I’m sitting comfortably in my 26-degree, air-conditioned hotel room (79 fahrenheit for those in the US). Outside is 35 (95 for those in the handful of countries that like to confuse the rest of the world). Downstairs in the open-air lobby sits a tourist drinking a can of Chang beer, and he’s not wearing a shirt. This can only mean we’re back in SE Asia, the land of tourists who are just too damn hot to be bothered with something like a shirt.
I can never decide which is more entertaining - the tourists who don’t wear shirts, or the tourists who wear zip-off pants, a safari hat and a button-down trekking shirt from an overpriced travel store that is made from a fancy new form of plastic that will inevitably become akin to a wearing a garbage bag once the sweat comes pouring out.
Either way, the guy downstairs is well on his way to taking a Chang nap and then dealing with a Changover. Chang, meaning elephant in Thai, for some reason, is the beer most tourists gravitate toward for their first days in Thailand. At a reasonably high 6.4% alcohol, in combination with the dehydration of
Plumeria are all over Chiang Mai
One of my favorite flower smells
being in a tropical climate, we see many tourists succumb to taking a mid-day nap anywhere really, the Chang nap. On a beach (sunburn inevitable), on a table at a restaurant, in a taxi, on a park bench. And then they wake up to the Chang version of a hangover, the Changover. Chang must include some ingredient that turns the consumer into a temporary hobo. But without fail, the tourists buy the beer with the elephant on the label. When in Rome. I wish the guy downstairs all the best. He'll eat dinner in a restaurant sans shirt, too.
We landed back to Asia in late January and spent three rather cold months in Tokyo. I still love Tokyo as much as I ever have, but I much prefer Tokyo in the spring and fall. Winter was a bit rough especially because our favorite activities in Tokyo are outside and rain/snow mix with high wind is uncomfortable, even for Seattle natives.
A few weeks ago we stopped through Fukuoka and then on to Bangkok which still feels a bit like home. It’s been almost two years since we were last in the kingdom, but it seems like hardly
anything has changed. The food is as good and cheap as ever, even some of the vendors recognized us. The coffee is sweet and delicious, the parties and clubs are unlike any other we’ve ever been to in the world. The smiles are genuine, the heat is unrelenting and it’s all combined into a great feeling of being back in a previous home base.
We spent time at our favorite beach on Koh Samet and instantly made a puppy friend who slept on our bungalow porch every night and greeted us every morning with a nose covered in sand due to his early morning crab-chasing activities on the beach. At night he settled down on our porch, munching on a dead palm frond that was alarmingly loud for a small dog chewing on a toy.
More so than the beach puppy, the mosquitoes are enjoying my stay in Thailand. A few days ago I counted close to 40 bites on one arm. The other arm and both legs sport a similar number. I looked like I had contracted a mosquito-induced form of chickenpox. After a pretty uncomfortable night, I opted for applying a charcoal paste to each one
in hopes of extracting the toxins and reduce the itch and swelling. I’m fairly certain it helped but didn’t wash off. At all. By morning I was a chickenpox patient, and by afternoon I was a dalmatian. Several days later, the initial redness and black charcoal that has slightly washed off looks like a tone of purple, giving me a polka-dotted bruised look.
The next two weeks, for me, will be spent on the frontlines of the mosquito war in northern Thailand. Bob will be fighting his own battles. Walking under mango trees combined with a strong gust of wind that results in a mango attack, which happened the other night. Tropical threats, I guess.
In all of our time in Thailand we’ve never made it to the north until now and the consensus is, “why haven’t we done this sooner?” It’s calm, beautiful, charming and possesses all the delicious northern Thai food we love. And the smiles. Despite being in the touristy area in Chiang Mai, everyone smiles at us. The local girl filling her water bottles this morning gave us a huge and genuine smile. The old lady chopping up branches yesterday stopped to smile at
Lotus in Chiang Mai
I fell off a curb looking at these beauties
us as we walked by. After coming from Japan where most produce is expensive, I don’t feel bad ordering a passion-fruit smoothie everyday. Mr. Kai (the restaurant owner/cook/smoothie maker) might think I’m a stuck-in-my-ways tourist, ordering the same thing everyday, but I’m too busy being enamored by this culture and life to care.
Next we head to a new part of the world for us - Serbia, Macedonia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Croatia.
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