added trickles of hot chocolate to the bananas. Ooops!

Nui gave me a lovely crackle glazed bowl with blue dragons both inside and out- for Dorothy's Charity Auction next Sunday.It's an annual event to raise money for the education for poor rural children. School has to be paid for, and there are uniforms, stationery and books to buy. This is often too much of a financial burden for poor families in the countryside. Nui had had second thoughts about donating the fabulous yellow and blue dish with the blue fish because one of her Chinese guests had told her it was Ming Dynasty. The blue crackle glazed bowl fitted perfectly into my bag, wrapped in a jacket, and 'I walked to DASH restaurant just inside the old city, taking care not to trip over uneven paving stones and high curbs. Dash is set in the grounds of a beautiful old Lanna style teak house. There were eight of us in the little back room the restaurant, and first things first - we ordered some food. I ordered a nest made of crispy deep fried yam filled with stir fried vegetables. I forget what it's called. Very nice too. I've met some of the book group women before : there's Canadian Valerie ( she and her husband leave their log cabin house on the shores of the Great Lakes every winter and head to winter sun in Chiangmai), Claire ( an American lawyer who is based here), another Dorothy(American, who visits her son and his Thai wife and the grandchildren every year about this time) ,Lisa ( a retired Australian social worker) , Jane ( American who used to live in Chiangmai and now lives near Malaga) and a Dutch lady who also lives in Chiangmai ( but I'm afraid I can't remember her name.) After eating it was time to talk about the book : The Dinner by Dutch author Herman Koch. We agreed that we couldn't have sympathy with any of the characters, but that it raised some interesting questions and that it was a page-turner.

Dorothy gave me a lift back to Baan Songjum, I handed over the blue crackle bowl for the auction and bought two tickets for the event - one for me and one for Nui.

On Tuesday morning I headed off to Eco Lodge for a swim, but instead sat in the shade for an hour, reading my book " The Stolen Bicycle" by Wu Ming-Yi. I didn't get in the water. There were too many beautiful young gap year travellers of every nationality posing around the pool, topping up their suntans.I couldn't bear to proceed with my breast-stroke lengths under their critical gaze! They probably wouldn't have even noticed me, but I felt too self-conscious. Just outside the gates of Eco Lodge I was stopped in my tracks by a tempting menu offering 15% off on a table outside a bright and clean new little restaurant. It was called 'I LUV SUSHI' .... and yes, well I DO love sushi so I was easily tempted inside. Beautiful simple decor, very clean, and an amazing Japanese lunch , including Japanese tea , miso soup, a salad and fish on rice .... all for less than £2.50. The young owner and chef came out to talk to me. He'd been educated in the States, and had obviously put a lot of meticulous thought into the food, presentation and the furniture and decor of the restaurant , but admitted that he'd been open for a couple of months and hadn't done well on the publicity. I promised to write him a good Trip Advisor Review and to tell everyone I know. I shall certainly be back for more!

In the evening I went out for dinner with Nui, Kung and young Marcus. It was his farewell dinner at a big Chinese Restaurant near the Night Market.We dined on Peking duck and several other dishes. It was noted that the restaurant was quite quiet .... and not so many big groups of tourists from mainland China. It seems that the fear of coronavirus is affecting people's travel plans. After dinner we took a little amble around part of the night market, and Marcus did some last minute souvenir shopping. Kung was our driver for the evening. When we got back to Baan Songjum we sat chatting under the old wooden house. Upin had been taking care of things when we were out, and we shared a farewell glass of red wine with Marcus.

Next morning, when I got up fro breakfast , I was surprised to see BamBam sitting on top of a coffee table , wearing a fleecy dog coat. Nui explained that he was sulking. Her sister Kung had left at 5.30 in the morning to take their mother for a routine medical check-up. BamBam wasn't happy at this turn of events and his doggy brain was suspicious that it heralded some other sort of betrayal. "Watch out!" , Nui warned the other guests as they appeared " BamBam is grumpy this morning". He refused to descend to the floor and watched us all distainfully from his podium.

I prepared to walk to Dorothy's house this morning, as she was having a brunch and had invited me along. But Nui had had a change of heart and had decided to send the beautiful Quing dynasty ( and not Ming after all) yellow and blue platter to the auction, in addition to the blue crackle glaze bowl.That changed my plans.... there was no way I was walking through town , negotiating uneven paving stones and sprinting across the roads around the moat, carrying a precious ceramic dish. So I called a Grab car and arrived early.Luckily I could be of some use as Dorothy was working out how she could cook the scrambled eggs and the bacon while greeting her visitors. Everything was all prepared and ready to go in the kitchen, so it was an easy task. Good training in those 10 years of doing the Small Business Breakfast at blue-ginger! I hadn't met any of the other guests before , but it gradually became obvious through the conversation that there was a common thread. They were all associated with restaurants and gourmet eating.No wonder Dorothy had been anxious not to overcook the eggs! One man had been a restaurant reviewer in New York, and another had built a business supplying truffles to high end restaurants around the world. It was a champagne brunch too, so a very sociable event. One of the guests gave us a good bid on Nui's Quing dynasty dish, so that gets the auction off to a good start. Leaving Dorothy's house, I walked to Kad Suan Kaew. It's the shopping centre where I usually buy some bargain prescription glasses. Shocked to find the opticians is closed on a Wednesday! I'll have to return another day.

On Thursday I went for a morning swim at the Eco Lodge, and them bought some oat cookies from a cake shop near to Baan Songjum, and wended my way through the small sois that intersect the city, through temple grounds, past vibrant cascades of bougainvillea and tangled tree roots, to arrive ( once again) at Dorothy's house. Today we were to make 30 table decorations to adorn the tables in the River Market restaurant at the auction on Sunday. But first things first... and we had lunch. Dechen had brought two young 18 year old Austrian girls with her, and when the lunch was cleared Al brought out all the items he'd got for the floral decorations. I had wondered how we were going to keep the flowers alive until Sunday, but there were huge bunches of statice, which we trimmed and poked into florist's oasis and arranged . I wish I could bring such large bunches back to the UK! I've tried growing my own without success - maybe I'll try again this summer. Dizzy, Valerie, Jennifer, Dechen, Dorothy and the two young women worked away and the thirty decorations were done in no time. We were rewarded with a delicious red guava compote made by Dechen. As everyone started leaving Dizzy and her husband offered me a lift home as they were going to a restaurant on my side of the river. Dorothy easily persuaded us that they'd arrive far too early if we left now , and it would be foolish not to accept the iced gin and tonic that would delay us by exactly the right amount of time.

Early on Friday morning , and there was a new French-speaking couple ( me trying to drag a few badly constructed phrases out from my sleepy head) and a young Polish girl. I walked briskly to acupuncture ( it's cool first thing) noting the banner outside a school announcing the school motto " Cleanliness, well-mannered and Knowledgeable". The 'looks like a twelve year old' who passes as my acupuncture medic, put pins in my back, wired me to the gentle throb of electrical currents, and left me for 30 minutes. The easiest thing to do is to drift off to sleep. Oh yes... and now coronavirus has become a topic, and today I was met at the entrance of the clinic with a temperature check and hand sanitiser liquid. I walked back to my side of the river via a cafe that serves oats porridge with nuts and fruit, and over the Iron Bridge to Rimping Supermarket where I bought yoghurt and couldn't resist some Portuguese Tarts. I took them back to share ... to reduce collateral damage. I thought about going to an exercise class recommended by Austrian Claudia, but thinking about it was as far as I got. Rested for the afternoon, and then walked to a nail bar and got a manicure. Not nail varnish, just nicely shaped and a hand massage. I always find that my nails grow and are stronger when I'm here. The combination of vitamins from sunshine not doing any washing up. I walked to the Sushi Bar I'd discovered earlier in the week and enjoyed a Japanese dinner. And now I'm not worried that the young owner has put all his money into a business that hasn't taken off! Within a few minutes of my arriving every table was taken and it was buzzing. Back home I shared the Portuguese tarts for dessert with the sisters, and met today's new, young arrival : Thomas from Austria.

Saturday, and after trying to send a message to Mike and Netty's grand-daughter, Erja, who is doing volunteer work at 'School for Life' about 20 km from Chiang Mai, I walked up to the old city walls and met Lisa, a friend from Dorothy's book group. She introduced me to a little restaurant called The Cat House. I expected it to be one of those cat cafes where you eat and drink in the company of various cats reclining on the sofas and tables. But there were no cats. And a very nice Gado Gado ( well, why not have Indonesian food in Thailand?) I walked to a recommended yoga place, but was easily put off booking anything when they told me to look on line tomorrow for next week's programme.

On Sunday morning I went in search of roasted cashews with stevia and chilli at Worarrot market. They are evading me this year. I could only find the peanut variety . Not the same. ( I love the fact that I set myself pointless little tasks to do every day!)

Then Nui and I smartened ourselves up a bit and got a Grab taxi to the River Market restaurant for Dorothy's charity auction in aid of FERC ( Federation for the Education of Rural Children) Their theme this year was 'The Circus'. Only a few of the committee had really gone to town on their costumes.Jennifer made an exotic fortune teller, Al was a stylish creepy-clown ring master and Dorothy,( always enjoys being a shocker!) was the bearded lady with a full head of hair, moustache and long beard. But the hot sticky Thai weather soon encouraged her to abandon all that extra facial hair. Nui and I sampled the buffet ( far too many desserts that we had to try) and waited for the auction to begin. I was hoping that there would be a good three night offer on a hotel in Bangkok- but not this year. So I just put a bid on lunch for two at a nice hotel in Bangkok. That will do very nicely for Julie and me when we meet up in Bangkok next week. Nui's dishes got a good price, and the river looked so pretty in the late afternoon sunshine. Nui's photos looked so much better than mine. Her late husband was a professional photographer and she has a good eye for taking pictures from the best advantage.

So we jumped into a Song Tou, one of the red taxi-vans that ply the streets of Chiang Mai, and got back home. I tried out a weird herbal facial mask treatment someone gave me for Christmas , and then off to bed. The end of another week!

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